Written by Presley White
story of the legendary Exterminator definitely needs to be told.
From ugly underdog to champion, his story is full of wonderful surprises.
On May 30, 1915 Exterminator was
foaled at Almahurst Farm, later the birthplace of the famed Standardbred,
Greyhound. Exterminator's pedigree was unimpressive with his grandsire
being gelded after producing only one awkward foal, and his dam
ran in only two races, neither of which did she manage to place
in. His sire, though, was considered a decent horse that had sired
one long-shot Kentucky Derby winner.
Exterminator was a rather clumsy
horse and was consigned to the Saratoga Paddock Sale as a yearling.
Obviously no one believed that he would amount to anything at all.
He was bought for a mere fifteen hundred dollars, not much even
Exterminator was tall 16.3 hands
to be exact but his ugly exterior made his owner geld him. His first
season ended quickly due to a temporary injury but he was able to
get a Kentucky Derby nomination for 1918.
He was then bought by Kilmer,
owner of the juvenile champion Sun Briar, to be a workout horse
to get Sun Briar prepped for the Derby. Kilmer often referred to
Exterminator as "that Truck Horrse" and "the goat."
When Sun Briar was diagnosed with ringbone Kilmer did not think
that he had a derby horse, but his trainer said that they should
run Exterminator as he had done well in all of his workouts. Exterminator
would go on to win the Kentucky Derby at 30-1 odds by one length.
Kilmer was still not convinced that the gelding was better than
his prized Sun Briar. He was proved right when Exterminator proceeded
to turn in five straight losses. It looked as though the awkward
gelding’s win in the Derby was a fluke.
Then, just when it seemed that
there was no hope for the gelding, he began to win time after time.
Exterminator was brought back in 1919 at the age of four to continue
racing as he had no duties as a stud since he was a gelding. Soon
it was obvious that the horse was a serious force and was only getting
better with time. Track handicappers began piling on the weight
and Exterminator showed that he could win with 134 pounds on his
back. But once again he began loosing to the newly freshened and
brought back Sun Briar and too many other horses. He was quickly
back in winning shape, though.
As a five year old he kept racing.
The season started off with a lose but he soon got even with the
winner of that race. Kilmer was determined to put Exterminator against
the great Man O’ War but, Samuel Riddle, his owner refused.
Mr. Riddle entered Man O’ War into the Saratoga Cup, but was
scratched when Exterminator was entered into the race. He continued
winning, giving up to and over forty pounds to his generally one
opponent. Man O’ War retired before Exterminator ever raced
against him. One is left to wonder what would have happened had
the two met.
As a six year old the year began
badly with his new trainer. After the new trainer was fired however
he continued loosing, this trainer was fired also. Then Exterminators
former jockey took over the job, he began winning once again.
He raced until he was nine years
old. He was a hardy horse having raced in thirty races with an impost
of over 130 pounds. He raced in 100 races winning 50 of them. The
horse nicknamed Old Bones, Slim, or Galloping Hatrack depending
on who you talked to, had become one of the most famous horses of
all time. He passed away in his stall when he was thirty years of
Owner: Willis Sharpe Kilmer
Breeder: Mrs. M.J. Mizner
Race Record: 100:50:17:17
Dam: Fair Empress
United States Racing Hall of Fame (1957)
#29 - Top 100 U.S. Racehorses of the 20th Century
U.S. Champion Older Male Horse (1920, 1921, 1922)
United States Horse of the Year (1922)