Blue Larkspur was a bay Kentucky-bred thoroughbred race horse. He was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1957, awarded the 1929 Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year, and ranks Number 100 in Blood-Horse magazine's top 100 U.S. thoroughbred champions of the 20th Century. Of the 127 stakes winners bred by Colonel Edward Riley Bradley at his Idle Hour Stock Farm in Lexington, Kentucky (which includes the great Bimelech out of the great broodmare La Troienne), Blue Larkspur was thought of as the Colonel's finest horse.
Bradley's Idle Hour farm was also known as the "Lucky B" because he named most of his horses with "B" names. Blue Larkspur raced in Bradley's silks, white with green hoops and cap, and was by Black Servant. Black Servant was a son of Black Toney, who also sired Kentucky Derby winner Black Gold). Black Servant was second in the 1921 Kentucky Derby, right behind his Idle Hour stablemate Behave Yourself. Bradley also won the 1926 Kentucky Derby with Bubbling Over (sire of Baby League, who was the dam of Busher), the 1932 Derby with Burgoo King, and finally the 1933 Derby with Broker's Tip. But his loss in 1921 with Black Servant badly rankled him, even though another of his horses took home the roses. He was furious with Black Servant's jockey, Charles Thompson, who had apparently defied orders to take the horse back. (Rumors flew that Bradley had a lot of money riding on Black Servant, as did many Idle Hour employees.)
Blue Larkspur's dam was Blossom Time, by North Star III. Blossom Time's dam was Vaila, an influential mare imported by Bradley.
Spare the Rod and Spoil the Horse
Blue Larkspur was trained by Herbert J. "Derby Dick" Thompson, an inductee to the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame. Derby Dick was not kind to horses, and he worked them hard. He also won more Kentucky Derbys than any other trainer before Ben Jones.
Running as a two-year-old, Blue Larkspur had seven starts. He won the Juvenile Stakes, the National Stallion Stakes, and the Saratoga Special Stakes. He was beaten in the Hopeful Stakes by Jack High, a horse he himself had beaten three times, getting stuck in traffic and carrying a high weight of 130 pounds. And then, just before going off in the Belmont Futurity, he was kicked by another horse, ran eighth, and was allowed to rest for the remainder of the season.
In Blue Larkspur's time, there were no Southern races to prep for the Kentucky Derby, so he was run hard all winter in Lexington. In his first race as a three-year-old he beat the gelding Clyde Van Dusen, a son of the great Man o' War. But on the day of Blue Larkspur's Kentucky Derby, the track was deep slop. Worse for the colt was Derby Dick's bout of appendicitis, which kept the trainer from preparing him for the race. The job went to an apprentice who neglected to have Blue Larkspur shod in "stickers," special shoes for slippery mud. Blue Larkspur came in a struggling fourth, beaten by Clyde Van Dusen.
As a 3-year-old, Blue Larkspur won the one-mile Withers Stakes in an electrifying fashion. With jockey Mack Garner up, he closed in a powerful rush. He also took the one and a half-mile Belmont Stakes, even though, yet again, he was kicked at the post and it was another off-track. Jack High was third. He was kicked again in another start, yet still won it, although the wound became infected, keeping him sidelined for a time. Later, he won the Arlington Classic by five lengths.
Blue Larkspur ended the season with a bowed tendon, but was still voted 1929's Horse of the Year.
In his fourth season, he ran only three times before his leg failed him, but he won twice: in the Stars and Stripes Handicap and the Arlington Cup.
From 1928 to 1930, Blue Larkspur raced 16 times with 10 wins, 3 seconds, and 1 third-place finish. He earned $272,070 in his career.
As a Sire
As a stallion at Idle Hour Stock Farm, Blue Larkspur was as great a stud as he was a racehorse, especially with his daughters. Among his progeny was Oedipus, the 1950 and '51 American Steeplechase Champion. Blue Larkspur made the Broodmare Sires List every year from 1944 through 1960, with his daughters producing 114 stakes winners and six champions. This is possibly because he is thought to be a carrier of the X-factor, a genetic trait which causes extraordinarily large hearts, and is only passed on to a stallion's daughters via the x-chromosome.
Blue Larkspur produced the Hall of Famer Myrtlewood as well as Blue Denim, a mare who produced six stakes winners. Blue Denim's most important contribution was her daughter Ampola, who did not win a stakes race but developed into one of the Stud Book's most important Foundation Mares for Gertrude T. Widener.
Blue Larkspur died in 1947.