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Written by Presley White

The 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 in 1916.

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 age.

Exterminator Facts:
Owner: Willis Sharpe Kilmer
Breeder: Mrs. M.J. Mizner
Race Record: 100:50:17:17
Earnings: $252,996
Sire: McGee
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)