- Published: 07 April 2015 07 April 2015
Now, I don't know who the first person was who said that it's only the Russians that rewrite history was, but I do know this - he was a goddamned liar. If you don't believe me, just go and try'n find out about the Kentucky Derby of 1930. It's all a pack of lies, every damblasted word of it. I know, I was there.
Those goddamned Indianapolis bankers it was who started it was who started the whole mess. Jack and Pete Morgan you see were the principal owners of the Speedway up there. Loved motor racing they did. Were tinkering with cars since the time their heads were level with the tops of the tires. No one could figure out how they came to be taken so by autos. Their father, a Presbyterian Minister loved to joke when they were young yet that they'd grow up to be Doctors or Lawyers or somebody important, not like him.
Well they did get to be lawyers (some said with more than a little help from their dad's collection plate) up at the University in Bloomington. Came right back home afterwards and set up in business for themselves. In case you was wondering, they were twins, which accounts for their always doing things together.
The youngest, Pete (by a few hours) went up to Chicago a few years after the practice got going. Seems he fell in love with a daughter of man they were investigating for a client, and promptly married her. When Jack heard, he got so mad at Pete for switching sides he went right up to Chicago to give him a piece of his mind. Wouldn't you know he ended up marrying the man's other daughter. Of course the fact that their new father-in-law owned the largest printing company in the Midwest and made Jack & Pete partners had nothing to do with their getting married. Nope.
It was love at first sight for the five of 'em. The fifth being the girls old man. He knew a couple of good shyster lawyers when he saw them. Had been having some trouble with the unions and the fire commissioner and was on the lookout for a smooth talker when he found two. The old man believed in doing things in a big way.
Jack and Petey didn't know the first thing about printing. All's they knew was money and together the three of them began making a bundle, opening up plants in St. Louis and Indianapolis. Never did forget cars though. Nope, far from it. 1927 they bought the Speedway - the Brickyard. To have seen them there at the track the first day they owned it, why you'd have thought they was a couple of drunken teenagers carrying on so. Course they weren't able to buy it outright. The big banks in Indianapolis helped them out a bit. Co-owners you could say.
Well everything was peachy keen for quite a while, babies popping out their wives, car racing round the track and the money rolling in. Till it stopped. The money that is. The stock market crash. People didn't stop coming to the track though, out of work, no money, bread lines, soup kitchens - hell they had to do something to forget their lives and the track was the biggest source of entertainment in Indianapolis in those days.
Printing though, that was hurting. Hurting bad. And that was bad news for Jack and Petey. Their profits from the printing was going to pay off the bank loan on the track. And there was no loan that the banks were more anxious about foreclosing than that one. So Jack and Petey were in kinda a tight spot. Which was tighter even when the St. Louis and Bloomington shops sunk. Must of lost 20 pounds between them convincing the banks to give them until after the upcoming 500 mile race. Promised the banks they would make it the biggest and richest car race ever. And so they tried.
Jack and Petey were no dummies. They knew what they needed was glamour and attention, bookies and hordes of bettors. How they decided to get all this to what had been just a little local race was their undoing.
At this time you see the big thing in racing was horses. Still is in the smart set. And the biggest horse race of them all was the Derby down here in Louisville. The big problem for Jack and Petey was the Derby being held three weeks before their race. While horsey people don't care about car racing and the car people look down their noses at the horses, the bettors love em both. Bettors will bet on anything. Some of em even bet on who finishes last. Stupid thing to do if you ask me, it's a helleva lot easier to fix who's going to lose than it is whose going to win.
Ah-hah you'se are saying to yourselves at this point, Jack and Petey's problem is that their potential bettors will have shot their wad at the Derby. Right you are. And any man who says that track owners of any kind don't have anything to do with betting because it's against the law is stupider than a Tennessee Congressman. So Jack and Petey saw their mission as this then - they had to stop all the bettors at the Derby from shooting their wad so they could then lose it all at their track. And Jack and Petey rightly saw that the best way of preventing the bettors from following the call of nature at the Derby was to stop the Derby from happening.
Some years they might have gotten away with it. But not this one. Fat Chance. He was the hottest horse in years, cleaned up in every race he ran. What with it being the depression and all, it was a fool who passed up a sure thing, and Fat Chance was as sure a thing as there ever was. Like I said earlier, Jack and Petey were no dummies - they knew that the only way to stop the horses from running was to make sure there were no horses in the race. That's right, steal em! That's what they planned and that's what they did.
Back then Louisville wasn't all built up around the track like it is now. Lots of woods on the west side and open fields on the south. The easy way was sneaking out the horses and leaving the grooms tied up in the woods the night before the race. Hell, there were only five horses running that year. Why bother against Fat Chance. Nah, the hard part was sneaking the cows in. Cows, black and white, go moo and give forth milk when you pull 'em. You got it. Jack and Petey put the cows in figuring that the Derby people would be so mad and insulted by the degradation done to their race, they wouldn't know what the hell to do.
What they didn't count on was just how greedy those Derby people were. If there was no Derby, they wouldn't make any money. Hell, they'd probably lose their shirts, to say nothing of what they'd lose if all those angry bettors got a hold of them.
So. being quick thinkers as all true blue Kentuckians are, they decided to run the cows. When word was got out the morning of the race that Fat Chance and the other competing horses were stolen, and cows left behind and that those very same cows were going to be a running, jockeys and all, well my God, didn't everybody just go and lose their minds, betting everything they had, and a lot of things they didn't. Monetarily speaking, for the bookies and Derby people, it was a killing. Hell, we all nearly killed ourselves from laughing at those stupid cows. Gave them all the same numbers and colors and gate positions and jockeys as the horses they stood in for. The winner, Streak-O-Lightening (the only brown heifer showing) won in a winning time of 12 minutes and 18 seconds flat. Kept stopping to eat the grass poking out from the bottom of the spectators feet by the infield fence. A grand and total success it was for everybody except for Jack and Petey. They was caught the next day across the river in Indiana with the horses. Lost the track they did. And the wives too.
When word began getting around as to just how much of the wad the Derby people got, the rumors started flying about the Derby people setting Jack and Petey up to take the fall for something they knew nothing about. We of course know better than that. But the rumors were enough to cause the Derby and the local papers to stop mentioning the cows when they talked about the Derby of 1930. They acted as if they never heard the word cow before. Been so long since it happened no one seems to remember anymore.
Fat Chance? He finished last, kinda tuckered out in the stretch and fell asleep. Never did finish.
This story was written for Gary