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…

I really have to thank the owners with this horse and my brother, Dennis, who helped us pick out this horse. In his last couple of races, he got really worked up in the paddock and didn’t run to his best effort. We know he likes to travel and I have to thank our groom and exercise rider for coming out here early with him and getting acclimated to the track. I’m not sure what we’ll do next with him. I see myself nudging up to some adult beverage tonight then thinking about where we go next. We were very optimistic with him all along and to see him put it together was great. We went through a bit of a funky phase with him and had some traffic troubles in his last couple of races.”

Doug O’Neill, Trainer of PAVEL (winner)
  • 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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