Pick Your Community: | Hopkins | Muhlenberg | Daviess | Christian | Fayette | Henderson | Lakes | McCracken | Warren | Webster

How the Bluegrass Took the Epsom

james nichLEXINGTON, Ky. (4/24/13)— The Bluegrass State has long been touted as the Thoroughbred capital of the world, but that was not always the case. The once English-dominated horse racing industry was taken by storm in the 1950s, when a Kentucky-bred longshot with a curious connection to a myriad of famed figures won England’s premier horse racing event. For centuries, American Thoroughbreds were mocked as vastly inferior to European runners, but that was chainging. Horse racing would forever be impacted by Never Say Die, a horse that made history across the pond and opened the door to Kentucky becoming the international epicenter of Thoroughbred breeding and sales.
 
In Never Say Die: A Kentucky Colt, the Epsom Derby, and the Rise of the Modern Thoroughbred Industry, James C. Nicholson, part-time instructor in the University of Kentucky Department of History, examines the career of the first Kentucky-born racehorse to win England’s Epsom Derby in 1954. Nicholson uses the story of the record-setting Thoroughbred to bring together a wide range of seemingly disparate characters, including a bigamous failed actor-turned-inventor, a Muslim imam, a man accused of treason and the most successful rock-and-roll band of all time. Never Say Die, published by University Press of Kentucky, recalls the horse’s legacy on the racetrack and how his Epsom Derby win led the transformation of Thoroughbred racing and breeding from an aristocratic pursuit into the multibillion-dollar industry it is today.
 
"The English racing community (and American horsemen, for that matter) were shocked that an American horse won England’s greatest race for an American owner. It was widely believed in Europe that American Thoroughbreds did not have the class or the stamina necessary to win England’s greatest race," Nicholson said.
 
Never Say Die was bred and owned by American philanthropist and art collector Robert Sterling Clark. Nicholson explains Clark’s claim to Merritt Singer’s sewing machine fortune and its place in creating Clark’s world-class stable of Thoroughbreds. Nicholson explores the history of the horse’s breeder, Sultan Mohammed Shah, the third Aga Khan, who produced some of the world’s top racehorses and bloodlines. Nicholson also connects the Kentucky-born horse to rock-and-roll. Mona Best, a Liverpool housewife and mother, pawned her jewelry to place a bet on a horse with 33-1 odds because of its name. With her winnings, Best opened the Casbah Coffee Club in 1959. Her son, Pete, joined a local band, the Quarrymen, who regularly played the Casbah. Pete was later replaced by Ringo Starr and the band changed their name to The Beatles.
 
A chestnut colt with a white blaze and three white feet, Never Say Die earned his name from Nicholson's maternal grandfather. "My dad was familiar with Never Say Die because his father-in-law John A. Bell III raised the horse on his Lexington farm and helped the colt survive a difficult birth by administering some bourbon whiskey to the woozy foal minutes after his birth. Never Say Die’s name was an acknowledgment of his fighting spirit in the first moments of his life," Nicholson said.
 
More than just a traditional biography of a horse, Never Say Day unifies a collection of stories and characters that illuminate the economic, social, political and cultural forces responsible for the development of modern Thoroughbred industry. By the 1960s and 1970s, American-owned horses would win Europe’s greatest races with unprecedented regularity. The success of American owners and horses abroad, in turn, helped create the international growth of the 1970s and early 1980s that made the United States, and Central Kentucky in particular, the unquestioned center of the global Thoroughbred breeding industry.
 
Nicholson, a UK alumnus, is also the author of The Kentucky Derby: How the Run for the Roses Became America’s Premier Sporting Event.
 
The University Press of Kentucky is the scholarly publisher for the Commonwealth of Kentucky, representing a consortium that now includes all of the state universities, five private colleges, and two historical societies. Led by Director Stephen Wrinn, its editorial program focuses on the humanities and the social sciences. Offices for the administrative, editorial, production and marketing departments of the press are found at UK, which provides financial support toward the operating expenses of the publishing operation.

SurfKY News
Information provided by Whitney Hale, Mack McCormick and Breanna Shelton
Photo provided by University Press of Kentucky

© Copyright 2014 SurfKY News Group, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, or rewritten without permission. SurfKY News encourages you to share this story by using one of the social media links below.

Most Read This Week (Site-Wide)

July 28, 2014 3315

Madisonville Woman Arrested for Being a…

in Top Stories by Madisonville Police Department
July 30, 2014 2906

UPDATE: Waide Responds to Allegations of…

in Top Stories by Rita Dukes Smith, SurfKY News Director
July 28, 2014 2891

Madisonville Man Arrested for Endangering…

in Top Stories by Madisonville Police Department
July 30, 2014 2611

Three Arrested in Muhlenberg as Part of…

in Top Stories by GPD Officer Wes Miller
July 28, 2014 2448

Disagreement Over Killing Snake in House…

in Top Stories by Madisonville Police Department

Most Read Stories from Hopkins County

July 28, 2014 3315

Madisonville Woman Arrested for Being a…

in Top Stories by Madisonville Police Department
July 28, 2014 2891

Madisonville Man Arrested for Endangering…

in Top Stories by Madisonville Police Department
July 28, 2014 2448

Disagreement Over Killing Snake in House…

in Top Stories by Madisonville Police Department
July 28, 2014 1686

Two Injured in Vehicle Collision on…

in Top Stories by William Roundtree
July 28, 2014 1676

Madisonville Man Arrested for Assault,…

in Top Stories by Madisonville Police Department

Most Read Stories from Owensboro

July 28, 2014 1075

Zuberer Takes Over at Quarterback for…

in News by Steve LeMaster
July 28, 2014 953

Dont Miss Out on a Howl of a Good Time

in News by Brittni Bunn
July 28, 2014 828

Instant Admissions Day is Aug. 1, 2014

in News by Bernie Hale
July 29, 2014 658

Happenings and Meetings - Daviess County

in News by Owensboro-Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau
July 28, 2014 428

Prosecutors Mull Over Whether to Charge…

in Top Stories by Dennis Beard, SurfKY News

Most Read Stories from Muhlenberg County

July 30, 2014 2611

Three Arrested in Muhlenberg as Part of…

in Top Stories by GPD Officer Wes Miller
July 30, 2014 1949

UPDATE: Muhlenberg Man, Woman Arrested in…

in Top Stories by Sheriff Curtis McGehee
July 28, 2014 1339

Foot Pursuit Ends with Arrest

in Top Stories by Christopher Rogers
July 28, 2014 1243

Boys of Broad to Launch Video at Cinema 4

in Top Stories by Paul McRee, SurfKY News
July 29, 2014 1224

Muhlenberg District Court Fines Handed…

in Top Stories by Charles W. Riley II, SurfKY News

SurfKY News Group, Inc. Central Office & Printing Division
1125 Nebo Rd.  •  Madisonville, KY 42431  •  270.452.2249 (fax)
Main Number: 270.452.2727 (phone)  •  Printing Division Direct Line: 270.821.8600 (phone)

SurfKY Owensboro News Bureau
920 Frederica St. / Suite 210  •  Owensboro, KY 42301  •  270.683-8060 (phone)


Contact a member of our staff: www.surfky.com/contact
Copyright © 2014 SurfKY News Group, Inc.  •  Terms of Use  •  Site Map

social 06social 21social 22social 04social 03