1933 Kentucky Derby — The Fighting Finish

Have you ever seen this photograph, the Fighting Finish of the 1933 Kentucky Derby? On the right is Broker’s Tip, ridden by Don Meade, and on the left is Head Play, ridden by Herb Fisher. As the field headed for home in the Derby, Meade on Broker’s Tip took his mount inside, taking advantage of Head Play’s swing wide on the turn, which also took a couple of horses with him. Head Play had gained the lead about halfway through the race, at the 3/4 mile mark, but Broker’s Tip had been toward the back, first hanging out in 11th, then 8th, and then just behind the leaders going into the turn. His inside move meant that Meade was now on the rail and Fisher and Head Play was on the outside. Charlie Corbett, on Charley O, yelled at Fisher to look on his inside. By then, Broker’s Tip and Meade were already level with Fisher and Head Play

The horses were together going down the stretch and Fisher, incensed that Meade had made that move, decided to try to intimidate his opponent and tried to push Broker’s Tip into the rail. Determined to fight back, Meade shoved back and grabbed at Head Play’s saddlecloth in the process. Fisher took a couple of swings at Meade with his whip and then it turned into a free-for-all as they approached the wire. The finish was close, what we would call a photo finish, though, during this era, tracks didn’t have cameras mounted to capture the finish and determine the winner. Still fighting, Fisher whacked Meade with his whip after they had crossed the wire and then rode up to the judges’ stand to lodge a foul claim against Meade.

The judges denied the foul and declared Broker’s Tip the winner by a nose. Meade and Fisher continued their conflict into the jockey’s room, where Fisher attacked Meade and the two had to be separated. Each received a 30-day suspension for their rough riding in the Derby and Fisher got an additional five days for fighting.

Thirty years later, in 1985, the jockeys returned to Churchill Downs and the site of their infamous fight down the stretch. They talk about the finish of the 1933 Kentucky Derby in this video.

Happy Derby Week! Derby Day is just two days away!


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