David J. Leary
Zev was an American thoroughbred horse racing champion.
A brown colt, Zev was sired by The Finn out of the mare Miss Kearney (by Planudes). Bred by the famous horseman John E. Madden, Zev was owned by the Rancocas Stable of Harry F. Sinclair, the founder of Sinclair Oil, who was a central figure in the Teapot Dome scandal under Warren G. Harding, President of the United States. Harding died mysteriously in San Francisco before the scandal hit, but Sinclair went through the worst of it, serving time in prison for selling US oil reserves to private interests for his own personal aggrandizement.
But before all that, Sinclair named the horse Zev in honor of his friend and personal lawyer, Colonel Zevely.
Trained by Sam Hildreth, as a two-year-old Zev won five of his twelve races, finished second on four occasions, and was a leading colt of 1922. The following year he was the dominant three-year-old in America, winning a number of important Grade I stakes races under jockey Earl Sande. Included in his victories were the Lawrence Realization Stakes and the most prestigious race in the United States, the Kentucky Derby, for which David J. Leary was credited as trainer, as he was for the Preakness Stakes, which was run before the Kentucky Derby in 1923. Zev encountered problems in the Preakness and finished a disappointing 12th, but came back to win the Derby and then the Belmont Stakes.
On October 20, 1923, one of the most significant match races in worldwide thoroughbred racing took place at Belmont Park on Long Island, New York. A crowd estimated at close to 50,000 watched Zev easily beat Epsom Derby winner Papyrus by five lengths. Zev's victory marked the first time a Kentucky Derby winner defeated an English Derby winner. Later that season, Zev won another match race, this one against In Memoriam. His performances in 1923 earned Zev the titles Horse of the Year and Champion Three-Year-Old Male.
After successfully campaigning as a four-year-old, Zev retired as racing's all-time leading money earner, surpassing Man O' War's record. At stud, he proved less successful than he had on the track, at best siring two minor stakes winners (Zevson and Zida).
In 1983, Zev was inducted in the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. In the Blood-Horse magazine ranking of the top 100 U.S. thoroughbred champions of the 20th Century, he was accorded 56th place.