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)

April 16, 2014 19051

UPDATE- Sheriff's Office Following Leads…

in Top Stories by Taylor Riley, SurfKY News Reporter
April 14, 2014 6426

U.S. Bank Hanson on Lockdown Due to Bomb…

in Top Stories by Rita Dukes Smith, SurfKY News Director
April 14, 2014 5278

Pedestrian Killed During Two Vehicle…

in Top Stories by Chris E. King
April 17, 2014 3846

KSP Nabs St. Charles Man Wanted by U.S.…

in Top Stories by Trooper Stu Recke
April 15, 2014 3075

Police Searching for Sureway's 'Baby…

in Top Stories by Taylor Riley, SurfKY News Reporter

Most Read Stories from Hopkins County

April 14, 2014 5278

Pedestrian Killed During Two Vehicle…

in Top Stories by Chris E. King
April 17, 2014 3846

KSP Nabs St. Charles Man Wanted by U.S.…

in Top Stories by Trooper Stu Recke
April 15, 2014 3075

Police Searching for Sureway's 'Baby…

in Top Stories by Taylor Riley, SurfKY News Reporter
April 15, 2014 2731

Multi-Agency Investigation Leads to Drug…

in Top Stories by Lori Blakeley
April 15, 2014 1053

State Approves $500K for Hopkins Archery…

in Top Stories by Rebecca Hanchett

Most Read Stories from Owensboro

April 14, 2014 2112

Grow Garden Grow - Spring Has Sprung

in News by Barbara Cecil Russ
April 15, 2014 1655

Owensboro Police Investigate Auto Accident

in News by Michael Hathaway
April 15, 2014 1307

Owensboro Parks Offers Tennis Lessons

in News by Britni Bunn
April 15, 2014 946

Happenings and Meetings Owensboro

in News by Dennis Beard, SurfKY News
April 14, 2014 683

Owensboro Health Hosts Tours for…

in Top Stories by Dennis Beard, SurfKY News

Most Read Stories from Muhlenberg County

April 16, 2014 2955

Sheriff's Deputies Nab Central City…

in Top Stories by Sheriff Curtis McGehee
April 14, 2014 2572

MCC Staff Shares Good News with…

in Top Stories by Paul McRee, SurfKY News Reporter
April 15, 2014 1949

'Walk Right Back' An Everly Brother's…

in Top Stories by Paul McRee, SurfKY News Reporter
April 15, 2014 1777

Local MCHS Students Train at Job Corps

in Top Stories by Karen Robinson
April 15, 2014 1449

Thumbpickers Unite at Mose Rager Day

in Top Stories by Paul McRee, SurfKY News Reporter

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