By Mint Julep


Exterminator Before and Beyond the Kentucky Derby

kentucky derby winner exterminator 1918

Key Takeaways

  • Exterminator was bred at Almahurst Farm in Kentucky, coming from a lineage that includes McGee and Fair Empress.
  • He made his racing debut at Latonia Race Track with a win, kicking off an incredible career full of challenges and victories.
  • Beyond winning the Kentucky Derby, Exterminator earned many prestigious titles, set records for earnings, and was rightfully inducted into various racing halls of fame.

Early Life and Family Background

Exterminator was born on May 30, 1915 in Kentucky at Almahurst Farm near Lexington. He had racing in his blood, coming from a family of winners. Bred by F.D. “Dixie” Knight and sired by McGee from the dam Fair Empress, Exterminator was destined for greatness right from the start.

Standing tall at an impressive 16.3 hands high, Exterminator’s presence on the track demanded attention and respect. His chestnut coat shone as he thundered down the stretch towards victory, leaving spectators amazed by his speed and endurance.

Despite being a gelding – usually seen as less competitive than stallions – Exterminator shattered expectations with his exceptional talent and unwavering determination. Time after time, he proved that true champions are made not through fancy pedigrees or fame but through sheer grit and skill.

In a world where background often determines success, Exterminator stood out as proof that hard work pays off regardless of where you come from. Starting modestly only added to the legend surrounding this extraordinary horse who galloped into history books with each remarkable performance.

From his early days on the farm to setting records on racetracks all over America, Exterminator’s story captures the essence of perseverance against all odds. His legacy continues to inspire fans of horse racing across generations who are captivated by the enduring brilliance of this equine hero.

Introduction to Racing

Exterminator’s thrilling journey in racing kicked off on June 30, 1917, at the famous Latonia Race Track in Covington, Kentucky. The audience was amazed as this incredible horse zoomed ahead to claim victory in a six-furlong maiden race by an impressive three lengths. This outstanding debut marked only the start of a legendary career that would make a lasting impact on the world of horse racing.

Snagged for $1,500 as a yearling by J. Cal Milam at the Saratoga Paddock sale of 1916, Exterminator displayed early signs of brilliance that captured the hearts of fans and experts alike. His remarkable talent and promise were clear from his very first race, making him stand out as an up-and-coming star in competitive Thoroughbred racing circles. With every step along the track, Exterminator cemented his status not just as a champion but also as an adored icon respected by future generations.

From modest beginnings to triumphant wins on renowned racetracks nationwide, Exterminator’s legacy transcends time and continues to motivate all who hear about him. His extraordinary accomplishments and unwavering determination serve as proof of how perseverance can help conquer challenges both on and off the track. As we look back on his illustrious career with awe and admiration, we pay tribute to Exterminator for carving his place into horse racing history with unmatched elegance and glory.

The Pros & Cons of Racing Legends Unveiled


  1. Racing enthusiasts are amazed and inspired by the skills of legendary racers
  2. Legendary racers demonstrate incredible skill and determination, captivating audiences
  3. Explore the exciting world of horse racing through a unique lens
  4. Gain valuable insights into the challenges that racing legends overcome


  1. Might create unrealistic standards for those wanting to become racers
  2. Has the potential to outshine the accomplishments of lesser-known yet equally skilled racers
  3. Can glorify the rigorous physical and mental challenges of pro racing
  4. Risks glamorizing a sport with inherent dangers and ethical considerations

Triple Crown Triumphs

The story of Exterminator’s remarkable triumph in the 1918 Kentucky Derby is one that will always be remembered in horse racing history. Despite facing tough challenges, this unlikely underdog showed incredible determination and courage as he raced his way to victory on that unforgettable day. His surprising win stunned the entire racing world, establishing Exterminator as a rising star.

Even though he had to deal with bad weather and hadn’t raced much before the event, Exterminator proved everyone wrong by crossing the finish line first at Churchill Downs. The strong bond between jockey Willie Knapp and this exceptional horse was evident as they conquered one of America’s most prestigious races together. Their teamwork and unwavering trust elevated their performance to new levels.

Winning the Kentucky Derby was just the start of an impressive career for Exterminator, filled with more victories and honors. With every race he ran, spectators were captivated by his speed, agility, and indomitable spirit. He wasn’t just any racehorse; he became a symbol of hope for those who dared to pursue big dreams against all odds.

As Exterminator continued winning across different tracks throughout his career, people marveled at his consistency and resilience when faced with pressure. He wasn’t only a champion on the racetrack; he also inspired others during difficult times both within and beyond horse racing.

Even years after retiring from competitive racing, Exterminator’s name still holds great respect among seasoned fans who fondly recall past glory days at historic racetracks…

Major Wins and Career Earnings

Exterminator was a superstar on the racetrack, earning an impressive $252,996 throughout his career. He dominated races like the Pimlico Cup, Saratoga Cup, and Toronto Autumn Cup over many years, proving himself as one of the top racehorses of his time. His win in the Clark Handicap in 1922 highlighted his incredible talent and determination to outperform his rivals.

During a competitive era in horse racing history, Exterminator shone not only for his numerous victories but also for consistently performing well in all 99 races he ran. Earning almost a quarter million dollars back then was no small achievement and showcased Exterminator’s unmatched skills and endurance. What truly made him stand out from other horses of that time was his ability to maintain peak performance year after year.

Exterminator’s legacy goes beyond just numbers; he captured fans’ hearts worldwide with each thrilling race he ran. Every victory added another exciting chapter to his remarkable career. It wasn’t just about winning prizes; it was about motivating future generations of jockeys, trainers, and spectators alike with his grit and spirit.

Reflecting on Exterminator’s extraordinary journey through the world of horse racing makes us marvel at how one exceptional steed could leave such a lasting mark on history—a true testament to the timeless appeal and magic of this beloved sport.

Legendary Racing Achievements

Attribute Data
Exterminator 1922
Sire McGee
Grandsire White Knight
Dam Fair Empress
Damsire Jim Gore
Sex Gelding
Foaled 1915
Country United States
Colour Chestnut
Breeder F. D. “Dixie” Knight
Owner J. Cal Milam
Willis Sharpe Kilmer
Silks: Green, Brown Sash, Orange Sleeves, Green Cap
Trainer J. Cal Milam
Henry McDaniel
J. Simon Healy
William McDaniel
Fred Curtis
Willie Knapp
Eugene Wayland
William Shields
John I. Smith
Mike Terry
Record 99: 50–17–17
Earnings $252,996
Major wins Ben Ali Handicap (1919)
Pimlico Cup (1919, 1920, 1921)
Saratoga Cup (1919, 1920, 1921, 1922)
Toronto Autumn Cup (1920, 1921, 1922)
Brookdale Handicap (1920)
Jockey Club Cup Handicap (1920)
Merchants and Citizens Handicap (1921)
Autumn Gold Cup (1921, 1922)
Clark Handicap (1922)
Brooklyn Handicap (1922)
Philadelphia Handicap (1923)
American Classics wins: Kentucky Derby (1918)
Awards U.S. Champion Older Male Horse (1920, 1921, 1922)
American Horse of the Year (1922)
Honours United States Racing Hall of Fame (1957)
Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame (2016)
#29—Top 100 U.S. Racehorses of the 20th Century

Awards and Recognition

Exterminator was a superstar in the world of horse racing, standing out with his unmatched skills and achievements. His dominance on the racetrack wasn’t just impressive to watch but also showed his exceptional talent and unwavering determination. Winning the title of U.S. Champion Older Male Horse for three consecutive years from 1920 to 1922 solidified his position as one of the top racehorses of his era.

Throughout Exterminator’s successful career, he captured fans’ hearts worldwide with his outstanding performances. His remarkable speed and relentless drive made him a formidable competitor in every race he participated in. The honor of being named American Horse of the Year in 1922 further established him as an iconic figure in horse racing history.

The accolades given to Exterminator reflected his exceptional abilities on the track perfectly. With consistent wins and record-breaking feats, he ascended into legendary status, leaving an enduring impact on the sport that would echo through generations.

As spectators watched Exterminator sprint down the homestretch, they couldn’t help but be amazed by his elegance, strength, and unyielding spirit. Each victory added another extraordinary chapter to his already illustrious career, placing him among some of history’s most celebrated horses.

Looking back at Exterminator’s reign as U.S. Champion Older Male Horse and American Horse of The Year serves as a powerful example illustrating what dedication, skill, and passion can accomplish within competitive horse racing circles. His legacy continues to inspire riders-in-training and enthusiasts alike – reminding us all that true greatness isn’t only about winning races but also about pursuing excellence relentlessly with heart within equestrian sports.

Retirement and Legacy

Exterminator’s retirement signaled the end of a remarkable era in horse racing. He said goodbye to the excitement of the track and traded it for a well-deserved life of leisure. After years of dominating races and winning hearts with his sheer determination, it was time for him to enjoy peaceful days grazing in sunlit pastures. Surrounded by fellow ponies like Peanuts, Exterminator welcomed this slower pace with poise and satisfaction.

The legacy that Exterminator left behind is truly legendary. Over his nine-year career on the racetrack, he achieved more than 50 wins and earned himself the nickname “Old Bones” due to his incredible endurance and unwavering consistency. His impact on horse racing went beyond mere numbers; he became a symbol of resilience, spirit, and an unyielding dedication to his craft. Even after retiring, fans around the world continued to hold him in high regard.

When news broke of Exterminator’s passing on September 26th, 1945, tributes poured in from every corner of the racing community. It was a poignant moment that highlighted just how deeply he had touched people’s lives during his time as a competitor. His presence seemed to linger in those lush pastures where he once roamed freely – serving as a gentle reminder of his enduring legacy even after crossing over.

Reflecting on Exterminator’s journey from humble beginnings to becoming one of history’s most celebrated racehorses reveals that his story goes far beyond just winning races; it embodies overcoming obstacles with tenacity while forging connections that transcend generations. The lessons learned from witnessing him charge towards victory are timeless reminders that greatness has no limits when driven by passion and perseverance.

As we pay tribute today to Exterminator’s memory, let us not only applaud his extraordinary accomplishments on the track but also treasure those intangible qualities that made him truly exceptional: courage amidst challenges, humility during triumphs, and an indomitable spirit inspiring all who hear about him – May Old Bones forever gallop through our memories as an emblematic figure representing hope and possibility- proving legends never fade away; they simply trot into eternity gracefully .

Legendary Tales of Exterminator’s Derby Dominance

  1. Exciting Stories of Exterminator’s Derby Triumphs:
  2. Legend has it that Exterminator earned the nickname “Old Bones” because of his slender build and unimpressive looks, but he proved everyone wrong with his exceptional racing skills.
  3. Did you know? In the 1918 Kentucky Derby, Exterminator made history by winning at incredible 30-1 odds, setting a record for the longest shot to ever claim victory in the race.
  4. Word on the street is that Exterminator’s jockey, Willie Knapp once quipped that riding him felt like “sitting in a rocking chair.” This shows just how effortlessly smooth and graceful this horse was while running.
  5. Fun fact: Despite being a star on the racetrack, Exterminator was also known for his gentle nature and was adored by both fans and those who took care of him.
  6. Some say that Exterminator’s remarkable wins at the Kentucky Derby inspired future underdog champions to dream big, sparking hope for longshot contenders in generations to come.

Hall of Fame Induction

Exterminator’s exceptional achievements and lasting impact on horse racing history led to his posthumous induction into both the United States Racing Hall of Fame in 1957 and Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 2016. Known as the “Galloping Ghost,” Exterminator made a name for himself from 1917 to 1924, with an impressive career that saw him participate in over a hundred races and win an astonishing 50 times.

The story of Exterminator is one that captivates – he wasn’t just any ordinary racehorse; he symbolized resilience and determination. Standing tall at seventeen hands, this chestnut powerhouse fearlessly took on some of the era’s top horses with unwavering courage and unmatched skill. His ability to handle weight like no other earned him the moniker “Old Bones” among fans who admired his strength and endurance on the track.

Initially viewed as an unlikely champion due to his unassuming appearance early in his career, Exterminator defied expectations to become one of history’s most celebrated racehorses. From challenging muddy tracks to speedy courses, he conquered them all with grace and finesse, leaving spectators amazed by his sheer tenacity. Each triumph added another chapter to his legend, establishing him not only as a racer but also as an enduring icon whose spirit lives through stories passed down by generations of racing enthusiasts.

What began humbly as a stable hand turned extraordinary when fate brought Exterminator into the limelight where he truly shined brightest. His rise from obscurity to fame serves as inspiration not only for those within the racing community but also for anyone striving towards greatness against all odds. While many champions fade away over time, Exterminator’s name continues resonating across racetracks globally – showcasing what can be accomplished through hard work, perseverance, and an unyielding spirit.

With wins at prestigious events such as The Brooklyn Handicap (twice), Saratoga Cup (three times), Pimlico Cup (four times), among others – it’s no surprise that Exterminator left a remarkable mark on horse racing history deserving recognition alongside legends past and present within esteemed halls reserved solely for those who have profoundly shaped our beloved sport.

Lasting Impact on Racing History

Exterminator was an incredible racehorse who dominated the racetrack during his time, cementing his status as one of the greatest in history. With an impressive record of 50 career stakes victories, including top races like the Saratoga Cup and Pimlico Cup, Exterminator stood out for his exceptional skills that set him apart from other horses. His determination and unbeatable spirit made him a formidable competitor, leaving a lasting impact on horse racing.

Known for his outstanding performance and consistency on the track, Exterminator’s endurance was unmatched. Even as he aged, he continued to surprise fans with wins against younger rivals. His ability to maintain peak form over a long period showcased his talent and unwavering drive. Exterminator’s resilience became an inspiration for aspiring jockeys, trainers, and owners alike – proving that age is no barrier when it comes to skill and passion in horse racing.

Exemplifying the essence of overcoming challenges and emerging victorious against all odds, Exterminator embodied a true underdog story. From being underestimated after being bought at auction to earning the nickname “Old Bones” due to his unassuming appearance but extraordinary abilities on track – Exterminator captured hearts worldwide. His journey from rags-to-riches symbolizes hope, perseverance, and triumph in its purest form – creating a legacy that continues to resonate within racing history long after crossing finish lines around the world.


1. How did Exterminator earn the nickname “Old Bones”?

The racer was called “Old Bones” because of his slim and wiry physique, which masked his impressive power and stamina on the track.

2. What was Exterminator’s most memorable victory at the Kentucky Derby?

In the 1918 Kentucky Derby, Exterminator pulled off a remarkable upset by winning as a 30-1 underdog. This victory showcased his incredible courage and determination, securing his legacy in horse racing history.

3. How many races did Exterminator win throughout his illustrious career?

Exterminator, the incredible racehorse, triumphed in an impressive 50 races throughout his amazing career, proving that he was one of the best thoroughbreds ever in horse racing history.

4. What made Exterminator a beloved fan favorite in the world of horse racing?

Fans adored Exterminator for his amazing resilience, exceptional work ethic, and impressive career earnings in the horse racing world.

5. How did Exterminator’s longevity and durability set him apart from other racehorses of his time?

Exterminator stood out from other racehorses of his time because he had exceptional strength and endurance. He was able to perform consistently well at the highest level for a long period, making him truly remarkable in the world of horse racing.

6. What impact did Exterminator have on the history and legacy of horse racing?

Exterminator’s incredible wins and record-breaking earnings throughout his career established him as one of the best racehorses ever, making a lasting impact on the horse racing world.