Trainer Grover "Bud" Delp and jockey Ron Franklin looked back on the silver anniversary of Spectacular Bid's victory in the 1979 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) at Churchill Downs Sunday afternoon. The pair were on hand to sign some of the 8,500 Spectacular Bid bobble heads the track was giving away to its Twin Spires Club members.
"I remember it just like it was yesterday," Delp said of "The Bid's" Derby 25 years ago. "You don't forget a race like that. A trainer might forget some races, but not the Derby. But I remember everything about 'The Bid'--even down to the number of donuts he ate."
"Crystal clear," Franklin said of his Derby win. The now 44-year-old Franklin was only 19 years old at the time he won the Derby and Preakness (gr. I).
Delp said "Ron's Derby ride was as good as anybody could have done it. People always criticize Ron's ride, but we'd been practicing for the Kentucky Derby since 'The Bid' was a 2-year-old at Keystone."
A bid for the Triple Crown was thwarted in the Belmont, as Spectacular Bid ran second to Coastal. A safety pin was discovered in Spectacular Bid's hoof the morning of the race.
"Ronny didn't ride him so well," Delp said of Franklin's ride in the Belmont. "He didn't change leads the whole way." Delp also noted that Franklin chased a quick early pace, gunning for the lead after a half-mile in the 1 1/2-mile race.
"I think he wanted to get the race over with," Delp said. "He went too fast, too early. I should have never have told Ronny (about the safety pin).
"He told me about 10 o'clock that morning," Franklin recalled. "I was nervous."
Delp said he packed "The Bid's" hoof with a concoction he called Bowie mud after he discovered the ill-fated safety pin and went back to his hotel to rest. He returned to the backstretch at Belmont Park around 3 o'clock and took the horse out. He jogged him twice and checked his legs before deciding to go ahead and run.
Delp remains active in Thoroughbred racing as a trainer. Franklin, however, has battled drugs and alcohol for years and is no longer allowed on the grounds at tracks in his native Maryland. For the last five months, he has been working construction in the Baltimore area. He rode in his last race in 1993.
"I messed up my career with the drugs and all," Franklin said. "I had low self-esteem. But I've been clean now for 106 weeks. I put it down, and I haven't been back.
"I'm healthy and strong now," he continued, saying he'd like to ride again. "I could lose 14 pounds and get fit and come back. I've got a clear mind now. I owe a lot to my sponsor and boss Dave Cosner." Cosner owns Cos's Concrete in Baltimore.
"He's the best galloper in Maryland," Delp said of Franklin. He has not been allowed on the grounds of Maryland tracks for three years.
Delp said he and Franklin still get together some times and talk. "I'd like to do that again," Franklin said with a smile.
Training Spectacular Bid for three years was the greatest thing in my life," Delp said.