By Mint Julep


Wintergreen Before and Beyond the Kentucky Derby

kentucky derby winner 1909 wintergreen

In 1909, Wintergreen, a Thoroughbred racehorse from Ohio, surprised everyone by winning the prestigious Kentucky Derby. Learn about his fascinating journey from being bred in Jerome Respess’s program to achieving victory at the Derby. Discover Wintergreen’s lineage that includes famous ancestors like King Tom and Hanover. Explore how Wintergreen impacted Ohio’s horse racing industry and American racing history beyond just his Derby win.

Early Life and Family Background

Wintergreen, an extraordinary American Thoroughbred racehorse, was born in 1906 on Jerome Respess’ Ohio stud farm. Respess, a wealthy brewing magnate and avid horse racing enthusiast, carefully selected Wintergreen’s lineage by breeding him with his prized stallion Dick Welles. This strategic decision laid the groundwork for Wintergreen’s future triumphs on the racetrack.

Respess chose to breed Wintergreen in Ohio, which was unconventional at the time since Kentucky typically dominated thoroughbred breeding and racing scenes. However, this bold choice proved immensely successful when Wintergreen made history as the first Ohio-bred horse to win the prestigious Kentucky Derby in 1909. This groundbreaking victory not only brought recognition to Ohio in terms of thoroughbred breeding but also propelled Wintergreen into legendary status within the world of horse racing.

Wintergreen inherited a legacy of excellence and resilience that would prove invaluable throughout his racing career. With Dick Welles as his sire – renowned for speed and stamina – along with a strong maternal pedigree backing him up, Wintergreen possessed a unique blend of talent and determination that set him apart from his competitors on the track.

As spring approached in 1909, excitement buzzed around Churchill Downs as spectators eagerly anticipated an unforgettable moment in racing history. When Wintergreen surged down the homestretch under jockey Vincent Powers’ expert guidance to claim victory at the Kentucky Derby, he not only secured fame for himself but also etched his name permanently into America’s rich tapestry of horse racing legends.

Wintergreen’s triumph at Churchill Downs had far-reaching effects beyond just one race; it marked a significant shift within Ohio’s growing racing industry. His historic win inspired generations of breeders and owners across the state to dream big and aim high – proving that champions destined for greatness can emerge from humble beginnings onto tracks worldwide.

Racing Career Overview

Wintergreen, an impressive horse born in Ohio, left a lasting legacy in American horse racing history by winning the prestigious 1909 Kentucky Derby. Although Wintergreen did not win any other major races before or after this significant victory, his consistent performance as a top competitor throughout his racing career solidified his reputation on the racetrack.

From age two to seven, Wintergreen displayed determination and resilience that led to his ultimate triumph at Churchill Downs. This rising star from Ohio surpassed expectations and captured the admiration of many with his underdog journey to success at the Kentucky Derby. His story remains a powerful reminder of how unpredictability is inherent in horseracing, showcasing how even unexpected contenders like him can emerge victorious against all odds.

Beyond merely tallying wins, Wintergreen’s enduring influence goes beyond numbers and statistics. He stands as a beacon of hope and perseverance for Ohio’s horse racing community, demonstrating that greatness transcends geographical boundaries. The saga of Wintergreen serves as a testament that genuine champions are defined not just by their victories but also by their unwavering spirit which echoes through generations within American horse racing lore.

The Pros & Cons of Racing Legends


  1. Racing icons motivate upcoming jockeys and horse lovers.
  2. Their accomplishments demonstrate the highest level of skill, strategy, and perseverance in horse racing.
  3. The backstories of these legends are often intriguing, captivating fans and enriching the sport’s history.
  4. They inject excitement and prestige into races, attracting bigger crowds and boosting the industry.
  5. The impact left by racing heroes adds to the vibrant history and traditions of horse racing.


  1. Newer racers and horses can feel overwhelmed by the pressure to live up to legendary status.
  2. Some people might argue that focusing too much on past legends takes away from appreciating current talent in the sport.
  3. Legends have the potential to overshadow lesser-known but equally deserving figures in racing history.
  4. Romanticizing or exaggerating their accomplishments can lead to unrealistic expectations.
  5. The intense scrutiny and constant comparisons may negatively impact the mental health and well-being of modern racers striving for greatness.

Tragic End at Latonia Race Track

Wintergreen, the Ohio-born champion who triumphed at the Kentucky Derby in 1909, met a tragic fate on April 10, 1914. He tragically perished in a fire that swept through barn #18 at the historic Latonia Race Track in Covington, Kentucky. The blaze not only took Wintergreen’s life but also dashed the hopes and aspirations of many horse racing fans who had admired his skills on the track.

The sudden loss of Wintergreen cast a dark shadow over the once lively atmosphere of Latonia Race Track. This fiery disaster marked an abrupt end to a significant chapter in American horse racing history that was defined by Wintergreen’s remarkable talent and determination. His legacy extended beyond state borders, resonating with admirers far beyond Ohio and Kentucky.

As word spread about Wintergreen’s heartbreaking demise at Latonia Race Track, tributes poured in from all corners of the racing world. People mourned him as more than just another racehorse lost too soon; they grieved for an emblem of resilience and drive—a true underdog whose spirit touched hearts and inspired generations.

Looking back on Wintergreen’s journey from humble beginnings to Derby victory serves as proof of life’s unpredictable twists—and those seen in racing too. His successes showed how greatness can arise from modest origins; however, his tragic ending reminds us that even achievements cannot shield one from life’s whims.

Although he departed this world amid flames at Latonia Race Track, Wintergreen remains etched in memory as an iconic figure representing Ohio’s vibrant racing legacy—an enduring symbol of perseverance amidst challenges. Reflecting on his rapid ascent and somber fall encourages us to honor not just his speed or endurance but also his unyielding spirit that blazed brightly like wildfire across tracks and hearts alike.

Pedigree Details

Wintergreen comes from a long line of successful racehorses. His father, Dick Welles, is descended from King Eric and Tea’s Over, while his mother Winter can trace her roots back to Exile and Wildflower. This impressive mix of ancestry includes famous names like King Tom, Cyclone, and Hanover – all contributing to Wintergreen’s prestigious heritage. It seems he didn’t just inherit speed but also a legacy deeply rooted in horse racing traditions.

The detailed family history of Wintergreen paints a picture full of rich stories and potential. With ancestors like Mortemer and Mr Pickwick in his bloodline, it’s no wonder that Wintergreen found himself celebrating victory at the Kentucky Derby held at Churchill Downs. Each name within his lineage whispers tales of past triumphs on racetracks while instilling in him an unwavering determination that led him to glory on that special day.

Every step taken by Wintergreen on tracks across America resonates with echoes from generations past; leaving behind hoofprints marked with Ohio pride. His journey from being born in Ohio to becoming a champion at the Kentucky Derby pays tribute to his origins while inspiring future contenders bred in Buckeye territory. In Wintergreen beats not only the heart of a champion but also the essence of Ohio racing – determined, resilient, always prepared for any challenges ahead.

Racing Legacy of Wintergreen: A Triple Crown Champion

Attribute Information
Wintergreen 1909 Kentucky Derby winner Wintergreen
Sire Dick Welles
Grandsire King Eric
Dam Winter
Damsire Exile
Sex Stallion, eventually Gelding
Foaled 1906
Country United States
Colour Bay
Breeder Jerome Bristow Respess
Owner 1) Jerome B. Respess
2) D. Fisk
Trainer Charles Mack
Record 61:16-14-8
Earnings $12,820
Major wins Triple Crown Race wins:
Kentucky Derby (1909)

Unique Achievement as an Ohio-bred Winner

In 1909, Wintergreen made history by winning the Kentucky Derby and putting Ohio on the global Thoroughbred racing map. This victory not only showcased Ohio’s emergence as a key player in producing top-notch racehorses but also challenged traditional beliefs about where winning horses could come from.

Wintergreen’s journey from humble beginnings in Ohio to triumph at Churchill Downs is a story of persistence and passion. Growing up surrounded by scenic hills and green fields, his success emphasized the importance of nurturing local talent right at home. His win inspired breeders in Ohio to strive for greatness, showing that with hard work and dedication, even seemingly impossible dreams can be achieved.

Wintergreen’s groundbreaking victory sparked progress in Ohio’s racing industry, leading to increased interest and investment in breeding programs statewide. Breeders began seeking out superior bloodlines and adopting innovative training methods to produce champions like Wintergreen. This transformation not only boosted Ohio’s standing within the horse racing world but also paved the way for future generations of talented equine athletes originating from unexpected places.

Owner and Trainer Connections

Wintergreen achieved great success in horse racing thanks to a team of skilled and dedicated individuals who guided his journey. Jerome Bristow Respess, an astute owner with a sharp eye for talent, initially led Wintergreen’s career before D. Fisk took over later on. These shifts in ownership show the important connections that influence a racehorse’s path to victory.

Under trainer Charles Mack’s guidance, Wintergreen became a strong contender on the racetrack. Mack’s expertise and unwavering commitment played a crucial role in shaping Wintergreen’s racing skills, leading to his impressive win at the Kentucky Derby. The relationship between trainer and horse is often compared to a delicate dance – each partner relying on the other for harmony and synchronization as they strive for excellence.

The bond between Wintergreen and his owners/trainers went beyond business; it was built on mutual respect, trust, and shared dreams of greatness. When Jerome Bristow Respess decided to pass Wintergreen onto D. Fisk, it marked not only an ownership change but also represented continuity in their vision – aiming for maximum potential under new leadership.

Charles Mack expertly guided Wintergreen through tough training routines, strategic race planning, and meticulous care fitting for an equine athlete destined for greatness. The connection between trainer and thoroughbred is like an artist sculpting clay into beautiful pottery – every touch purposeful toward creating something extraordinary.

The legacy left by owner-trainer partnerships like those behind Wintergreen showcases individual achievements while highlighting Ohio’s significant role in American horse racing history lore. Their combined efforts had lasting impacts far beyond one victorious moment at Churchill Downs; they made enduring marks in history books while inspiring future generations reaching towards similar heights.

Mystical Legends of Wintergreen’s Derby Legacy

  1. ## The Mystical Tales of Wintergreen’s Derby Heritage
  2. **The Ghostly Hoofbeats**: As the Kentucky Derby approaches, whispers circulate about phantom hoofbeats resounding through Wintergreen estate. Legend has it that a renowned racehorse spirit paces eagerly in anticipation of the grand race.
  3. **The Whispering Oaks**: Ancient oak trees lining Wintergreen’s entrance are rumored to possess mystical energies. Visitors claim they hear soft words of encouragement and wisdom as they walk beneath these towering oaks, fueling them with inspiration for the tasks ahead.
  4. **The Enchanted Bridle**: Local tales speak of a hidden magical bridle concealed within Wintergreen stables. It is believed that whoever discovers and dons this bridle will be bestowed with the swiftness and nimbleness akin to a champion racehorse, ensuring triumph on the racetrack.
  5. **The Guardian Horses**: Majestic horse sculptures stationed at Wintergreen’s gateway are said to safeguard the estate from harm or ill fortune. Locals offer hay and apples at the statues’ feet, seeking their blessing for success in races and ventures.
  6. **The Celestial Jockey**: A shooting star streaking across night skies often signifies good luck for participants in the Wintergreen Derby competition. Rumors suggest a celestial jockey rides atop this starlight, overseeing and guiding horses towards victory on track courses.

Earnings and Record

Wintergreen’s consistent performance in 61 races shows just how tough he was as a racehorse. While he didn’t win many big titles after the Kentucky Derby, his 16 victories proved time and again that he was a formidable competitor on the racetrack.

Although Wintergreen’s lifetime earnings totaled $12,820, which might not seem like much compared to some of his rivals, it reflects the immense effort and dedication put in by this champion from Ohio. Each win added another exciting chapter to Wintergreen’s story—a tale of grit and determination against strong opponents.

In an era where flashy wins often overshadowed steady performers like Wintergreen, his record serves as proof of how important consistency is in horse racing. Despite not receiving as much recognition as other horses at the time, those who followed him knew they were witnessing something truly special every time he raced.

Wintergreen’s humble earnings don’t fully capture the success of this underrated hero in Ohio racing history. Beyond mere numbers or stats, Wintergreen made a lasting impact on American horse racing—a reminder that greatness can come in various ways on the track.

Impact on Ohio Racing Industry

When Wintergreen won the Kentucky Derby in 1909, it shook up Ohio’s horse racing scene. He made history as the first and only horse bred in the state to win this prestigious race. This incredible accomplishment not only filled Ohioans with pride but also showcased the high quality of horses being bred in the region. Breeders and fans were inspired by Wintergreen’s victory, sparking a newfound passion for breeding Thoroughbreds in Ohio.

Wintergreen’s triumph had a ripple effect that went beyond Churchill Downs, making waves at Ohio’s racetracks and farms. Suddenly, all eyes were on Ohio as a potential hotspot for producing top-notch racehorses capable of competing nationally. The interest and investments pouring into Ohio post-Wintergreen’s win revitalized its racing industry, boosting its reputation and establishing it as a major player in Thoroughbred racing.

Beyond just raising Ohio’s profile among breeders nationwide, Wintergreen left an unforgettable mark on future generations of horses from the state. His legacy served both as inspiration and challenge for upcoming contenders looking to follow his lead. Trainers, breeders, jockeys – they all aimed to replicate Wintergreen’s success story; pushing forward to place Ohio firmly on the map as a champion-breeding ground.

Ultimately, Wintergreen isn’t just any old Kentucky Derby winner – he symbolizes Ohio’s rich horse racing history standing tall through time. His influence echoes over generations reminding us that greatness transcends pedigree or birthplace – sometimes all you need is determination mixed with some good old-fashioned Buckeye luck!

Legacy Remembered Through Historic Milestone

Wintergreen left a lasting mark as an underdog who defied the odds in the world of racing. Hailing from Ohio, he surprised everyone by winning the prestigious Kentucky Derby, showing his determination and resilience on the biggest stage. His victory not only brought pride to his home state but also proved that greatness can come from unexpected places.

The impact of Wintergreen’s historic win went far beyond just one day at Churchill Downs. It became a symbol of hope for breeders and trainers in Ohio, demonstrating that talent knows no boundaries based on where you come from. By making history in American horse racing, Wintergreen inspired future generations to dream big and take pride in their potential.

Despite facing challenges after his triumph, Wintergreen’s legacy goes beyond his speed on the track – it lives on in those who witnessed his rise to fame. His story teaches us that true champions aren’t just defined by their wins but also by how they handle tough times – a lesson that applies outside of sports too.

Looking back at Wintergreen’s journey – going from humble beginnings to becoming a household name among race fans – we’re amazed by this brave steed from Ohio. His tale captures what makes horse racing so exciting: uncertainty mixed with moments of pure brilliance when talent meets opportunity head-on. Honoring Wintergreen means celebrating not just an incredible athlete but also an iconic figure whose spirit continues inspiring through time.

Commemoration of Achievements Beyond Derby Glory

Wintergreen’s win at the 1909 Kentucky Derby not only secured his place in racing history but also highlighted Ohio’s strong breeding programs on a national level. Despite being considered an underdog, Wintergreen surpassed expectations and became a symbol of determination and skill, showing that success is achievable regardless of background. His victory inspired aspiring breeders across Ohio to aim for greatness beyond state borders.

In the years after his Derby triumph, Wintergreen continued to shine on various tracks, solidifying his reputation as a fierce competitor with lasting stamina and speed. His consistent performance proved that his win was no accident but rather showcased his natural talent and rigorous training—an enduring legacy that continued to captivate audiences long after he retired from competitive racing. Wintergreen’s impact went beyond one race; it made a lasting impression on American horse racing.

As fans reflected on Wintergreen’s inspiring journey from modest beginnings in Ohio to victory at Churchill Downs, they marveled at how he influenced perceptions of regional breeding programs. He transcended being just a Derby champion; he embodied resilience and possibility present in every underdog story—serving as inspiration for breeders and racers striving for excellence within their capabilities.

The sound of Wintergreen’s hooves thundering down the final stretch at Churchill Downs resonated throughout Ohio’s racing community, instilling pride and motivation among future generations eager to replicate his success. By showcasing talent and tenacity while overcoming challenges, Wintergreen demonstrated that excellence has no limits—it arises from hard work, unwavering belief in oneself, dedication which can motivate those who dare dream big against all odds!


1. What sets Wintergreen apart as an Ohio-bred winner of the Kentucky Derby?

Wintergreen’s unique achievement as a horse born in Ohio who won the Kentucky Derby makes him stand out. His victory in one of America’s most prestigious horse races highlights the state’s exceptional breeding abilities and leaves a lasting impact on American horse racing history.

2. How did Wintergreen’s victory impact Ohio’s racing industry?

Wintergreen’s win in the Kentucky Derby made people pay a lot of attention to Ohio’s horse racing scene. This helped show that Ohio is really good at raising top-level racehorses, and it motivated young horses from Ohio to aim for greatness too.

3. What were some key factors that contributed to Wintergreen’s success in the Kentucky Derby?

Wintergreen won the Kentucky Derby because he came from a strong lineage, with ancestors like Heliopolis and War Admiral. He had top-notch training from Frank McCabe, who later made it to the Hall of Fame. Wintergreen’s determination also played a big role in his victory against tough opponents back in 1909.

4. How does Wintergreen’s legacy continue to influence American horse racing history?

Wintergreen continues to impact American horse racing history by highlighting the skill and potential of Ohio-bred horses on a national level. This inspires upcoming breeders, owners, and fans to acknowledge and value the excellence and competitiveness of horses from non-traditional racing areas.

5. What challenges did Wintergreen face on his path to winning the Kentucky Derby?

Wintergreen, a horse bred in Ohio, had to prove that horses from non-traditional racing areas could compete at the highest level. He shattered this belief by winning the famous Kentucky Derby.

6. In what ways has Wintergreen’s triumph inspired other Ohio-bred horses in the world of horse racing?

Wintergreen made history by winning the Kentucky Derby, inspiring other horses bred in Ohio. This victory showed that Ohio-bred horses can succeed in top American horse racing events and boosted the reputation of Ohio’s breeding industry nationwide.