clyde van dusen

Clyde and Clyde

Juvenile gelding Clyde Van Dusen, being led by his trainer (and namesake) Clyde Van Dusen, at Lincoln Fields in 1928. The two-year-old son of Man o’ War was considered one of the early Derby favorites after wins in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, Idle Hour Stakes, and Orphanage Stakes. In fact, he was the second favorite behind champion Blue Larkspur. The day of the Derby was a downpour, leaving the track a slop, and Blue Larkspur floundered in the heavy going. Clyde Van Dusen, outfitted with mud caulks, skipped to a two-length victory

The gelding continued racing until he was seven, never again winning a major race. He was well-beloved by his trainer, and when he was finally retired in 1933, Clyde Van Dusen became an exercise pony in his stable

Clyde Van Dusen

1926–1948
Raced from 1928-1933
Thoroughbred Gelding - United States

Clyde Van Dusen was named after his trainer and former jockey, Clyde Van Dusen. He was chestnut in color and described as unimpressive and “a mere pony of a horse with a weedy frame.”. Clyde Van Dusen said “Clyde Van Dusen is a little horse, and that is why Mr. Gardner named him after me.”

As a two year old Clyde Van Dusen won several top races included the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, Orphanage Stakes, Valley Stakes, and Idle Hour Stakes. At three, he entered a Kentucky Derby prep race but lost to KY Derby favorite and future horse of the year, Blue Larkspur. Despite his loss, he started in the 1929 Kentucky Derby.

Drawing post #20, with only Blue Larkspur to his outside in post #21. The race was run in heavy rains and unlike most other horses in the race, Clyde Van Dusen was equipped with mud caulk horseshoes. Because of this he was never threatened and went on to win the Derby by two lengths. His winning time of 2:10 was one of the slowest winning times in Derby history, and Blue Larkspur’s trainer said Clyde Van Dusen was “the worst horse to win the Derby in twenty years.” Clyde was the 7th gelding to win the Derby, and it would be another 74 years until another gelding won the race - Funny Cide in 2003.

After the Kentucky Derby, Clyde Van Dusen never won another race. He finished in the money in several stakes, but failed to produce a win. He retired in 1933 and was sold to Clyde Van Dusen and used as an exercise pony until his death from infirmities of old age at 22 in 1948.

Clyde Van Dusen riding Clyde Van Dusen. So meta.

Sire: Man o’ War
Dam: Fair Play (by Uncle’s Lassie)

Breeder: Herbert P. Gardner
Owners: Herbert P. Gardner
Trainers: Clyde Van Dusen

42 Races
12 wins
7 Places
8 Shows

Earnings: $122,402

Photo from New York Public Library

Clyde Van Dusen

This son of Man o’ War won the 1929 Kentucky Derby, but little else. He was called “the worst horse to win the Derby in twenty years”

It is widely thought that he only won the race because he was wearing mud caulks, whereas probable winner and future Horse of the Year Blue Larkspur wasn’t. His winning time was one of the slowest in Derby history, though this could be blamed on the deep thick mud covering the track.

He never won another race, and was eventually retired to become a stable pony

A Muddy Winner: Gelding Clyde Van Dusen wears the roses after taking the 1929 Kentucky Derby

The last gelding to win the race until Funny Cide in 2003, Clyde Van Dusen is often claimed to be a “sham” winner. Although he had top-class breeding (by Man o’ War, out of Uncle’s Lassie), he was often disappointing. On the day of the Derby, Clyde Van Dusen was outfitted with mud shoes, while the favorite (and eventual Horse of the Year) Blue Larkspur, was not. As a result, he was never really challenged  although his winning time was almost insultingly slow