Triple Crown Near-Misses: Kauai King Goes Too Fast
After 18 years of frustration – of Native Dancer and Northern Dancer just missing the Triple Crown, of Nashua and Chateaugay capturing two of three, of Needles and Tim Tam – horse racing fans finally thought they had their superhorse in 1966. Buckpasser, the son of Tom Fool, had won 9 of 11 races in 1965 to capture 2-year-old Horse of the Year honors. It seemed the Crown was his for the taking.
But racing luck can be bad and good. In Buckpasser’s case, it was bad. He developed a quarter crack after the Flamingo Stakes and missed all three races. His main rival, Graustark, was injured after finishing second in the Blue Grass Stakes and was out as well. That left Kauai King as the favorite among the second tier of hopefuls for the Kentucky Derby.
Victory at Churchill
He didn’t disappoint. Kauai King went to the front at the start and opened a three-length lead over Quinta down the backstretch. He was setting phenomenal fractions – too fast, really – but was still two lengths in front of Stupendous at the eighth pole. He began to tire, though, and Advocator came on like a freight train. Kauai King just managed to hold off Advocator at the wire, winning by a half-length. He was able to do what his sire, Native Dancer, could not do: win the Kentucky Derby.
Kauai King was the favorite going into the Preakness as well. This time, Stupendous set fast fractions early, while the Derby winner stalked him several lengths off the lead. When Stupendous tired heading into the homestretch, jockey Don Brumfield urged Kauai King on, and he passed his rival en route to a 1 1/2-length victory.
At the Belmont, Highest Honors set shocking fractions – the third colt to do so in the three races. When he tired after six furlongs, Kauai King went to the lead, continuing the murderous pace. And it did him in.
Amberoid, at one point 15 lengths behind the leaders, came from off the pace and overtook Kauai King. To add insult to injury, Buffle and Advocator also passed the Derby and Preakness winner, who was spent and finished fourth, eight lengths behind Amberoid.
Kauai King bowed a tendon in his next race, the Arlington Classic, and was retired. The winner of that race? Buckpasser, who won his fifth race in a row en route to 15 straight wins.