Look Back: Broad Brush's Wild Pennsylvania Derby Win

Look Back: Broad Brush's Wild Pennsylvania Derby Win
Photo: BloodHorse Library
Broad Brush wins 1986 Pennsylvania Derby after an eventful run.

In conjunction with Tom Hall's Throwback Thursday features in BloodHorse Daily, BloodHorse.com each Thursday will present corresponding race stories from the pages of the magazine. This week is a recap of the 1986 Pennsylvania Derby (G2) Sept. 27 at Philadelphia Park won by Broad Brush. Written by Don Zamarelli, the story carried the headline and subhead, "Winning After a Brush With Defeat: Without blinkers, Broad Brush bolted, but came back to win the Pennsylvania Derby," and appeared in the Oct. 4, 1986 issue. (Tom Hall's Throwback Thursday this week focuses on Broad Brush's win in the 1986 General George Stakes.)

Trainer Dick Small left it up to jockey Angel Cordero Jr.

"I considered taking the blinkers off for this race, but I wanted to get his rider's input on it," Small said regarding Robert Meyerhoff's Broad Brush for the $300,000-guaranteed Pennsylvania Derby (G2) at Philadelphia Park on Sept. 27.

"Maybe he wins another Derby if they take off the hood," Cordero said. "So I tell Mr. Small, 'Sure, take it off and we see what happens.'"

Broad Brush had been equipped with blinkers for his last three previous races. He had not won any of the three, but had been a solid second in the last two, the Travers (G1) beaten a head by Wise Times, and the Pegasus Handicap (G2), losing by three-quarters of a length to Danzig Connection.

He had run without blinkers in accounting for the Ohio Derby (G2), Wood Memorial (G1), and two other stakes this year. He also had lost several races without them, demonstrating a habit of looking around and pulling up when on the lead.

The change back to racing without blinkers again might have been a factor in a dramatic race by the 4-5 favorite with the crowd of 10,595. Broad Brush seemingly had put away the rest of the field with a big move in the last turn, opening up some five lengths heading for the quarter pole.

Coming out of the turn, however, Broad Brush made a move that changed the complexion of the race.

"He takes off for the gap on the outside fence," Cordero said later. "And if three guys there don't start waving their arms at him, we wind up in the parking lot, or even Street Road."

Suddenly the Pennsylvania Derby became competitive again. By the time Cordero, using all his strength, had Broad Brush pointed in the right direction again, the choice had dropped to the middle of the field, as four horses had passed him.

Cordero called on everything at his command—legs, hands, and particularly the whip, as well as his experience and determination. He had Broad Brush back into the battle in less than a furlong, despite having conceded a chunk of real estate to four horses inside of him.

"I really get after him," Cordero emphasized. "I even give him the whip on the head to get him going again and keep him straight this time."

Responding to the rough treatment, Broad Brush did, indeed, come back, rallying strongly outside the crown of the track to come within two lengths of the leaders Glow and Sumptious at the eighth pole.

Inside the sixteenth pole, Broad Brush regained the lead and in the final yards he drew out to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Sumptious was second, with Glow, the early pacesetter, a half-length farther back.

"I still don't believe it. I still don't believe it," an exhausted Cordero uttered at the dramatic turn of events. "In my 26 years of riding, I never saw or rode a horse like him which bolts, and still wins the big race like this. Never, never, never."

Small, however, has dealt with the erratic Broad Brush enough that he did not give up hope when the horse missed the stretch turn. 

"I really felt he'd come back and win it, despite bolting," the trainer said. "I guess because I had seen him do the exact same thing in the same place at this track last year in an allowance race and win it. And in that race, he dropped back to last and still got up, at only six furlongs.

"He's got so much talent—blinkers or no blinkers—it's incredible. But he's also full of tricks. The folks got to see both sides of him today."

Broad Brush now has won six times and been second three times and third twice, from 13 races this year. He has earnings of $1,109,778, the $180,000 winner's prize of the Derby making him a millionaire. (His sire, Ack Ack, was represented on the same day by Pomona Derby division winner Ack Ack Heir and the following day by $125,000 Pomona Handicap winner Epidaurus.)

The Meadowlands Cup (G1) at Meadowlands on Oct. 18 will be next for Broad Brush, "and maybe or maybe not with the blinkers," Small said. "He's done tricks with them and without them, but I still love him."

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