Calumet looking to add to record Blue Grass titles

Profile Picture: Vance Hanson

April 7th, 2016

Calumet Farm, the storied Lexington, Kentucky, nursery presently owned by Brad Kelley, will be seeking a seventh win in Saturday's $1 million Blue Grass (G1) at Keeneland with homebred Star Hill.

Known for the iconic white fences that surround the property, which lies just east of Keeneland, Calumet is literally and figuratively smaller than it once was. Long gone, too, are the stable's famed devil red and blue silks, replaced with Kelley's black with gold chevrons.

Despite not having a won the Blue Grass in nearly 40 years, Calumet is still the all-time leading owner in the race's history. Here's a brief look at its six winners:

Bull Lea (1938)

Capable but no huge star on the racetrack, Bull Lea went to stud after a career-ending win in Hialeah's Widener H. in 1939 and thereafter became a legend. A foundation stallion for the farm, he led the North American general sire list five times and and the broodmare sire list four times. Of his 58 stakes winners, seven are in the Hall of Fame, three were voted Horse of the Year, and three won the Kentucky Derby.

Ocean Wave (1943)

Winner of a wartime edition of the Blue Grass held at Churchill Downs, Ocean Wave had his most productive season at three winning the Blue Grass and Derby Trial with second-place efforst in the Louisiana and Arkansas Derbies. He did not contest the Kentucky Derby, won handily by eventual Triple Crown winner Count Fleet. Ocean Wave sired nine stakes winners, three of which were champions in Mexico.

Faultless (1947)

A son of Bull Lea and the champion filly Unerring, Faultless won eight of 12 starts at three, including the Preakness, Flamingo, Withers, and Derby Trial in addition to the Blue Grass. Third in the Kentucky Derby, he was among the best of his crop at three, not far behind divisional champion Phalanx. However, in 27 starts at ages four and five, he won only two stakes. He later sired 10 stakes winners.

Coaltown (1948)

Unraced at two, this son of Bull Lea won eight of 13 starts at three, including the Blue Grass and Phoenix H. at the Keeneland Spring Meet. Second to his legendary stablemate, Citation, in the Kentucky Derby, Coaltown snared divisional honors himself that season with a champion sprinter title. After equaling or setting seven track or world records in his first two seasons, he was voted champion older horse of 1949 and earned a spot in the Hall of Fame. He sired only 54 foals, none of which won a stakes.

Forward Pass (1968)

The farm's last Kentucky Derby winner was belatedly awarded that crown following the disqualification of Dancer's Image, but had long since proved the sounder of the two having also claimed the Preakness, Blue Grass, Flamingo, Florida Derby, and American Derby. Second in the Belmont and Travers, he also placed behind his Belmont conqueror, Stage Door Johnny, for divisional honors. A sire of six stakes winners, he was later exported to Japan.

Alydar (1978)

Forever in the shadow of arch-rival Affirmed on the racetrack, Alydar surpassed that foe at stud in becoming, arguably, the farm's most important stallion since Bull Lea. A five-time winner at the Grade 1 level besides the Blue Grass, he was unlucky enough to be born the same year as Affirmed, who held him at bay in all three Triple Crown events. Despite a lack of a divisional championship, Alydar was admitted into the Hall of Fame shortly before his untimely death in 1990. His most noted offspring were Hall of Fame members Alysheba and Easy Goer, Horse of the Year Criminal Type, champions Turkoman and Althea, and Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Strike the Gold.

Previously in the series, I selected five underrated winners of the Florida Derby (G1)Gotham (G3), San Felipe (G2), and Louisiana Derby (G2), and recognized the quintet of Rebel (G2) winners campaigned by Loblolly Stable.

(Forward Pass photo courtesy of Keeneland)