One of my earliest Derby memories as a child was my Dad telling me the story about the Derby Tree. In 1961, he played Decidedly in the Winter Book for the following years’ Derby. (So I guess the Future Wager has been around for a long time.) Not sure how it was done back then, but I know my Dad didn’t jump on a plane and go to Vegas.
My best guess is-it involved a bookie.
The reason why he played the grey colt by the Derby winning sire, Determine, was supposedly something he heard, when having breakfast next to trainer Horatio Luro, the summer before on the Saratoga apron. What he heard and whether Mr. Luro was touting his two year olds, is anybody’s guess.
My father did like to tell a track story or two.
But whatever he heard, it prompted him to place a good wager on the colt.
He won a bundle on that Derby 50 years ago. One of the things he did with his winnings was to buy and plant a flowering tree that would be in bloom on Derby Day. It’s the first tree that bloomed in his yard each and every year, even before the Dogwoods. It has withstood a lot, and has seen better days, but it still blooms 10 days out, and heralds the coming of the most exciting two minutes in sports.
You can read about Decidedly’s record breaking Derby and also about how his jock picked up the mount, at the Kentucky Virtual Library. Partnered with Keeneland and the DRF, there are 3000 volumes of the Daily Racing Forms archived there.