Throwback Thursday: Aiken Trials

The year was 1989. The first race of the Aiken Trials that year was the Coward Trophy for Two-Year-Old Colts and Geldings. There were four entries in the quarter mile race. The winner, pictured here, was Who’s Dancin, a grey gelding by Jacques Who and out of Late Night Disco. ┬áThe gelding was owned by Arrowhead Farm and trained by Sandy Cassatt.

The Aiken Trials are Aiken’s day of Thoroughbred racing, a chance for the young horses training at the track all winter to stretch their legs in front of a crowd and to get a little taste of what real racing is about. It’s also a chance for Aiken’s horse enthusiasts to watch future stars in their first public outings, with the very real possibility of being close to a famous horse before he got famous, to be able to say: “I saw him way back when.”

The Aiken Trials are this Saturday, March 15. Everyone should come out to enjoy the day, which is the first leg of the Aiken Triple Crown, Aiken’s annual spring celebration of horses and sport.

Who’s Dancin won pretty easily that cloudy day in 1989 – there are no other horses in the win picture. But he didn’t go on to great things, and he name does not appear in the history books. The same cannot be said for the rest of the horses in the race.

In fact, the horse that finished third out of four that day didn’t run his best because he was distracted by the crowd. It was, after all, the first time he had run in front of cheering spectators. The experience was good for him: he went on to win his first race, and then all the rest of the races in his 2-year-old year.

At three, he made a real mark in the sport, coming in second in the Kentucky Derby and running away with the Preakness Stakes. That horse was Summer Squall, Dogwood Stable’s champion, who would go on to be the sire and grandsire of many top racehorses, including Dogwood’s Storm Song, the filly who won the Eclipse Award in 1996 and is now enshrined in the Aiken Thoroughbred Hall of Fame and Museum.

You never know what you might see at the Aiken Trials!