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Trainer recalls that horse who won the 1973 Derby

April 30, 1996

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) _ Trainer Jim Keefer acts nonchalant about Blow Out, his horse Saturday in the Kentucky Derby.

But he certainly can get excited talking about a horse he tried to beat in the Derby 26 years ago. The horse was Secretariat.

``That was a hell of a Derby,″ said Keefer, who started Navajo in the 1973 race. ``It was probably the best Derby ever. It was probably had the best field. There was Forego and Sham and that other horse.

``That horse was amazing. He flew that day. I’ve never seen a horse like that and I’ve seen a lot of them.″

Secretariat became the only horse in Derby history to break 2 minutes, launching a successful bid to become the first Triple Crown champion in 25 years. He beat Sham by 2 1/2 lengths, while the gelding Forego, a three-time Horse of the Year, finished fourth.

``I had no business in there,″ said Keefer, whose home base is Churchill Downs.

Navajo, however, finished a respectable seventh in the field of 13 3-year-olds after having trouble at the start.

``He got hurt in the gate,″ Keefer recalled. ``The horse next to him (Sham) reared up and got him on the back.″

Keefer didn’t have another Derby starter until 1994, when Southern Rhythm finished seventh.

As for Blow Out, co-owned by Keefer’s brother Ted, the trainer said, ``There’s not much to know about him. He’s a horse. We’re here because I live here.″

Not really, of course.

Blow Out was beaten by a head by Ide _ knocked out of the Derby by injury _ in the Rebel Stakes. But Blow Out came back to finish fifth, 4 1/2 lengths behind Zarby’s Magic in the Arkansas Derby on April 13 at Oaklawn Park. He was carried wide by Jewelled Road with a quarter-mile remaining.

``He was running past horses when he was eliminated,″ Keefer said. ``He should have won it, and 90 percent of the people who were there said he should have won.″

The effort earned Blow Out a Kentucky Derby start.

``We’re going to need a lot of luck,″ Keefer said.

Whatever happens, Keefer won’t have a long trip home.

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