Gallant Man was a thoroughbred racehorse, named for a horse in a Don Ameche movie.
Career at Kentucky Derby
Gallant Man is remembered primarily for his upset loss in the 1957 Kentucky Derby. He would almost certainly have won the race, but his jockey, Hall of Famer Bill Shoemaker, misjudged the finish line and stood up too early in his stirrups, which slowed Gallant Man's rush for the wire and allowed another Hall of Fame jockey, Bill Hartack riding Iron Liege, to get past him and take the win by only a nose.
It was an unfortunate but grave mistake not lost on Shoemaker (who never really lived it down) or on Gallant Man's trainer, an ex-jockey from Nebraska and Hall of Famer John Nerud, and certainly not on the racing press. As noted in books on horseracing history, in articles, and on online sites, it stands even today as one of the biggest blunders in racing history.
Career after the Derby
After the Derby, Nerud sent Gallant Man out to decimate the field in the Belmont Stakes, winning by 8 lengths, beating the favorite Bold Ruler. The track and race records Gallant Man achieved that day stood until Secretariat's 1973 Belmont Stakes. Subsequently, he beat Bold Ruler in the Metropolitan Mile, and his Jockey Club Gold Cup was achieved against older horses.
Gallant Man had the fortune (or misfortune, depending on your point of view) to be racing as a three- and four-year-old at the same time as Bold Ruler and Round Table, who both became Horse of the Year.
Gallant Man, who had at one time or another beaten each of them, was never awarded a racing honor or a championship of any kind. Yet he ranks #36 in Blood-Horse magazine List of the Top 100 U.S. Racehorses of the 20th Century. (Round Table ranks #17 and Bold Ruler ranks #19.)
A small brown horse by Migoli (the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner) out of Majida (winner of both the Irish Oaks and the Irish 1,000 Guineas), Gallant Man was standing a little over fifteen hands and was afflicted with bad ankles.
If Ralph Lowe had listened to his vet, Gallant Man would not have been bought in the group of nine horses acquired from the Aga Khan ($220,000 for the crop of Irish yearlings). But Lowe's bloodstock agent, Humphrey Finney, thought the little horse might be perhaps the worst of the lot, but was still a good buy.
Retired after his 1958 season with a splint problem in his left foreleg, Gallant Man stood at Kentucky's Spendthrift Farm, where he sired 52 stakes winners. He did even better as a broodmare sire. Genuine Risk (from one of his daughters) and Gallant Bloom were two of his breeding triumphs.
He died in 1988 at the age of 34, after being pensioned in 1981. When Gallant Man passed, John Nerud said, "When he was sound and good, a horse never lived who could beat him ... he had it all—speed and endurance."