Bold Venture (1933-1958) was lightly regarded in the Kentucky Derby, not having one a single stakes race en route to the Run for the Roses. In today’s Race for the Kentucky Derby, he wouldn’t even be considered for a spot in the field, but in 1936, owners could enter their horse if they nominated him or her.
This was the case with Bold Venture, who went off at odds of 20-1. He was being ridden by Ira “Babe” Hanford, an 18-year-old apprentice jockey who had ridden the horse only once before – an allowance race about two weeks earlier.
The Bump ‘n’ Run Derby
The 1936 Derby was more like a game of pinball; the favorite, Brevity, stumbled to his knees at the start; future Horse of the Year Granville threw his rider; second choice Indian Broom got caught behind a wall of horses; and even Bold Venture was bumped and forced outside to find running room.
He made his move on the backstretch and set out for He Did, the pacesetter. With three furlongs to go, he had taken the lead. As the stunned crowd looked on, Bold Venture took a 1 1/2-length lead. Brevity made a hard charge at the 3/16 pole, but Bold Venture hung on and beat the favorite by a head.
The Preakness by a Nose
The Preakness was even closer. Now the favorite, Bold Venture got off to another bad start and was at the rear of the pack. He slowly made up ground, moving into striking position in the final turn as Granville, the second choice, led the field.
In the homestretch, Bold Venture moved quickly and caught Granville as the two raced as one toward the finish. Bold Venture managed to stick a nose in front at the wire, but it was close enough that Preakness stewards had to go to their new photo finish camera to determine the winner.
Unfortunately, 11 days before the Belmont Stakes and history, Bold Venture came up lame after a workout at Belmont Park. The diagnosis? A bowed tendon. He was out for the rest of the year and was eventually retired.
At first, Bold Venture did not fare well at stud and was sent to King Ranch in Texas. There he sired 1946 Triple Crown winner Assault and 1950 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes winner Middleground.