Grindstone (outside, green and white silks) winning the 1996 Kentucky Derby. (Photo courtesy of Horsephotos.com)
A horse with a career full of history, Grindstone had the chance to be brilliant based on his pedigree but his short career was quickly marred by injuries. The colt was spectacular in his debut, winning by five lengths. In his second start, his connections stepped him up to graded stakes company in the Bashford Manor Stakes (G3) and he finished fourth. That race was the final time Grindstone would touch the track as a 2-year-old after a bone chip was discovered in his right knee and surgically removed.
Seven months later, the colt put himself back on the Kentucky Derby (G1) trail when he won the 1996 Louisiana Derby (G3) by 3 ½ lengths over Zarb’s Magic in his second race back off the layoff. The two battled again in the Arkansas Derby (G2) a month later where they reversed positions with Zarb’s Magic winning by a neck.
Grindstone got the last laugh when he won the Kentucky Derby under Jerry Bailey at odds of 5.90-to-1 as part of a coupled entry with Editor’s Note. Grindstone’s win allowed his sire, Unbridled, to become the 12th Derby winner to sire a victor and allowed trainer D. Wayne Lukas to continue making Triple Crown history.
Dark Bay or Brown Horse
Sire (Father): Unbridled
Dam (Mother): Buzz My Bell, by Drone,
Accomplishments: winner 1996 Kentucky
Lukas became only the fourth trainer in history to win back-to-back Kentucky Derbys and the first to accomplish the feat since Lucien Laurin with Riva Ridge and Secretariat in 1972 and 1973. The victory was the trainer’s sixth consecutive win in Triple Crown races, a streak he began in the 1994 Preakness Stakes (G1) with Tabasco Cat.
But for only the 17th time in history, the Kentucky Derby winner was not entered in the Preakness when it was discovered that Grindstone had a bone chip in the same knee he had injured as a 2-year-old. The chip ended the colt’s career and the son of 1990 Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled was sent to breeder Overbrook Farm to stand for $20,000 the following year.
"It's a loss, as if someone told you your NBA or NFL star would not play in the next round of the tournament," Lukas after Grindstone’s retirement was announced. "You learn to accept these things. With all of our horses, you know it's going to happen somewhere. You just didn't expect it to be the Kentucky Derby winner."
Grindstone was set up for success in the breeding shed from the time he was conceived. By 1990 champion 3-year-old male and Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled and out of the Grade 1 winner Buzz My Bell, the stallion had a solid pedigree behind him. Buzz My Bell already had two stakes winners in Western Territory and Deputy Bodman, adding strength to Grindstone’s immediate family. In a bonus for both sire and son, Grindstone was part of Unbridled’s first crop, adding value to both of their stud fees.
Grindstone’s foals came out running from the get-go with multiple horses from his first three crops winning stakes. Grindstone had 46 foals in his first crop and had immediate success with 2000 Nashua Stakes (G3) winner Ommadon and Go for Wand stakes winner Emery Board. In 2003, Grindstone earned a top 30 spot in the national juvenile sire rankings with Birdstone leading the charge. Birdstone continued his success the next year when he upset Smarty Jones’ 2004 Triple Crown bid in the Belmont Stakes (G1) before winning that year’s Travers Stakes (G1).
In fall 2009, Grindstone moved to Oakhurst Equine Farm in Oregon after Overbrook Farm was dispersed. The move proved to be fruitful for the stallion’s career with Grindstone finishing second behind Harbor the Gold in the Oregon leading sire standings from 2010 to 2012 and, through Feb 25, is currently leading the standings. The only Kentucky Derby winner to stand in Oregon, Grindstone was bred to about 80 mares in 2010, his first year standing in Oregon, and has bred between 50 and 60 the last two years.
“When you look at him here, he has the highest average earnings, the best average per starter of any horse in the Northwest, and there’s only one horse that has a higher average earnings index,” said Jack Root, owner of Oakhurst Equine.
Grindstone’s biggest strength, however, looks to be his female offspring. As of Feb. 24, 290 of 444 of his daughter’s foals have made at least one start. Of those 290, 207 have gotten their pictures taken in the winner’s circle and 14 have won stakes, including millionaire Curren Black Hill (JPN) who won five of six starts in 2012.
GRINDSTONE AFTER WINNING THE KENTUCKY DERBY
Photo courtesy of Horsephotos.com
Grindstone also has proved to be a useful grandsire. His son Birdstone was the sire of the 2009 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird and 2009 Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Summer Bird. Mine That Bird was also a champion 2-year-old in Canada with Summer Bird winning the Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old male the following year.
After moving to Oregon, Grindstone was paraded at Portland Meadows in front of racing fans during the 2010 Kentucky Derby weekend. While Root was worried about how the stallion would act, he couldn’t have been more surprised.
“He was a big ham, he just kept striking poses for everybody and behaved totally perfect,” Root said. “My son, who was there with me said ‘Dad, don’t you understand? He’s been posing for pictures his whole life and he knows what he’s doing.’ And he did, because he was a total gentleman and didn’t wash out or anything. He just kept striking poses for people to take pictures. Then you’d move him and he’d strike another pose and stand there and look at people. It was really quite cute.”
Seventeen years after Grindstone won the Kentucky Derby, the stallion looks to make more news when his first Oregon crop hits the track later this year. There’s little doubt the stallion will succeed in this challenge as he has all others.