Favorite Horse: James Keogh

James KeoghKeeneland

For me, the all-time greatest racehorse and my all-time favorite were one and the same.
On the 27th of June, 1970 I attended my very first race meet at the Curragh. On that occasion I got to watch greatness in action, as Nijinsky (Northern Dancer) won the G1 Irish Derby. Even though I was just nine years of age, it was clear I had just witnessed something extraordinary. The pure ease with which Nijinsky totally demolished the Irish Classic field, under a hand ride from Irish champion jockey Liam Ward is embedded in my mind to this day.
Nijinsky is the last horse to win the English Triple Crown. Winning 11 of 13 lifetime starts, he was a champion at two and horse of the year at three. After the Irish Derby, Nijinsky won the G1 King George and Queen Elisabeth S., defeating the previous year's Epsom Derby winner, Blakeney (GB). Nijinsky retired in the fall of 1970 to Claiborne Farm in Kentucky. He sired a remarkable 155 stakes winners, including the likes of Caerleon, Dancing Spree, De La Rose, Golden Fleece, Lammtarra, Shadeed, Sky Classic (Can), King's Lake, Maplejinsky, and Royal Academy. In 1986, Nijinsky attained a most significant double, siring Ferdinand to win the GI Kentucky Derby and Shahrastani to win the G1 Epsom Derby. A feat in all probability we will never see repeated.
On June 3, 1982, I arrived in Kentucky on the day after Golden Fleece won the G1 Epsom Derby. After a period of two weeks, I borrowed a friend's car to drive the 18 miles to Paris, Kentucky to visit Claiborne Farm and my hero, Nijinsky. The stallion roster at Claiborne Farm included Mr. Prospector, Secretariat, Spectacular Bid, Round Table, Damascus, and Tom Rolfe among others, but for me it was all about Nijinsky. I would go visit him between five and six times every year, watching, studying, reviewing and revering him. For me he stood above all others.
Nijinsky died on April 16, 1992 at the age of 25. Thank you Nijinsky for igniting in me what has become a great passion for this industry. Nijinsky, for me you will always be number one.

Email Gary King ([email protected]) to have your say.

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