The Florida Derby at Gulfstream on March 3 seemed like any other race. Spectacular Bid was made the 1–20 favorite against a field that included Lot o’ Gold, Medaille d’Or, Musical Phantasy, Sir Ivor Again, and Brach’s Dancer.
Bid was feeling rambunctious and in an ill mood. As they put the saddle on him, he snorted and grunted. Jockey Ron Franklin was helped onto Bid’s back, and as the post parade began, the colt began hopping and prancing along, shaking his head in impatience.
Once the horses were settled in their post positions and the gates opened for the Florida Derby, Bid was immediately in trouble.
The colt banged hard against the left side of the gate—so hard that Franklin almost fell off the horse. Although he managed to stay on Bid and settle him down, the bump slowed Bid down and prevented him from getting a quick start. He had to settle for fifth place in the seven-horse field as the horses entered the first turn.
Franklin first tried to go outside, as was his usual manner, but Medaille d’Or was in the way, and Bid almost ran into him. So Franklin waited. After a while Angel Cordero, aboard Sir Ivor Again and running in front of Bid, drifted to the outside, leaving a hole for Franklin to go through on the inside.
It was a trap.
Franklin hesitated at first, then decided to go through. As soon as he went for the hole, Cordero moved back inside, blocking his way. Franklin had to check Bid to avoid a collision, slowing him down and causing him almost to clip the heels of Medaille d’Or, who was now right behind him—a second near miss at an accident. He was at that point fourteen lengths behind.
Desperate to get back in the race, Franklin swung the colt outside. Bid passed Sir Ivor Again and, perhaps realizing that he was late in making his move, made a furious run down the backstretch to catch the three pacesetters, making up eight lengths in a short distance.
Franklin tried to go through an inside hole again, but when he was halfway through the opening, Jorge Velasquez and Fantasy ‘n Reality drifted over toward the rail. Franklin panicked and, fearing that Bid would get pinned against the rail, put the brakes on the colt a second time. He went around the three horses and was four horses wide on the final turn.
Spectacular Bid, after three near accidents and a long trip around the far turn, including several changes in speed, was fighting for the lead.
Franklin hit Spectacular Bid hard several times, and the colt put on the gas one more time, passing the three leaders in less than one hundred yards and pulling away to win by four and a half lengths. It was an amazing performance by a horse who won despite his jockey.
Trainer Bud Delp was furious. He ran over to the winner’s circle and yelled at Franklin in front of hundreds who had gathered there. “You idiot!” he screamed. “You could have got the horse killed!” An embarrassed Franklin dismounted, acting like the son who had wrecked his father’s prized automobile, and hung his head in shame as tears welled in his eyes.
And so began the Franklin Watch, as reporters waited to see whether Delp would take Franklin off the horse. After several agonizing days, Delp held a press conference where he read an announcement from the Meyerhoffs saying that Franklin would remain Bid’s jockey.