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Biggio: Winning Colors

| Thursday, April 16, 2020

I decided to be a little different in this article and tell you all about a horse that would probably never get the time of day.

If you know me, you know I love to read. I’m one of those people who would rather read a book than watch TV. You can imagine I have read a lot of books since being cooped up in my home. I read a book yesterday which was a quick read, a book that I just could not put down. The book is called “The Greatest Gambling Story Ever Told; a True Tale of Three Gamblers, the Kentucky Derby, and the Mexican Cartel.” This column is going to talk about the main star of the book: Winning Colors.

It is important to understand a couple of things about horse racing before reading this. A horse is unlike human athletes in which it competes in the first four years of its life and then its career is over. Horses then become sires to other horses for a certain amount of money based on how they did in their careers.

Winning Colors was a grey filly (female horse) who went on the win the Kentucky Derby. She was originally bought for only $575,000 in a horse auction by Eugene Klein. He bought the horse that no one else wanted. Everyone wanted the large colt or a good breeder, and Winning Colors looked like she was a little more on the chubby side, but Klein saw it as muscle and thought there was a good chance she would grow into her body. She quickly grew into her body of muscle and her temper. She did not like anyone to touch her and would often bite at the other horses. The only person she would allow to come near her was her handler who would bring her treats, and he called her “Mamacita.”

Klein was the previous owner of the Las Angeles Chargers before the team got in trouble with drugs, and he decided to get into horseracing instead. He hired only the best trainer there was at this time, Wayne Lukas. He was tough and expensive, but he was the best there was.

Winning Colors only raced twice in her two-year-old season, and she won both of her races. She was off to a promising start, but she had yet to face colts in a race. In her three-year-old season, she ran many more races and all against the boys. She was known for sprinting out of the gate and holding an early lead all the way until the end to the point where she would beat colts by seven-and-a-half lengths. It was this season in which she went to the Kentucky Derby. It was said that day had the highest female attendance in the Derby’s history because they all came to see this girl beat all the other boys. The race was referred to as the horse version of the tennis match that took place between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King in 1973.  Winning Colors was up against Risen Star and other horses who were sired by Secretariat or related to him. This race was hers from beginning to end; she led out of the gate and at every post, eventually winning the race by a neck in front of Forty Niner. Winning Colors is only the third filly to ever win the Kentucky Derby and the second to compete in all three of the triple crown races.

She was often described as an “Amazon” of a horse. When she was with the other colts, she was sometimes even bigger than them and more muscular, too. She was a force to be reckoned with.

As I said in the beginning of the column, race horses’ careers are short, and Winning Colors was no different. In her four-year-old season she suffered breathing problems and had surgery, in which she never fully recovered from. She birthed 10 foals in which only six were winners. She is truly one of a kind. In 1988 she was voted for the most outstanding three-year-old filly and later in 2000 was inducted into the United States National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame, where her legacy will get to live on forever.

Winning Colors does not usually come to mind when people think of horse racing, but I hope after reading this you will think of the girl that went on to beat all the boys. Since her win in 1988, no other filly has been able to go on and win the Derby or any of the triple crown races.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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