Every year in the Kentucky Derby there’s at least one horse with a fascinating backstory. While they usually don’t fare well in the race itself there are exceptions. A couple of years ago the ‘interesting backstory’ horse before the Derby belonged to a couple of guys who weren’t really ‘serious’ racing owners. They bought a horse out of a $3,000 broodmare and stabled him off the beaten path at Los Alamitos. They entrusted him to an 80 year old owner who had no other Kentucky Derby experience than being a stableboy for the legendary Swaps.
That was the backstory of a horse you may have heard of–California Chrome. He is, of course, a very rare exception but there’s nothing wrong with a long shot horse coming to Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May with a dream. This year’s ‘backstory’ horse could be the uniquely named Suddenbreakingnews.
He’s owned by Sam F. Henderson of Odessa, Texas–who insists that he’s not a ‘new junkie’ but instead ‘just liked the name’. He’s got a decent pedigree (Mineshaft out of an Afleet Alex mare) but Odessa, Texas is somewhat off the beaten path when it comes to horse racing royalty. It’s not that Henderson doesn’t know horses–at 78, he’s been around them all of his life and has owned many thoroughbreds and quarter horses. But even he sounds somewhat surprised at what Suddenbreakingnews has done so far in his career. In six starts he’s got three wins and three seconds including a victory in the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park. In that race he slipped to the back of the fourteen horse field before rallying for the victory. All of a sudden Henderson owns one of the ‘horses to beat’ in both the Rebel and next month’s Arkansas Derby.
Realistically, he may need a solid showing in at least one of those races to qualify for the Kentucky Derby. He’s currently #23 in the qualification standings with only ten points. But a strong performance by a horse outside of the usual coterie of horse racing elite is no longer a shock–it happened just a couple of years ago to a horse that now may be the biggest star in racing.