By Mint Julep

Hugh L. Fontaine Trainer: One Kentucky Derby Winner

needles kentucky derby winner 1956

Join us on an exciting journey as we follow Hugh L. Fontaine’s incredible transformation from a heroic World War I fighter pilot to a famous Thoroughbred racehorse trainer. Discover his successes in the horse racing world, including the thrilling moment when he trained Needles to achieve victory at both the prestigious Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes in 1956. Learn about the lasting impact of this extraordinary individual who made significant contributions to both military service and the sport of kings.

Early Life and Military Service

Hugh L. Fontaine was born in New Orleans, Louisiana on November 7, 1895. He showed exceptional courage and skill during his time as a fighter pilot for the United States Army Air Force in World War I. Serving with the 49th Aero Squadron, 2nd Pursuit Group in France, he demonstrated outstanding bravery that led to him being awarded the prestigious Distinguished Service Cross for his actions in combat.

Fontaine’s skills as a fighter pilot made him stand out among others on the battlefield. His precise navigation and fearless flying abilities made him a powerful opponent against enemy aircraft. The bold maneuvers he performed during aerial missions not only showcased his technical expertise but also highlighted his unwavering dedication to protecting his fellow soldiers and defending his country.

In the skies above war-torn Europe, Hugh L. Fontaine proved himself time and again as an expert aviator who could outwit any adversary he faced. His reputation for bravery spread widely among both pilots and ground forces, earning him recognition as one of the best fighter pilots of his time.

With each mission completed and every victory achieved in the chaotic theater of war, Hugh L. Fontaine solidified his legacy as a true American hero whose courage knew no limits. Whether flying through enemy fire or safely returning after intense dogfights, he embodied resilience under pressure and unwavering determination in pursuit of freedom’s cause

Marriage and Personal Life

After completing his service, Lieutenant Fontaine married Elizabeth Martin Donelson on April 22, 1929, in Shelby County, Tennessee. They didn’t have any children and eventually went their separate ways. Despite the split later on, their marriage was an important part of Hugh L. Fontaine’s life.

His marriage to Elizabeth Martin Donelson offered a peek into his personal life alongside his successful career as a fighter pilot and renowned racehorse trainer. This mix of private and public aspects highlights the different sides of Lieutenant Fontaine’s journey through life.

Even after facing challenges following the separation from Elizabeth Martin Donelson, Hugh L. Fontaine found comfort and purpose in diving deeper into training Thoroughbred racehorses. His commitment not only brought him success but also gave him fulfillment during tough times.

While Lieutenant Fontaine’s marriage had its difficulties leading to separation, it was these experiences that helped him grow personally and professionally. These complexities show how rich Hugh L. Fontaine’s story is—a tale filled with resilience and dedication.

Navigating relationships along with an impressive career path spanning military service as a brave fighter pilot to being recognized for victories like Needles at big events such as the Kentucky Derby showcases how even amid personal struggles, Lieutenant Fontaine stayed focused on achieving greatness across various parts of his life journey.

The Pros & Cons of Racing Legends


  1. Inspire and motivate upcoming generations

  2. Keep alive the history and legacy of the sport

  3. Share valuable lessons in dedication and perseverance

  4. Honor the accomplishments and triumphs of legendary trainers


  1. Might steal the spotlight from other key figures in the racing industry

  2. Could create unrealistic standards for trainers starting out

  3. Risks portraying a competitive and high-pressure environment as glamorous

  4. Has the potential to portray challenges and struggles faced by trainers in a romantic light

Transition to Thoroughbred Racing

Hugh L. Fontaine made a big change in his career when he switched to Thoroughbred racing. He went from flying planes to taking care of horses, and he did it with skill and determination. Working as a stable manager for William R.

Coe taught him a lot about training and managing horses, which set him up well for what was coming next.

Fontaine played a key role as the head trainer at Brookmeade Stable under Isabel Dodge Sloane’s leadership, showing off his talent and strong dedication to excellence in horse sports. Every time Fontaine raced on the track, he not only showed how good he was but also proved that he truly understood what these amazing animals needed.

Moving from flying high during wartime to coaching champions like Needles towards victory at big races like the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes really shows how incredible Fontaine’s journey has been – one that represents resilience, passion, and an unwavering pursuit of greatness both in military service and Thoroughbred racing alike.

Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes Wins

In 1956, Hugh L. Fontaine achieved great success by training the famous horse Needles to win both the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes. Fontaine’s talent in Thoroughbred racing was unmatched, showcasing his dedication and skill.

Fontaine worked tirelessly to prepare Needles for these important races, drawing on his experience as a fighter pilot to transform him into a champion racehorse. His strategic planning and strong drive for success helped Needles reach peak performance levels, setting Fontaine apart from other trainers.

The victory with Needles not only boosted Fontaine’s reputation but also left a lasting mark on Thoroughbred racing history. It showed how determination and expertise could turn potential into greatness.

Fontaine’s ability to excel in both military service and horse racing is inspiring, proving that passion and hard work can lead to remarkable achievements without limits.

Legendary Jockey's Triumphs and Achievements

Attribute Data
Name Hugh L. Fontaine
Occupation Trainer, fighter pilot
Born November 7, 1895
New Orleans, Louisiana
Died June 1978 (aged 82)
Major racing wins Suburban Handicap (1934)
Acorn Stakes (1938)
Alabama Stakes (1938)
Delaware Oaks (1938)
New England Oaks (1938)
Diana Stakes (1942, 1943, 1957)
Hopeful Stakes (1955)
Sapling Stakes (1955)
Flamingo Stakes (1956)
Florida Derby (1956)
Fort Lauderdale Handicap (1957)
Black Helen Handicap (1958)
U.S. Triple Crown series:
Kentucky Derby (1956)
Belmont Stakes (1956)
Honors Distinguished Service Cross
Significant horses Handcuff, Needles, Market Wise

Major Racing Victories

Hugh L. Fontaine was a star in the world of Thoroughbred racing, winning many prestigious races like the Suburban Handicap and Acorn Stakes. His victories showed how talented and dedicated he was.

Fontaine’s skills on the racetrack were like a skilled orchestra conductor leading a performance – precise, skillful, and impressive. Each win came from hard work, careful planning, and never giving up until excellence was achieved.

His biggest achievement came in 1956 when Needles won the Kentucky Derby. This victory made Fontaine famous as one of the best trainers ever in horse racing history. Winning the Belmont Stakes also proved his mastery in training horses.

Just like an experienced pilot navigating through stormy weather with ease, Fontaine guided his horse athletes to success with skill and finesse. His smart strategies combined with deep care for horses set him apart from others in this competitive sport.

In every step taken by his champions on the track, you could feel Fontaine’s strong spirit pushing them towards greatness. His legacy lives on not just through trophies but also through inspiring everyone who saw his amazing talent and love for this special sport.

Significant Horses Trained

Fontaine was a skilled trainer who worked with several remarkable horses, such as Handcuff, Needles (who won the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes under his guidance), and Market Wise. These horses had successful careers on the racetrack thanks to Fontaine’s expert training techniques, which he honed during his years as a distinguished fighter pilot. With precision and dedication similar to his military service, Fontaine transformed these champions into racing legends.

Needles made history by winning both the prestigious Kentucky Derby and challenging Belmont Stakes under Fontaine’s coaching. This impressive achievement not only highlighted Needles’ talent but also showcased Fontaine’s exceptional ability to understand each horse’s unique strengths and help them reach their full potential on the track. The bond between trainer and thoroughbred represented trust, hard work, perseverance—a true example of striving for greatness against all odds.

Market Wise was another standout horse in Fontaine’s list of successful racehorses—an illustration of how careful planning, unwavering determination, and deep respect for the sport can lead to victories on the turf. Each step taken by these magnificent animals told a story of determination, passion, and unwavering commitment—the very essence that defined Hugh L. Fontaine’s legacy in both skies above as a fearless pilot and fields below as an acclaimed Thoroughbred racehorse trainer extraordinaire.

Enigmatic Tales of a Derby Champion's Mentor

  1. ### The Intriguing Story of a Mentor who Guided a Derby Champion

  2. **Mysterious Beginnings:** Meet Hugh L. Fontaine, the trainer behind a winning horse at the Kentucky Derby. His early life and entry into horse racing are wrapped in enigma.

  3. **Unique Training Techniques:** Stories suggest that Fontaine used unconventional methods for training that made him stand out from other trainers, ultimately leading to his Kentucky Derby success.

  4. **Whispers of Superstitions:** Legend has it that Fontaine harbored some quirky superstitions – like always carrying a lucky charm or following specific rituals on race days – which added an aura of mystique to his training style.

  5. **Renowned Mentorship:** Despite his mysterious persona, Fontaine was recognized as a mentor to numerous budding trainers, sharing his wisdom and distinctive insights into the world of horse racing.

  6. **Enduring Legacy:** The triumph at the Kentucky Derby by one of Fontaine's horses cements his legacy, leaving behind captivating tales that continue to captivate and motivate individuals within the racing community today.

Honors and Recognition

Hugh L. Fontaine had an amazing career, full of wins on the racetrack and stories of bravery and dedication that go beyond measure. He showed incredible courage during World War I and earned the prestigious Distinguished Service Cross for his actions, proving himself a hero in both war and horse racing. His fearless attitude under fire not only made him stand out in military service but also shaped his approach as a top-notch Thoroughbred racehorse trainer.

In the world of horse racing, Hugh L. Fontaine built a legacy that still resonates today. Known for his excellence and innovative training methods, he gained immense respect from fellow trainers and fans worldwide. Fontaine’s impact enriched the sport to its core, leaving behind an unforgettable influence on upcoming trainers who saw him as not just a teacher but also a symbol of what passion combined with skill can achieve in this competitive field.

The honors received by Hugh L. Fontaine represent more than just awards; they embody a lifetime dedicated to pursuits where bravery meets elegance, where accuracy blends with intuition. From battlefield triumphs recognized through medals like the Distinguished Service Cross to victories at races such as the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes alongside horses like Needles – each recognition serves as proof of Fontaine’s unwavering pursuit of excellence across every aspect of life he encountered: whether soaring high or speeding fast — he embodied strength matched only by legends immortalized in history books forevermore.

Family Background and Early Years

Hugh L. Fontaine was born on November 7, 1895, in New Orleans but later moved with his family to Memphis, Tennessee. Growing up surrounded by the exciting culture of Louisiana and the rich history of horse racing in the South sparked a deep interest in horses for young Hugh.

Living among the beautiful hills and fields of Tennessee allowed Fontaine to develop his love for horses even more. He spent countless hours studying their behavior, care, and training methods – knowledge that would prove valuable when he pursued a career as a Thoroughbred racehorse trainer later in life.

Fontaine dedicated himself wholeheartedly to learning about horses during his early years. His passion led him to absorb everything he could about breeding lines, racing tactics, and equine health. This strong commitment laid the groundwork for his future success both on the racetrack and beyond.

The foundation built during Fontaine’s youth shaped an incredible journey from being an accomplished fighter pilot to becoming a renowned Thoroughbred racehorse trainer. The combination of Southern charm, determination, and grit instilled in him while growing up played a crucial role in making him one of the most respected individuals within military service and horse racing communities alike.

Legacy in Horse Racing

Hugh L. Fontaine’s impact on horse racing is like something out of a movie. He went from being a skilled fighter pilot in World War I to becoming a master at training champion Thoroughbred racehorses – talk about impressive! His smooth shift from flying planes to leading Needles to victory at big races like the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes shows off his amazing talent and unwavering determination.

The story of Hugh L. Fontaine proves that if you have passion and keep pushing for your dreams, anything is possible. He excelled in two completely different worlds – military aviation and horse racing – showing just how versatile and determined he was. Like a real go-getter, he faced challenges head-on in both areas, proving that hard work pays off.

Fontaine’s successes on both land and sky have made a lasting impact for future generations. His mix of bravery, skill, and sportsmanship has motivated many young pilots and trainers to aim high (or maybe gallop fast!). Just as he once navigated through stormy skies with precision, Fontaine guided his horses toward victory with style, securing his place among the greatest athletes forevermore.


1. How did Hugh L. Fontaine transition from being a distinguished fighter pilot to a renowned Thoroughbred racehorse trainer?

Hugh L. Fontaine smoothly shifted from his successful time as a fighter pilot to becoming a well-known Thoroughbred racehorse trainer by dedicating himself, showcasing exceptional skills, and having a strong passion for excellence in both fields.

2. What was the significance of Fontaine's victory with Needles at the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes?

Hugh L. Fontaine's win with Needles at the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes demonstrated his remarkable skill, dedication, and strong commitment to excellence in both serving as a top fighter pilot and excelling in Thoroughbred horse racing. This victory cemented his reputation as a true expert in his field.

3. How did Fontaine's military service influence his approach to training and racing horses?

During his time in the military, Hugh L. Fontaine learned valuable skills like discipline, precision, and a strong work ethic. He effortlessly applied these traits to training and racing horses, which ultimately led to impressive victories on the track.

4. What are some key characteristics that set Hugh L. Fontaine apart as a champion trainer in the world of horse racing?

Hugh L. Fontaine stands out as a top trainer in horse racing due to his strong commitment, excellent horsemanship skills, and exceptional ability to bond with his horses.

5. Can you elaborate on any notable achievements or milestones in Fontaine's career as a trainer post his success with Needles?

After winning the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes with Needles, Hugh L. Fontaine didn't stop there. He kept training horses and won more big races, becoming known as a top horse trainer in Thoroughbred racing circles. His skills and success led to him training several stakes winners, solidifying his reputation as an expert horseman in the industry.

6. How has Hugh L. Fontaine's legacy continued to inspire future generations of trainers and horse racing enthusiasts?

Hugh L. Fontaine's incredible story from a skilled fighter pilot to a celebrated Thoroughbred racehorse trainer serves as an inspiration for upcoming trainers and horse racing fans. His journey showcases exceptional talent, commitment, and triumph in both the military and horse racing realms, leaving a lasting impact on future generations.