By Mint Julep

Needles Kentucky Derby Winner 1956

needles kentucky derby winner 1956

Buckle up for an exciting adventure as we delve into the remarkable victory of a racing icon at the 1956 Kentucky Derby. This legendary event saw a fusion of speed, strategy, and sheer determination that led to the crowning of a champion. Follow Needles’ incredible journey from humble beginnings to his triumphant moment at Churchill Downs. We’ll spotlight the crucial partnerships with jockey David Erb and trainer Hugh L. Fontaine that propelled him to glory in this prestigious Grade I stakes race. Experience firsthand the groundbreaking performance that etched Needles’ name into horse racing lore, showcasing his extraordinary talent and unwavering resolve on the racetrack!

Needles’ Background and Early Training

Born in 1953 in Florida, Needles was a bay Thoroughbred racehorse bred by William E. Leach. Hugh L. Fontaine trained him and quickly noticed his exceptional speed and agility during workouts.

As he raced across the tracks in his younger years, it was evident that Needles had a natural talent for racing. His breeding and early training gave him a strong foundation to build upon for future success on the racetrack.

Under trainer Hugh L. Fontaine’s careful guidance, Needles developed his skills and enhanced his competitive edge as he prepared to face challenges on the racing circuit.

With each stride and every training session, Needles continued to demonstrate not only raw talent but also unwavering determination—a winning combination that would later prove crucial in shaping his successful racing career at Churchill Downs and beyond.

Road to the Kentucky Derby

Before the 1956 Kentucky Derby, Needles, trained by Hugh L. Fontaine and ridden by jockey David Erb, blazed through tough qualifying races with remarkable speed and determination. He won key prep races like the Flamingo Stakes at Hialeah Park and the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park, establishing himself as a top competitor on the track. Fans and experts were captivated by his talent and relentless drive to win.

As he raced down the homestretch in these preparatory events, Needles proved beyond doubt that he was a serious contender for racing’s ultimate prize – The Kentucky Derby crown. Each stride showcased his incredible speed and unwavering spirit that set him apart from other horses. Fans eagerly anticipated his next race, knowing they were witnessing something special – a rare talent destined for greatness.

With each victorious run towards Churchill Downs, Needles not only won races but also captured hearts along the way. His magnetic presence on the track created excitement among spectators as they witnessed history unfold before their eyes. When he crossed that finish line at Churchill Downs in May 1956, it was clear that Needles had carved out his place in racing history as more than just a champion – he was an icon whose legacy would live on for generations to come.

The Pros & Cons of Needles' Kentucky Derby Journey


  1. Needles showed off his incredible speed and endurance when he won the 1956 Kentucky Derby.

  2. Jockey David Erb's strong partnership with Needles helped them triumph at Churchill Downs.

  3. Trainer Hugh L. Fontaine's successful strategy and rigorous training regime were key in getting Needles ready for the Derby.

  4. By setting a time record of 2:03 2/5 at the Kentucky Derby, Needles demonstrated outstanding performance on race day.


  1. We don't have much information about the specific challenges or setbacks that Needles faced on his journey to the Kentucky Derby.

  2. There aren't many details available about what happened to Needles after he won the Derby in

  3. People haven't talked a lot about how things like tough competition or track conditions affected how well Needles did at the Kentucky Derby.

  4. It would be interesting to learn more about how William E. Leach, who bred Needles, influenced his genetics and early development for a better understanding of his racing story.

Jockey David Erb’s Partnership with Needles

During the 1956 racing season, David Erb, an experienced jockey who understood race dynamics and horse behavior instinctively, formed a remarkable bond with Needles. Their partnership was flawless – moving seamlessly on the track, communicating without words. Erb seemed almost psychic at times in predicting Needles’ next move, guiding the spirited colt with skill and accuracy.

Their teamwork peaked at Churchill Downs for the 82nd Kentucky Derby. Racing down the homestretch amid a crowd of cheering fans, Erb skillfully guided Needles through traffic like a seasoned sailor navigating rough waters. With each stride bringing them closer to victory, their determination shone brightly under Churchill Down’s iconic twin spires as they surged ahead of their rivals.

The excitement at Churchill Downs spread far and wide as Erb spurred Needles forward with unwavering confidence. The crowd erupted in cheers witnessing this dynamic duo not only display speed but also incredible courage and persistence in overcoming challenges to reach success.

Erb’s strategic brilliance combined with Needles’ natural talent created an unbeatable team that left other competitors trailing behind. It wasn’t just about winning a race; it was about defying expectations together to make history and cement their legacy in horse racing greatness for future generations.

Reflecting on that unforgettable day when David Erb led Needles to victory at Churchill Downs fills one’s heart with admiration for partnerships built on trust, expertise, and mutual respect between man and animal – proving once more that true champions are defined by boundless spirit transcending boundaries towards achieving immortality on sacred grounds where dreams turn into reality.

Triumph at the 82nd Kentucky Derby

In May 1956, on a day that would be forever etched in memory, the powerful hooves of Needles thundered through Churchill Downs. The colt’s determination was clear as he raced towards victory under the skilled guidance of jockey David Erb.

The partnership between Erb and Needles proved to be an unstoppable duo on the racetrack, each complementing the other perfectly. Their seamless teamwork was evident as they skillfully maneuvered past competitors with precision and finesse, showcasing their athleticism and expertise.

Needles’ win at the Kentucky Derby wasn’t just about speed; it showed his sheer grit and unwavering resolve. His fiery spirit ignited a passion in spectators as they watched him conquer obstacles and charge ahead towards triumph.

As Needles crossed the finish line first, cheers erupted from the crowd like a symphony celebrating an orchestra’s grand finale. It wasn’t just a victory; it was a moment that made history—a story of perseverance, ambition, and exceptional talent coming together flawlessly.

In that unforgettable race at Churchill Downs, Needles didn’t only secure success—he won hearts. His legacy went beyond mere numbers or achievements; it became a symbol of hope and inspiration for all who dared to dream big and pursue their own version of Kentucky Derby glory.

Exciting Finish: Needles Secures Victory at Belmont

Finished Post Horse Jockey Trainer Owner Time / behind
1st 3 Needles David Erb Hugh L. Fontaine D & H Stable (Jack Dudley & Bonnie Heath) 2:03 2/5
2nd 2C Fabius Bill Hartack Horace A. Jones Calumet Farm
3rd 12 Come On Red Alfred Popara Odie Clelland Helen W. Kellogg
4th 4 Count Chic Steve Brooks Lloyd A. Lawson Mr. & Mrs. Dino Lozzi
5th 2 Pintor Lea Robert L. Baird Horace A. Jones Calumet Farm
6th 1 Career Boy Eric Guerin Sylvester Veitch Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney
7th 6 No Regrets Douglas Dodson Richard T. Waggoner Wallace E. Britt
8th 1A Head Man Eddie Arcaro Sylvester Veitch Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney
9th 15 King O’ Swords Ralph Borgemenke Frankie Sanders Reverie Knoll Farm
10th 5 High King William McKinley Cook Thomas Barry Joseph Gavegnano
11th 13 Jean Baptiste James D. Nichols Loyd P. Tate Mrs. Loyd P. Tate
12th 9 Terrang Bill Shoemaker Mesh Tenney Rex C. Ellsworth
13th 10 Black Emperor John H. Adams Harry Trotsek Hasty House Farm
14th 8 Besomer Nick Shuk Colin MacLeod Jr. Companas Stable
15th 14 Invalidate Larry Gilligan Vester R. Wright T. Alie Grissom
16th 7 Ben A. Jones Paul J. Bailey Elmer Kalensky G & M Stable
17th 11 Countermand Arnold Kirkland Virgil W. Raines Brandywine Stable

Trainer Hugh L. Fontaine’s Winning Strategy

Hugh L. Fontaine, a top trainer at Needles’ stables known for his expertise in getting elite racehorses into prime shape, was crucial in getting Needles ready to win big at the Kentucky Derby. Fontaine’s detailed training plan focused on making sure that Needles was physically and mentally prepared for the big race day.

Fontaine’s successful approach included tough workouts, well-timed breaks, and personalized attention to what made Needles unique. By tailoring the training just for him, Fontaine built a strong bond of trust with Needles – a key factor in their victory on the track.

With Fontaine leading the way, Needles improved his speed and agility through specialized exercises meant to enhance his natural talent as a Thoroughbred racer. The trainer instilled discipline and grit in both horse and jockey, creating unity between them as they worked towards one shared goal: winning at Churchill Downs – the ultimate prize in racing success.

D & H Stable’s Ownership of Needles

Jack Dudley and Bonnie Heath, partners in the D & H Stable, took great care of Needles during his racing career. They invested a lot in getting talented horses like Needles to show their dedication to being excellent at Thoroughbred racing.

The teamwork between Jack Dudley and Bonnie Heath was crucial in helping Needles grow into a successful racer at Churchill Downs. Their knowledge, hard work, and smart decision-making were key reasons behind Needles’ triumphs on the racetrack.

As owners of one of the best young racehorses around, Jack Dudley and Bonnie Heath faced both good times and challenges with strong determination. They believed in what Needles could achieve through careful planning, tough training routines, and clever strategies that led him to win big races like the Kentucky Derby.

With guidance from D & H Stable’s dynamic duo, Needles became known for his speed, agility, and fierce drive to outperform other horses on race days. The partnership between Dudley and Heath brought out the best in this incredible horse who won over fans every time he raced towards victory.

Jack Dudley’s sharp decision-making skills combined with Bonnie Health’s deep love for horse racing created an effective formula that transformed Needles from a rising star into a true champion across various circuits.

Legendary Tales of Needles: Kentucky Derby Champion

  1. Thrilling Stories of Needles: Kentucky Derby Champion

  2. Needles' Background and Early Training

  3. – Born in 1953, William E. Leach bred the legendary racehorse, Needles, in Florida.

  4. – Hugh L. Fontaine trained him to be swift and agile on the track.

  5. Path to the Kentucky Derby

  6. – Leading up to the 1956 Kentucky Derby, Needles competed in important prep races.

  7. – His wins proved he was a top contender for this prestigious event.

  8. Jockey David Erb's Teamwork with Needles

  9. – In 1956, skilled jockey David Erb formed a winning partnership with Needles.

  10. – Their teamwork led to outstanding performances during races.

  11. Victory at the 82nd Kentucky Derby

  12. – On May 5, 1956, under jockey David Erb's guidance, Needles triumphed at the renowned Kentucky Derby.

  13. – His win showcased his speed and endurance on a challenging dirt track.

  14. Trainer Hugh L. Fontaine's Winning Approach

  15. Fontaine meticulously trained needles for success at the derby by preparing him diligently for peak performance on race day using his expertise in conditioning elite racehorses

Time Record Set by Needles at the Kentucky Derby

In 1956, Needles made history with a remarkable time of 2:03 2/5 at the Kentucky Derby. This incredible achievement not only confirmed his status as a champion but also amazed spectators with his exceptional speed and endurance on the iconic Churchill Downs track. As he raced down the final stretch, Needles displayed sheer determination and raw talent, leaving his competitors far behind.

The partnership between Needles and jockey David Erb was unstoppable that day at Churchill Downs. Erb’s expert guidance and precise timing were key to Needles’ victory, skillfully guiding him through the crowded field towards an unforgettable win. Their flawless teamwork exemplified how every effort counts in horse racing towards reaching greatness.

In a race where every second was crucial, Needles showed unmatched focus and strength throughout the demanding distance. His unwavering determination to overcome obstacles set him apart from others, establishing him as an icon in Kentucky Derby history. The bond between horse and rider went beyond physicality; it represented trust, mutual respect, and unyielding spirit that drove them toward fame on that revered racetrack.

As they sped across the finish line with blazing speed and unwavering resolve, Needles secured his place in horse racing folklore emphatically. His outstanding performance not only set a new record but also captured hearts globally by showcasing courage under pressure. The legacy of this legendary pair continues to inspire fans across generations who are awed by their unbeatable spirit during those exhilarating moments at Churchill Downs back in ’56 – truly an unforgettable chapter in racing lore!

Impact of William E. Leach as Breeder

William E. Leach, a skilled horse breeder from sunny Florida, had an incredible ability to recognize exceptional horses. He carefully chose which horses to breed and was dedicated to creating top-quality horses like Needles.

The partnership between William E. Leach and his prized horse, Needles, became legendary in the world of horse racing. Their success on the racetrack was due to Leach’s expertise in breeding and their shared passion for winning races.

Leach’s deep knowledge of bloodlines and genetics resulted in Needles being incredibly fast, enduring, and fiercely competitive – qualities that made him stand out as a champion among champions.

As Needles raced at Churchill Downs during the 82nd Kentucky Derby, Leach’s impact could be felt throughout the track like a symphony of victory – showing his commitment to developing talented horses with skill and foresight.

By using his natural talent for breeding to create stars like Needles, William E. Leach secured his place as a master craftsman in racing history whose legacy continues through time with each thunderous hoofbeat recounting tales of triumph on prestigious racetracks worldwide.”


1. What made Needles' victory at the 1956 Kentucky Derby so historic?

The 1956 Kentucky Derby was a memorable event as Needles made history by overcoming challenges like a tough start and racing on the wide track. Despite these obstacles, he demonstrated his speed and determination, making him the first horse from Florida to win this prestigious race.

2. How did jockey David Erb play a crucial role in Needles' success at Churchill Downs?

In the 1956 Kentucky Derby, jockey David Erb skillfully guided Needles to a historic win by expertly maneuvering and positioning the talented colt at Churchill Downs. His strategic moves throughout the race played a crucial role in securing victory for them.

3. What were some of the key challenges Needles faced on his journey to winning the Derby?

Even though Needles had to deal with injuries and obstacles at the beginning of his career, he managed to overcome them with the support of his skilled jockey David Erb and trainer Hugh L. Fontaine to win the 1956 Kentucky Derby.

4. Can you explain how trainer Hugh L. Fontaine's strategies contributed to Needles' triumph?

Hugh L. Fontaine's detailed training routine and clever race strategies, along with jockey David Erb's skillful direction, were key factors in helping Needles win the 1956 Kentucky Derby.

5. How did Needles' victory impact the landscape of horse racing in the 1950s?

Needles became a legendary racehorse after winning the 1956 Kentucky Derby, which motivated a whole new group of fans and competitors in the exciting world of horse racing during the 1950s.

6. What distinguished Needles from other contenders in the 1956 Kentucky Derby field?

Needles stood out from the other horses in the 1956 Kentucky Derby with his remarkable speed, agility, and determination. Thanks to the skillful training of his jockey David Erb and trainer Hugh L. Fontaine, he clinched a glorious win at Churchill Downs that year.