Louisville, home of the Kentucky Derby, swarmed with excited inhabitants and visitors on Saturday morning of the sixty-fifth Running of the Roses in May 1936. At the track, Jockey Frankie Adams and his pregnant wife Doreen, returning from a late breakfast, approached the stables and the box stall of Dark Frisco. Frisco was a three-year-old dark mahogany bay, a magnificent colt and potential winner among the illustrious field of fine horses entered in the annual Churchill Downs Derby.
Owned, bred and trained by the Kingsbury Farm of Southampton, Long Island, Saratoga, New York` and Ocala, Florida, Dark Frisco became more than a crass commercial moneymaker to the Kingsbury family.The spirited and playful colt was also a well loved family pet and treasue.
Sitting in a canvas chair, Chad Culver, one of Frisco's assistant trainers was hungry and eager to have lunch when he spotted Frankie and Doreen coming toward him, he stood up and said, Clancy was supposed to be back sooner, but he must've got held up. Been waiting' for someone to spell me so I could catch a bite to eat. Mind if I go now? Be back in a few minutes."
"No, it's okay. Where's the groom and exercise boy?" Clancy requested."They finished chores, so I sent them out to lunch. Everything's shipshape. Incidentally, Tracey was here checking on Frisco. Said she'd be in the clubhouse dining room or the Kingsbury box if you need anything."Adams acknowledged with a nod and asked, "Frisco all right'?
Culver looked peeved and snapped, "Checked him only ten minutes ago, and he was fine."
"Sorry, I get nervous this close to a big race. Have a good lunch."
"I understand," Culver replied as he turned to leave.
Adams called out, "Oh, Chad, wanna talk to you and Jack Clancy later about last minute strategy."
"You bet." Adam's deep set warm brown eyes, wrinkled face and perpetual smile endeared him to those who knew him. The wrinkles, a family trait, had nothing to do with age. An athlete four feet four in height, at twenty-three he became a legendary giant among winning jockeys. Sought after by horsemen whose fast thoroughbreds needed extra drive and a knowledgeable rider to help them finish first, his services were in demand. Today he would ride for his favorite stable on the pride of Kingsbury Farms. He expected to win.
Culver went to lunch. Adams turned to join his wife.
Doreen Adams had entered Frisco's stall; she petted the horse's head, suddenly stepped back and called out, "Frankie, come here a minute. I don't like the way Frisco's acting'."
Sensing the urgency in his wife's voice, Adams went quickly into the box stall and examined his mount scheduled to run in the main race asking, "What's wrong, Doreen?"
"I'm not sure. He's not himself. Let's get him outside in the daylight so we can get a better look."
Clutching the leather halter Frankie attached a lead chain, led the horse outside and paraded him up and down the stable area. He ran his hands up and down the horse's legs, under his belly, along his head and then he checked each hoof.
"Just doesn't seem to be himself, Frankie. Kinda edgy. Never saw him paw the ground so violently before--and look at his eyes--they seem glazed.
"Something's wrong with him all right, but I can't put my finger on the problem. Geez, he was fine at the early morning workout. He ran like blue blazes for me. I even had to hold him back so the clockers wouldn't change the morning line odds on us. But you're right, Honey, something's radically wrong." He handed his wife the lead chain.
"You walk him while I try to find