Bad Day for Silky, Worse for Silky’s Fans
(this article originally appeared in the May 12, 1958 issue of Life magazine)

They have an agonizing letdown as their hero is 12th in Derby

crowdBecause of a nationwide love affair between casual racing fans and a personality-plus California nag named Silky Sullivan, the Kentucky Derby had an extraordinary buildup. Silky had captured the hearts of millions with his come-from-behind finishes (LIFE, March 24). Last Saturday, he started the race as usual – far behind. Then came the letdown: Silky stayed far behind. Calumet Farm’s Tim Tam won. Silky was 12th in a field of 14, and rarely was more sentimental money misplaced on one nose.

How two supporters reacted to Silky’s failure is depicted below. Jack Dempsey of Los Angeles who handles an annual trip to the Kentucky Derby and one of Silky’s biggest backers, and Mrs. Reggie Cornell, wife of the trainer, showed their frustrations in these photographs. Meanwhile polygraphs charted their fluctuating respiration rate and blood pressure. They certainly reflected the emotions of many who left Louisville wondering if Silky Sullivan was just an erratic runner or a loveable fraud who – in his special way – had the last laugh.