"Leonatus" means "birth of a lion" and is a strong name for a Thoroughbred destined to do great things. A descendent of Eclipse, bred in Kentucky by J. Henry Miller, Leonatus was a bay colt born the spring of 1880, a grandson of the famous imported stud Leamington and a great-grandson of the leading American sire of his era, Lexington.1,2

         |               |                | Faugh-a-Ballagh by Sir Hercules 
         |               | Leamington     |                         
         |               |                | Mare by Pantaloon      
         | Longfellow    |                |                            
         |               |                | Brawner's Eclipse by American Eclipse       
         |               | Nantura        |                           
         |               |                | Queen Mary by Bonnie Scotland
Leonatus -----------------------------------------------------------  
         |               |                | King Tom by Harkaway        
         |               | Phaeton        |
         |               |                | Merry Sunshine by Storm
         | Semper Felix  |                | 
         |               |                | Lexington by Boston   
         |               | Crucifix       |     
         |               |                | Lightsome by Glencoe   

Purchased by partners Jack Chinn and George Morgan, Leonatus (not to be confused with a mediocre English racehorse of the same name owned by an eighteenth-century Duke of Grafton) raced only once as a two-year-old, finishing second.3 He was stabled in Mercer County, Kentucky and raced exclusively in that state and Illinois.4 Trained by African-American horseman Raleigh "Rolla" Colston and John McGinty, Leonatus became the champion three-year-old colt of 1883.5

In his third year, Leonatus won ten stakes races in 49 days: the Blue Ribbon Stakes, Tobacco Stakes, Woodburn Stakes, Hindoo Stakes, Ripple Stakes, Himyar Stakes, Dearborn Stakes, Green Stakes, Illinois Derby, Latonia Derby, and the Kentucky Derby. The Kentucky Derby was held on the 23rd of May in 1883. It was a cool day, with temperatures rising to just 67 degrees F.6 Although skies were clear, recent rain had reduced the condition of the track at Churchill Downs to "heavy" (the worst possible). Only seven horses paraded hopefully to the post. Ridden by William "Billy" Donohue, the jockey who had piloted Sligo to a fourth place finish in the 1881 Derby, and carrying a total of 105 pounds, Leonatus was the 2-1 favorite for the ninth "Run for the Roses." Green Morris, owner of 1882 winner Apollo, was trying to capture a second consecutive Derby with his colt, Drake Carter. At the start, Drake Carter sprang away first but was overtaken by Leonatus after a quarter of a mile. At the half-mile mark, Leonatus had increased his lead to three lengths. Lord Raglan tried to sprint to the front in the homestretch, but could not maintain his rush. Slogging through the mud, Leonatus won by three lengths over Drake Carter with Lord Raglan in third place. The winning time was 2:43, relatively slow because of the heavy track. The other contenders came home in the order: Ascender, Standiford Kellar, Pike's Pride (a filly), and Chatter.7

Leonatus collected $3760 for his Kentucky Derby victory, and further distinguished himself by eating the traditional blanket of roses in the winner's circle. His career earnings (eleven starts) amounted to $21435 when he was retired to stud at Runnymede Farm near Paris, Kentucky. His illustrious remains were later buried on the grounds.8,9 Leonatus' most successful son was the bay colt Kentucky Farmer (born 1897) who finished sixth in the 1900 Kentucky Derby. A grandson, James Reddick (bay colt born 1903), finished third in both the Kentucky and Tennessee Derbies in 1906; another grandson, Potentate (bay colt born 1891), finished second in the 1894 Preakness Stakes and Swift Stakes.10

1. http://members.fortunecity.com/spiletta42/files2.html
2. http://www.hcn.zaq.ne.jp/funahide/horse/ped/leonatus.html
3. The Blood Horse, http://tcm.bloodhorse.com
4. http://www.oriscus.com/khs
5. http://www.bourbonlibrary/org/blacks_industry.htm
6. http://www.crh.noaa.gov/lmk/climate/derby.txt
7. http://www.kentuckyderby.com/2003/derby_history/derby_charts/years/1883.html
8. http://www.derbytrip.com/champ1875.html
9. http://www.tbheritage.com/TurfHallmarks/Graves/GraveMattersIndex.html
10. http://www.tbcprojects.com

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