Thoroughbred Racing Fan Association, Inc.
WHAT HORSES WON KENTUCKY DERBIES DURING THE SPANISH FLU?
As we all endure the rage of the 2020 coronavirus and watch races from home for sanity we m might think about racing when the pandemic Spanish Flu scourged our country from 1918 to 1920. In this two-year period more than 100 million people lost their lives. Now, thanks to modern science and media, we are likely to see much less of an impact on us than that was experienced over 100 years ago. As racing fans, we angst over the disruption in Spring Keeneland meet, Arkansas Derby, the Triple Crown and many tracks across the country. In 1918 fans were experiencing the same worry both for their lives and their sport. That year for the Kentucky Derby and the Triple Crown the pandemic was beginning, but was recognized as just another flue by many. It was first recognized in January of 1918. Five months later the Kentucky Derby was run at a mile and a quarter over a muddy track at Churchill Downs. The winner was Exterminator (top photo). Exterminator sat out the next two legs of the Triple Crown --- the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes. As 1920 dawned the flu was getting a second wind that proved to be even more devastating than its previous sibling. This year the Kentucky Derby was also run at the 10-furlong distance and was won by Sir Barton, the inaugural winner of what is know today as the Triple Crown.