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The Story of Mioland

Only one Oregon horse has ever come close to winning the Kentucky Derby
Guest post

Oregon has a rich and deep horse racing history and among the annals of the great horses, but Mioland stands out as one of the finest to come from the state. As horse racing in the United States enters its winter hibernation, now is the ideal time to remember a true legend of Oregonian sports history. 

Foaled in 1937 and bred in Oregon, Mioland was sired by German champion horse Mio d’Arezzo, who had won the Deutsches St. Leger in 1932 before being imported to the United States to stand at stud. 

Mioland raced regularly as a two-year-old, often ridden by Earl Dew – whose tragic story still stands as a sobering reminder of the dangers of horse racing. 

The story of Earl Dew

Dew was rightly regarded as one of the most promising jockeys in the world and in 1940, at the age of 19, he was embroiled in a competitive rivalry with fellow 19-year-old Walter Lee Taylor to become America’s Champion Jockey. 

At a time when horse racing was still a prominent part of American culture, the battle captivated racing fans across the country as Dew and Taylor entered the final two days of the calendar tied on the same wins. 

Dew ultimately clinched the title on the final day, finishing one win ahead of Taylor, who had been injured in a fall on the same day. Of all the horses Dew rode in 1940 to claim the prestigious accolade, he credited Mioland as the best of them all. 

However, less than two months later, Dew was killed in a race in Tijuana – at the same racetrack he won his jockey title – shortly after a gold watch presentation to celebrate his achievement. A career and life that promised to make a significant mark on horse racing was tragically cut short. 

What about Mioland? 

As for Mioland, having been bred and trained by H.W Ray in Oregon, the bay stallion was sold as a three-year-old to business tycoon Charles S. Howard – best known as the owner of Seabiscuit, who had been purchased by Howard three years prior.

Like Seabiscuit before him, Mioland was trained by future Hall of Fame trainer Tom Smith, whose role in developing Seabiscuit into the most famous horse in racing history is the stuff of legend and has been documented in numerous books, films, and TV shows.

Under Smith’s guidance and ridden by jockey Lester Balaski – who like Earl Dew suffered a tragic death while racing but at the age of 49 – Mioland emerged as one of the most competitive racehorses in North America. 

He competed in the 1940 Triple Crown and would have held his own among the modern-day Kentucky Derby contenders: Mioland finished fourth in the Run of the Roses, behind Gallahadion, before placing second to Bimelech in the Preakness Stakes. He was not entered in the Belmont Stakes but completed the year with four major wins. 

Mioland continued his fine form the following season when he won another three big races, including a successful defense of the San Juan Capistrano Handicap – an achievement all the more impressive because the second race was run over a much linger distance. 

Mioland’s accomplishments in 1941 earned him the prestigious American Champion Older Male Horse award from Daily Racing Form. 

As a five-year-old and in his final season, Mioland proved to still have plenty in the tank by winning the 1942 Coral Gables Handicap in record-breaking style and placed third in the Dizie Handicap behind 1941 Triple Crown winner Whirlaway.

After three exemplary seasons Mioland was retired to stud, although his success on the track far outweighed his ability as a sire. In total, Mioland competed in 50 races, claiming 18 wins, 10 runners-up, and six third-place finishes. Among his finest victories included the American Derby, the Potomac Handicap, and the Westchester Handicap.

He died at the relatively early age of 14 in 1951. 

Mioland remains the closest challenger from Oregon to win the Kentucky Derby and his place in the state’s racing history will forever be secured.

Learn more about past and future Kentucky Derby contenders.

 

 

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