Alysheba and trainer Jack Van Berg

Alysheba and trainer Jack Van Berg

The Blood-Horse Library

On This Day...

April 23, 1987

The Kentucky Derby (gr. I) was fast approaching, and Alysheba had only a single win to show for his efforts. The worst part was that he had finished first in the April 23 Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland, but was disqualified.

Alysheba, whose sire, Alydar, won the 1978 Blue Grass by 13 lengths, went off the odds-on favorite under Chris McCarron against four rivals. Reserved off the pace, everything went smoothly until the stretch.

"Nearing the sixteenth pole, the path left by the starting gate caught his eye, and he gathered himself like a steeplechaser facing a jump," wrote The Blood-Horse's Edward L. Bowen. "Unschooled in the finer art of jump racing, Alysheba lurched to his right as he landed, clipping Leo Castelli, which was boiling up on his right and which also had leapt the path. Leo Castelli's head and left shoulder dropped momentarily, but he recovered with admirable nimbleness."

At the wire, Alysheba had a head on War, who had a head on Leo Castelli. Following a head-on review by the stewards, Alysheba was disqualified and placed third.

Victory No. 2 came in the biggest race of all. Alysheba, who nearly went down in the stretch after clipping Bet Twice's right rear tendon as the latter bore out, won the Derby by three-quarters of a length over that rival. Alysheba next won the Preakness (gr. I), and then ran fourth in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I), won by Bet Twice.