Needles and Boots.
Bred by W.E. Leach in Ocala, Needles was the first Florida-bred Kentucky Derby winner and national champion. He raced for the D & H Stable of Jack Dudley and Bonnie Heath and was trained by Hugh Fontaine.
Needles was given a nickname that stuck. Suffering from broken ribs and pneumonia as a foal, he was all too familiar with the vet. But, as a son and grandson of Derby winners Pensive and Ponder, he was also cut out to be a good one. At two Needles raced from March through November and won six of ten starts, including the Sapling and the Hopeful. In the Experimental Free Handicap he was weighted at 125 pounds, only one pound below the highweight Career Boy. Needles ended the season as the two-year-old champion.
Typically closing from 15 lengths or more off the pace, Needles excelled in the three-year-old classics. He reeled off wins in the Flamingo and Florida Derby. Favored in the Kentucky Derby he came from 24 lengths back to weave through the pack and catch Fabius to win by a length. Fabius turned the tables in the Preakness but succumbed to Needles a second time in the Belmont Stakes. Before injury ended his brief four-year-old campaign, Needles tied Gulfstream Park's 1 1/16- mile record in the Fort Lauderdale Handicap.
He was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 2000.
Needles' Derby finish.
© 1956 Churchill Downs/Kinetic Corp.