98 years ago today, Woodford (Woody) Cefis Stephens was born in Stanton, Kentucky. Elected into the National Racing Museum Hall of Fame in 1976, Stephens’ career in thoroughbred racing spanned seven decades. He ran Cain Hoy Stable for Harry Guggenheim for 10 years, trained seven Eclipse Award winning race horses, five kentucky Oaks winners, two Kentucky Derby winners (Cannonade ’74, Swale ’84), a Preakness winner (Blue Man ’52), and an unprecedented five straight Belmon Stakes winners (Conquistador Cielo ’82, Caveat ’83, Swale ’84, Creme Fraiche ’85 and Danzig Connection in ’86). In 1983, he won the Eclipse Award as the top trainer in the United States.
As a young racing fan, I spent hours glued to the television watching the Derby, the Preakness, the Belmont, the Queen’s Plate, and any other race that was televised. I poured over a friend’s father’s racing sheets and stud books, tracked races through the newspaper, learned about handicapping. I studied bloodlines, lineage, genetics and picked the horses from the racing sheets in the Globe and Mail that I thought would win, place or show, based on that magical combination of bloodline, talent, rider, trainer and heart, and my own applied “knowledge”. It was a passion that, for a while, bordered on obsession, and my goal ultimately became to breed and own the first filly to ever win the Triple Crown. Woody Stevens was a part of the dream team I wanted to assemble to help me on this quest, along with my long-time hero, racing legend Sandy Hawley. With a great filly, and those two in her court, I was confident it would become a reality.
The dream still lives on, and today it seems fitting to remember the dream, and pay tribute to one of the men who figured so prominently in it.