Day Star is the name of the chestnut colt who won the Kentucky Derby on May 21, 1878. He was bred by J. M. Clay (whose previous claim to fame was as the owner of The Banshee, a filly who won the 1868 Travers Stakes), trained by Lee Paul, and owned by T. J. Nichols. Not much information remains about Day Star, possibly because American thoroughbred horse racing in 1878 was dominated by a horse named Duke of Magenta, who won most of the big stakes that year, including the Preakness and the Belmont, but happened to miss the Kentucky Derby.1,2

Day Star was born in 1875. He had a respectable pedigree as a descendant of the Byerley Turk through Herod and a grandson of the great Lexington.3,5

          |             |                   | Sultan by Selim  
          |             | Glencoe           |                          
          |             |                   | Trampoline by Tramp     
          | Star Davis  |                   |                            
          |             |                   | Priam by Emilius       
          |             | Margaret Wood     |                           
          |             |                   | Maria West by Marion
Day Star --------------------------------------------------------------  
          |             |                   | Boston by Timoleon          
          |             | Lexington         |
          |             |                   | Alice Carneal by Sarpedon
          | Squeeze-'Em |                   | 
          |             |                   | Yorksire by St. Nicholas   
          |             | Skedaddle         |     
          |             |                   | Magnolia by Glencoe     

In 1877, Day Star won the Sanford Stakes. This preparation for his three-year-old season probably helped him get 3-1 odds by Derby post time. He was ridden by a jockey named Jimmy T. Carter and carried 100 pounds. The track at Churchill Downs was only listed as "good" because the heat and lack of rainfall that year made it dusty. There were a total of nine starters: (in order of finishing) Day Star, Himyar, Leveler, Solicitor, McHenry, Respond, Burgandy, Earl of Beaconsfield, and Charlie Bush.4 Day Star finished ahead of Himyar by two lengths, with an official time of 2:37.25, which broke the race record (set by Aristides) by a half second. He won $4050.

In his career, Day Star made a total of 42 starts, with 11 wins, 7 seconds, and 5 thirds. His victory in the Kentucky Derby was the pinnacle, however, and he remains virtually unknown to this day. There is a one mile race for horses three years or older at Churchill Downs called The Day Star, which may have been named for him.

5. Chew, Peter, The Kentucky Derby: The First 100 Years, Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, 1974.

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