What say we adopt a Derby horse, Montana? Some call Fusaichi Pegasus invincible in the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, but they said the same about Proctor Knott, the favorite in '89.
This was 1889 - already the 15th Run for the Roses. A colt named Spokane was one of seven others trying to catch Proctor Knott. Spokane was born in a distinctive three-story round barn north of Twin Bridges that still stands.
Spokane's owner, Noah Armstrong, was a mining speculator from Butte, and he was probably just dreaming when he took Spokane to Louisville. As a 2-year-old, Spokane had won two of five races but hardly made the waves a Derby contender makes.
Proctor Knott, on the other hand, was described as "the greatest horse that ever looked through a bridle," Helena writer Gail C. Shirley wrote for Western Horseman last year.
Proctor Knott barged to the front by five lengths. Spokane hung back, then made his move on the inside rail. He caught Proctor Knott at the head of the home stretch.
"On they came, stride for stride, head for head," Shirley quotes from the San Francisco Examiner report. "Then, with a last mighty effort, Spokane lunged ahead and passed under the wire, winner by a head."
Spokane remains the only Montana-bred horse to win the Kentucky Derby.
From 1875-1895, the Kentucky Derby was a 11/2-mile race. It's been 11/4 miles ever since. Spokane's winning time of 2 minutes, 34.5 seconds will stand forever as the record for the longer distance. After two races at age 4, neither of them wins, Spokane stumbled and fell in an accident that killed Montana jockey Jim Dempsey. Armstrong retired the Derby champ to his Montana ranch, where the horse lived out his days.
Proctor Knott was a 2-1 favorite in the 1889 Derby. Spokane went off at 10-1.
On Wednesday, Aptitude was made a 20-1 long shot for the 2000 Kentucky Derby. He's a horse with one name, a fast closer, and has only five previous outings. Sounds like a Spokane to me.
Maggotfest comes, Maggotfest goes - and it'll do both in Missoula this weekend - but www.maggots.org is forever.
Where else can you find an answer to such profound questions as "What is the object of rugby?" (A. Run as little as possible, make spectacular tackles right in front of the female spectators, always be in the right spot to catch a pass for the winning try, then drink beer.)
The Missoula Maggots All-Rugby Club, whose motto is "A Maggot squirms through it," includes on its web site the transcript of a halftime talk by John Hart to the All Blacks at Twickenham, England, during the World Cup semifinals last year. It's Vince Lombardi meets W.C. Fields meets Monty Python.
Anton Oliver: Yes, John?
Hart: Fantastic work, mate. Every lineout's a lottery! You've got that ball flapping round like a dunny door in a nor-wester. Nobody has a bloody clue where it's going to land. It's exciting stuff. The crowds are loving it. Keep it up.
Anton Oliver: Gee thanks, John. I thought I was messing things up there.
Hart: Hey, you're an artist, mate. You're an innovator. That's leading-edge stuff. No one has ever thought of throwing the ball like it was a sack of pig (dung) before. Brilliant! I think that if you close the other eye as well, the effect would be true art.
Anton Oliver: Cheers, John. I'll give it a try.
The Major League Baseball draft begins on June 5. That's an odd Monday start. It usually takes two days. Last year the bulk of the inaugural Missoula Osprey team was acquired by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the draft just days before mini-camp opened at Lindborg-Cregg Field.
The Calgary Stampeders called a U.S. Congressman's office last week in search of a backup for quarterback Dave Dickenson. They offered Jimmy Kemp, son and current employee of Rep. Jack Kemp, a contract. No word if the well-traveled CFL pilot will accept. Jack Kemp played with Calgary in 1959 before launching a 13-year NFL career.
"It a good bet Dickenson will be 100 percent when training camp opens in early June," the Calgary Sun reported on April 29. "His rehabilitation from the shoulder surgery in late December is becoming more intense and without pitfalls."
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