Triple Crown Winner, Sir Barton, Buried In Douglas, Wyoming [VIDEO]
After watching Disney’s Secretariat this weekend my interest in race horses was at a peak. Add to that the fact that my friend and sports guru, Frank Gambino, had just returned from Lexington , Kentucky and I knew the information from our conversation had to be shared.
First off, Lexington, Kentucky is Horse Country. Lexington has been known as a major center for Thoroughbred breeding since the late 18th century because of the high calcium content in the soils of the Inner Bluegrass Region, which leads to stronger bones and greater durability in horses. The city is home to two horse racing tracks, but Frank was there to film a rough stock rodeo event at the Kentucky Horse Park which led to our conversation.
We talked of the history of the park and the sights to see including the International Museum Of The Horse, The National Horse Center and the other venues and attractions, including the burial sites of some of the great racers of the 20th Century. Buried on the grounds is Alysheba, a 1987 Kentucky Derby winner and son of the great Alydar. Also there is John Henry the Racehorse of the Decade in the 1980’s and a horse that is 23rd on the list of the best racehorses of the 20th Century. Forego is there, as is Ramblin Willie, Kona Gold and the Who’s Who of race horses, but the most famous, and in some eyes the best race horse of the 20th century, Man O War, who found his final resting place at the park and this is where the conversation turned to Wyoming.
Frank told me of a horse that literally had his career ended by a loss to Man O War who ultimately ended up in Wyoming. Let’s start at the beginning of the story of Sir Barton.
Sir Barton was born in 1916 he was sired by Star Shootout of the mare Lady Sterling. It is also important to point out that his Grand sire was the 1893 English Triple Crown winner, Isinglass. He had the breeding and he had the speed but he also had sore feet! He raced as a 2 year old six times and won not a single race. As he was a rather unhappy horse and had a bad disposition his owner at the time sold him for $10,ooo to a Canadian businessman by the name of J.K.L. Ross.
Ross turned the horse over to trainer H. Guy Bedwell, who figured the disposition and the lack of speed from Sir Barton was directly tied to the soreness of his feet. In experimentation, railroad felt was placed between the horses hooves and his shoes to relieve some of the pain and it worked! As a matter of fact it worked so well that Sir Barton was taken to the Kentucky Derby where he was actually supposed to be used as a “rabbit”, a horse used to tire the other horses in the field so that another could win. He performed so well the other horses had no chance of catching him and he won by a surprising 5 lengths. He then went on to win the Preakness, a short 4 days later. Then he won the Withers Stakes in New York and then to an easy win at the Belmont making him the first horse in history to win the Triple Crown. At the time it was not known as the Triple Crown and was not officially recognized until 1948 as a Triple Crown season, as such there was little fanfare surrounding the feat. However he was voted the Horse of the Year for the year 1919, at the time racing’s highest honor.
In 1920 Sir Barton went on to compete in 12 races with 5 wins including a win against the great Exterminator at the Saratoga Handicap. This is also the year that he was beaten by Man o War in a race where he lost all 4 shoes and lost the race by 7 lengths. In 1922 Sir Barton was sold to a horse breeder in Virginia, where he stood in stud for 11 years with limited success as a sire.
With interest in his stud services dwindling, Sir Barton was turned over to the U.S. Remount Station in Front Royal, Virginia in 1933 and from there somehow found his way to the Remount Station in Fort Robinson, Nebraska. It was here that he caught the eye of a Douglas, Wyoming rancher by the name of J.R. Hylton. J.R. had a few race horses of his own and was intrigued by the history of this winning horse. Sir Barton made the trip to Douglas but a bout of Colic took his life on October 30, 1937.
Sir Barton was buried near his original paddock with a sandstone marker and a buck rail fence to mark his grave. In 1968 it was decided the he should be moved to a more prominent place and thus his remains were interred at Washington Park in downtown Douglas. You will find a memorial there today in recognition of this 1st ever Triple Crown Winner. And the next time you are in Lexington, Kentucky, take a drive on Sir Barton Way and remember the Wyoming ties to this great champion of 1919.
Watch the 1920 race between Man O War and Sir Barton: