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Ben Brush

Ben Brush
Induction Year: 
Catesby Woodford and Ezekial F. Clay
Edward D. Brown, H. Eugene Leigh, Michael F. Dwyer
Edward D. Brown, Hardy Campbell, Jr.
Career Years: 

Tab Wrapper


Purchased for $1,200 as a yearling by Ed Brown and Eugene Leigh, Ben Brush won the Kentucky Derby in 1896 and was the top handicapper in America the following year.


A bay son of Bramble out of the Reform mare Roseville, Ben Brush was bred by Catesby Woodford and Ezekial F. Clay at Runnymede Farm near Paris, Ky. Brown named the horse after Ben Brush, a track superintendent at Gravesend.


When track superintendent Brush was later asked by several trainers why Leigh’s dogs were allowed to run all over the track and even on the lawn at Gravesend, Brush replied: “Not a damn one of you ever named a horse Ben Brush.”


The equine Ben Brush won his first five races in the Midwest as a 2-year-old in 1895, prompting Brown and Leigh to take the colt to New York. After losing three of his next four races, Ben Brush was labeled an “overrated little goat from the West.”


Ben Brush, however, bounced back and won the Holly Handicap, drawing the attention of prominent owner Mike Dwyer, who bought the horse from Brown and Leigh for a reported price of between $12,000 and $18,000.


Now running in Dwyer’s colors, Ben Brush added victories in the Prospect Handicap, Nursery Stakes, Albany Stakes and Champagne Stakes to cap his juvenile campaign with seven consecutive wins and a record of 13-1-1 from 16 starts and earnings of $21,398.


Ben Brush, now trained by Hardy Campbell, Jr., began his sophomore season by winning the 1896 Kentucky Derby with Willie Simms aboard by a nose over Ben Eder. The Spirit of the Times said: “Simms made one last and desperate rally with Ben Brush, displaying as vigorous a piece of riding as was ever seen, and gradually but surely gaining on the other Ben, he finally beat him out by a nose in a terrific and hair-raising finish, which elicited a wild and spontaneous shout from the grandstand.”


Ben Brush added victories in the Buckeye Stakes and Latonia Derby in 1896, finishing the year with a record of 4-1-1 from eight starts and earnings of $26,755.


As a 4-year-old in 1897, Ben Brush won the Suburban Handicap, Brighton Handicap, Citizens’ Handicap, Omnium Handicap, First Special and Second Special. He defeated standouts such as Clifford, Hastings and Ornament that season.


Ben Brush was sold to James R. Keene at the conclusion of his 1897 campaign and sent to Keene’s Castleton Farm near Lexington, Ky., for stud duty. Ben Brush was America’s leading sire in 1909. He sired 20 stakes winners overall, including Delhi, Sweep and Pebbles, and founded a significant American sire line that represented stallions such as Broomstick, Whisk Broom II and Rosemont.


Keene died in 1913 and Ben Brush was sold to Sen. Johnson N. Camden’s Hartland Stud near Versailles, Ky. Ben Brush died at Hartland in 1918 at the age of 25.