McCraken is a contender in the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby. Photo by ACS Photography

The highest Beyer speed figure ever given out on a route race was in 2004. It just so happens that bit of history, trivia and history may play a factor in this year’s Kentucky Derby.


Well, let me describe.

In 2004, Monmouth Park played host to its annual signature race – the Philip H. Iselin Stakes, which was first run in 1884. In New Jersey, the Iselin is about as important as the Kentucky Derby is to us – and the rest of the racing world.

It turns out that rains had dumped a ton of water on the track, turning it muddy – much like Churchill Downs will be today. But it didn’t bother one horse – Ghostzppaer.

The big, beautiful racing machine ran over the 11/8-mile muddy track like a rocket – winning the stakes by a whopping 10 ¾ lengths. That margin of victory remains as the biggest in the history of the race.

Afterwards, the Beyer Figures installed Ghostzapper with a 128 number. Still, to this day, it’s the biggest Beyer ever given in a route race.

So how does this impact the Derby – some 13 years later?

Well, it’s a muddy track today, too.

And, Ghostzapper just so happens to be the sire of whom?

McCracken. Go figure. And, go figures…

The horse broke well today,” Gaffalione said. “I had the horse inside, Dunph, going to the lead and then (Gun It) showed a little bit of speed. When I saw they were intent on going I just tried to get him back and got him to relax. He came back to me nicely and settled well down the backside. Got a little keen going into the far turn and wanted to move a little early. But I didn’t want to take too much away from him so I tried to sit as long as I could. He was waiting on horses down the lane but I kept him at task and there was plenty of horse there.”

“Mark (Casse, the trainer) and his team have done a great job,” Gaffalione said. “They’ve had a ton of confidence in this horse the whole way. It’s just an honor to be able to ride the horse. He’s just so professional, trains great and he’s a pleasure to be around.”

Tyler Gaffalione, Rode of War of Will to victory in the G2 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds
  • Rob Murphy

    Rob Murphy

    A horse racing and thoroughbred enthusiast, Murphy has devised his own method for handicapping and breeding. Murphy's company, M375 Thoroughbreds, Inc., has bred, raised and raced successful horses such as Platinum Tiara, Swing and Miss, Diamond Studs, Strike Three and Golden Spikes. Murphy is a former Major League Baseball player. ...

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