Damon Runyon, The Horse, at 500-1 Odds in Derby

Damon Runyon

Wilkes-Barre Evening News/April 17, 1925

Damon Runyon is quoted at odds of 500 to 1 in the future books on the Kentucky Derby, which will be run at Churchill Downs May 16. 

That is to say,  the bookmakers will bet you $500 against $1 at the present time that Damon Runyon WON’T win the race. Of course the Damon Runyon they are talking about is not the writer of these lines. Their Damon Runyon is a horse. 

Damon Runyon, the horse, was so named by John E. Madden, famous turfman, as a compliment to the writer. Sometimes this naming of a. horse for a man is a dubious compliment, though well meant. The horse may turn out to be a total failure. Still, so may the man. 

The horse owner who wishes to compliment a friend in this manner goes out into his paddock, looks over the unnamed yearlings careening about and picks out one that in his judgment is a likely looking animal of good breeding, one that strikes him as having a future.

The rest is on the knees of the turf gods. The equine race is as uncertain as the human race. If you went into a foundling asylum and picked out a baby that in your judgment was the most promising looking one there, and gave it your name, or the name of a friend, you would be taking more chances than the horseman.

At least the horseman can be guided to some extent by breeding when he selects his yearling. 

The blood lines in horses are more apt to eventually tell than in human beings. The sons and daughters of great horses nearly always retain some of the finer attributes of their sires and dams. 

That is not true of humans, as you know. The horseman is more apt to pick out a Man o’ War than you are to select an Abraham Lincoln. 

After contemplating the career of Damon Runyon, the horse, to date, the writer isn’t so sure that it hasn’t done proportionately as well—that it hasn’t scored proportionately as many successes as the other Damon Runyon. 

Damon Runyon, the horse, ran last summer on the tracks of Canada and Maryland as a two-year-old, finishing first in a couple of races and being second or third—“in the money”—in several others. Damon Runyon, the horse, started about ten times in all. 

That other Damon Runyon has made far more starts in various forms of races on life’s soggy track. He has finished “outside the money” oftener than Damon Runyon, the horse, proportionately to the number of starts. 

The writer was at first somewhat mortified by the odds against Damon Runyon in the famous Kentucky Derby. A price of 500 to 1 would argue scant respect for Damon Runyon in the minds of the bookmakers.

The prices in the Derby future book are predicted not only on the performances of a horse as a two-year-old, but on the prospect, always vague, of a horse going to the post. 

If you make a wager in the future book, and your horse doesn’t start, you lose your money. The price of 500 to 1 again Damon Runyon would indicate that the bookmakers not only question Damon Runyon’s ability. They doubt that Damon Runyon will get to the post. 

Mature reflection convinces the writer that it is a fair price on the last count alone. The race is some weeks away.

It would be a fair price against a human being arriving at a certain place at a certain time and accomplishing some great feat, such as winning a rich Derby prize in life’s dizzy competition.

The Kentucky Derby is worth close to $50,000 to the winner. The price of 500 to 1 against Damon Runyon, the horse, winning that $50,000 is far shorter than the natural price against that other Damon Runyon winning the same amount in the next few weeks. THAT price is easily 1,000,000 to 1.

The writer is somewhat mollified by the price of 1,000 to 1 against John F. Kleaver and Captain Donan in the Derby futures, if only for one reason. 

It is a comforting thought that Damon Runyon isn’t considered the WORST horse in the world. It would make him very sad to think that the WORST horse in the world is named for him. 

There is further consolation in the price against the horse Swope, the namesake of which would be that virile gentleman Herbert Bayard Swope. Swope is only slightly more respected than Damon Runyon by the big-hearted bookmakers at 200 to 1.

Of course the writer would like to see Damon Runyon win the Kentucky Derby. But he will not bet on Damon Runyon, even at the tempting odds of 500 to 1. 

The favourite in the futures is Quatrain at 15 to 1. But the Derby many be won by Hedge Fence, quoted at 300 to 1 in the futures. Do not bet on either Quatrain or Hedge Fence, however. Do not bet on ANY horse in ANY race.

The gentlemen who make up the future book, who figure the odds, know their business. They are not offering FOOLISH odds. There are 139 three-year-olds officially entered in the Kentucky Derby. The gentlemen who make up the book will probably tell you that they could lay 10,000 to 1 against nearly every horse and not lose any sleep worrying about their money. 

But it would be a nice thing if Damon Runyon could win.

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