Bloodlines Presented By Mill Ridge Farm: Dust Commander’s Trip From Kentucky To Japan And Back Again

There is no spring meeting at Keeneland this year, no Blue Grass Stakes pointing out classic prospects; but 50 years ago, a small chestnut colt splashed through the slop at Keeneland Race Course to score a shocking upset in the 1970 Blue Grass Stakes. Nine days later, Dust Commander reprised his performance to win the Kentucky Derby at odds of 15.30-to-1.

The smallish chestnut won by five lengths from the favorite, Florida Derby winner My Dad George (by Dark Star) and 1969 Futurity Stakes winner High Echelon (Native Charger), who was half of the Ethel Jacobs entry with subsequent Preakness Stakes winner Personality (Hail to Reason).

Despite an extensive 3-year-old campaign of 23 starts, plus five more starts at four, Dust Commander never won another important race. He did place in the Monmouth Invitational, Fayette, and Clark Handicaps; so he wasn’t a bad sort. Nor was he a great champion. The handy little chestnut had a facile way of going and was adept at handling off tracks. Furthermore, he did mark some noteworthy trends.

As a son of the grandly-pedigreed Bold Commander (by Horse of the Year Bold Ruler out of champion filly High Voltage), Dust Commander was the first racer from the male line of Bold Ruler to win the Kentucky Derby. This was a novelty on the first Saturday in May in 1970, but seven of the 10 Kentucky Derbies from 1970 through 1979 were won by colts descending from Bold Ruler.

In 1973, of course, Bold Ruler’s son Secretariat won the Kentucky Derby in record time on his way to becoming the first Triple Crown winner since Citation. In 1977, Bold Ruler’s great-grandson Seattle Slew (Bold Reasoning – Boldnesian) became the second Triple Crown winner of the 1970s. In between those, Cannonade (Bold Bidder) won in 1974, Foolish Pleasure (What a Pleasure) in 1975, and Bold Forbes (Irish Castle) in 1976. Then in 1979, Bold Bidder got a second Kentucky Derby winner in Spectacular Bid.

Bred in Illinois by the Pullen Brothers, Dust Commander was the first Kentucky Derby winner bred in the Land of Lincoln and retains that distinction.

After a brief and unsuccessful 4-year-old campaign, Dust Commander retired to stud at owner Robert Lehmann’s Golden Chance Farm outside Paris, Ky. The horse entered stud at four, covering a short book of mares for the 1971 season and stood at Golden Chance until he was sold in 1973 and exported to Japan for the 1974 breeding season.

Dust Commander was in Japan when his first-crop son Master Derby won the 1975 Preakness from Kentucky Derby winner Foolish Pleasure. The chestnut stallion’s third crop contained the rugged and talented Run Dusty Run, winner of the Arlington-Washington Futurity, Breeders’ Futurity, and Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at two, then second in the Kentucky Derby, Belmont, Blue Grass, American Derby, and Travers at three. From 24 starts, Run Dusty Run was first or second in 20.

Not surprisingly after siring performers at the highest level, Dust Commander became the first classic winner to return from Japan when the horse was purchased for import and returned to Kentucky, where he stood initially at Gainesway Farm from the 1980 season through 1985, then moved to Springland Farm outside Paris for the remainder of his stud career.

Dust Commander was euthanized at age 24 in 1991 because of old age.

In addition to his racing successes and world travels, Dust Commander put Robert Lehmann and his family in the horse business in a big way, with purchases of breeding stock that included stakes winner Ole Bob Bowers for $5,000 in 1970. In addition to racing the Derby winner, Lehmann also bred Master Derby, while Golden Chance Farm bred Run Dusty Run and others.

Among those other racing prospects that the farm began churning out was a nondescript plain brown colt sired by that lesser-known stallion Ole Bob Bowers whom Lehmann had brought to stand at Golden Chance.

Sold for $1,100 as a yearling, that other small horse was named John Henry. A stakes winner every year from two through nine, John Henry won 25 graded races, earned $6.5 million, was twice Horse of the Year, earned five other Eclipse Awards, and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1990.

The post Bloodlines Presented By Mill Ridge Farm: Dust Commander’s Trip From Kentucky To Japan And Back Again appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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