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Leonatus
Sire Longfellow
Grandsire Leamington
Dam Semper Felix
Damsire Phaeton
Sex Stallion
Foaled 1880
Country USA United States
Colour Bay
Breeder John Henry Miller
Owner Chin & Morgan
Trainer Raleigh "Rolla" Colston
John McGinty.
Record 12 Starts: 11 – 1 - 0
Earnings $21,435
Major wins
Kentucky Derby (1883)
Blue Ribbon Stakes (1883)
Tobacco Stakes (1883)
Woodburn Stakes (1883)
Hindoo Stakes (1883)
Ripple Stakes (1883)
Himyar Stakes (1883)
Dearborn Stakes (1883)
Green Stakes (1883)
Illinois Derby (1883)
Latonia Derby (1883)
Awards
American Champion Three-Year-Old Male Horse (1883)
Infobox last updated on: September 15, 2008.

Leonatus (foaled in 1880 in Kentucky, died 1898), an American Thoroughbred racehorse, lost one race during his two-year-old campaign…and never lost again.

Leonatus was the son of Uncle John Harper's great racer and sire, Longfellow, himself the son of the imported English stud, the great Leamington. Leonatus' dam was the Daniel Swigert-bred Semper Felix, whose dam was by the greatest of all Nineteenth century American foundation stallions, Lexington, himself by Boston.

Purchased by the partnership of George Martin and Jack Chinn, and thereafter stabled in Mercer County, Kentucky, Leonatus was trained by the African American horseman Raleigh "Rolla" Colston as well as by John McGinty. Racing only once as juvenile, his losing effort was a second place. As a three-year-old, Leonatus won ten stakes, all in either Kentucky or Illinois within the space of 49 days. Although there were no official awards given until 1936, this feat made him the American Champion Three-Year-Old Male Horse of 1883.

Born just a few years after the last of the great match races (run between the easterner Ten Broeck and the California mare Mollie McCarty in 1878) Leonatus raced in a new world of English "dash" races on the kind of racetracks we recognize today.

Winning the 1883 Kentucky Derby (run that year on May 23rd) was an accomplishment, but it did not hold the caché it does today. Leonatus took only the ninth running of the race but there were still quite a few years to go before the Derby was the plum of the racing season. Carrying 105 pounds and the 2-1 favorite, Leonatus was piloted by William "Billy" Donohue, the jockey who'd ridden Sligo in the 1881 Derby, coming in fourth. Running in mud on a clear cold day, Leonatus was up against the colt, Drake Carter, trained by Green B. Morris who hoped to take his second consecutive Derby (he'd won with Apollo in 1882). Drake Carter leaped into the lead but Leonatus caught him at a quarter of a mile. A quarter of a mile farther on, Leonatus was ahead by three lengths. In the homestretch, Lord Raglan made a strong bid, but though it carried him forward, he tired. Leonatus won over Drake Carter by that same three lengths. For his Derby, Leonatus collected $3,760.

Leonatus distinguished himself by eating the presentation roses. (Blankets of roses were not recorded being draped over the winning horse until 1896 when Ben Brush wore them.)

He was retired to stud at Runnymede Farm near Paris, Kentucky. Leonatus remained there until he was eighteen years old, dying in 1898. Before that day he proved a fine sire, producing the 1898 American Derby winner Pink Coat and 1898 Suburban Handicap winner Tillo. Leonatus lies in an unmarked grave on a bend of the Elkhorn Creek that runs through Runnymeade Farm. Near him lies Hindoo, Billet, and Sir Dixon.

References

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