Racegoers of the 1920's could pick out Colonel Edward Riley Bradley's horses almost by name alone. Idle Hour Stock Farm was known as the "Lucky B" establishment due to the fact that all of Bradley's horses had names beginning with the letter B. Blue Larkspur, the early favorite for the 1929 Kentucky Derby, was no exception. Blue Larkspur's sire Black Servant had run second to Idle Hour's first Derby winner, Behave Yourself, in the 1921 running. Despite the fact that his horses had run one-two in the classic race, earning $48,450, Bradley had been unhappy with the Derby results that year. He had very much wanted to win the Kentucky Derby with Black Servant, who was a son of his stallion Black Toney, and had bet a reported $50,000 on the colt in the winterbook. While that rumor was never proven, it was known that a number of Idle Hour employees lost money in winterbook.
Colonel Bradley and other Idle Hour workers were furious with jockey Charles Thompson, who rode his other entry, Behave Yourself, to a head victory, defying orders to take back. E.R. Bradley had also won the Kentucky Derby with Bubbling Over in 1926, and later won it twice more with Burgoo King and Broker's Tip.
Blue Larkspur was trained by Herbert J. Thompson, better known as Derby Dick. Thompson had been training for Idle Hour since Cliff Hammond's death in 1918, and was known for being hard on horses. Without the southern prep races of modern times to help prepare horses for the Kentucky Derby, Thompson worked his horses hard all winter in Lexington. He won more Kentucky Derby's than any trainer before Ben Jones scored six victories, beginning in 1938 with Lawrin.
During his two-year-old campaign, Blue Larkspur won four races, including the Juvenile Stakes, the National Stallion Stakes, and the Saratoga Special. Assigned 130 pounds and caught in traffic, he was beaten in the Hopeful Stakes by Jack High, whom he had beaten on three previous occasions. When he was kicked prior to the Futurity and ran eighth, he retired for the season, leaving championship honors to Futurity winner High Strung. Considered one of the season's top juveniles, Blue Larkspur was favored to win the following year's Derby, and trained hard all winter long. He began his three-year-old season with a victory over the gelding Clyde Van Dusen at Lexington, and then it was on to the Derby.
Thompson was ill with appendicitis before the Derby, and when it rained his assistants neglected to have Blue Larkspur shod with mud caulks. The favorite slid around a muddy track to finish a game fourth behind the Man o' War gelding Clyde Van Dusen, who had been called a pony by jockey Linus McAtee before the race. After the disappointment in Louisville, Blue Larkspur, with Mack Garner up, won the Withers Stakes from Chestnut Oak and Jack High with an impressive closing rush. He was then once again was asked to run in the slop. His loss at Churchill Downs had convinced many that he couldn't handle an off track, and others claimed that no descendant of Domino could go a mile and a half, but shod properly for the going, he won a sloppy Belmont Stakes by two lengths with a time of 2:32 4/5. Jack High was third behind African.
Having been kicked at the post before the Belmont, Blue Larkspur missed several days of training with a high fever and a filling in his leg symptomatic of the serious condition known as cellulitis. He was beaten by Grey Count in the Dwyer Stakes, but in his final race of the season he handed a five length defeat to the champion filly Rose of Sharon in the Arlington Classic. Shortly after the victory, he bowed a tendon working at Saratoga and was rested for the remainder of the season. Even with only six races at three, Blue Larkspur was named Horse of the Year.
As a four-year-old, Blue Larkspur raced only three times, finishing second once and winning twice. He first set a track record beating Misstep and Sun Beau in the Stars and Stripes Handicap, then followed it up with a win in the Arlington Cup. In both of his victories, Jimmy Smith was aboard. When his tendon bowed again, Blue Larkspur was retired. He had worked his way up to third on the all time money winners list, with a total of $272,070. He had won ten of his sixteen starts.
Blue Larkspur spent his stud career at Idle Hour Stock Farm, in Lexington, Kentucky. He sired forty-four stakes winners including the colt Blue Swords, who chased Count Fleet to six straight victories cumulating in the 1943 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. His son Revoked won the Washington Park Futurity. His daughters, however, far outshone his sons. Myrtlewood was the Champion Handicap Mare of 1936, as well as the dam of the champion filly Durazna. The champion fillies Real Delight and Twilight Tear are both out of Blue Larkspur mares, as is Suburban Handicap winner Busanda. Blue Larkspur made the Broodmare Sires List every year from 1944 through 1960, with his daughters producing one hundred and fourteen stakes winners and six champions, including By Jimminy, Bull Page, and Ancestor. My Charmer, the dam of 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew, is a female line descendant of the Blue Larkspur mare Myrtlewood. Blue Larkspur also sired the successful fillies Blue Delight, Bloodroot, Elpis, Bee Ann Mac, and Blue Grass.
Blue Larkspur passed away in 1947, and became a member of the Hall of Fame ten years later. Blood-Horse ranked him one hundredth on their list of the century's best.
|Black Servant||Black Toney||Peter Pan||Commando|
|Blossom Time||North Star III||Sunstar||Sundridge|
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