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Luke Blackburn (horse)

Luke Blackburn
Sire Bonnie Scotland
Dam Nevada
Grandsire Iago
Damsire Lexington
Gender Stallion
Foaled 1877
Country United States
Color Bay
Breeder Capt. James Franklin
Owner S. L. Wartzfelder
Capt. Jim Williams at 2
Dwyer Brothers Stable at 3
Trainer Capt. Jim Williams at 2
James G. Rowe, Sr.
Record 39 Starts: 25-6-2
Earnings $49,460
Luke Blackburn is a thoroughbred racehorse out of Nevada by Bonnie Scotland. He was born around 1877 in the United States, and was bred by Capt. James Franklin.
Major wins
Champion Stakes (1880)
Kenner Stakes (1880)
Grand Union Prize (1880)
United States Hotel Stakes (1880)
U.S. Racing Hall of Fame (1956)
Horse (Equus ferus caballus)
Last updated on December 17, 2007

Luke Blackburn (1877-1904) was a Thoroughbred race horse born and bred in Tennessee by Capt. James Franklin. Sired by Bonnie Scotland, his dam was Nevada out of perhaps the most influential stallion America ever produced, the great Lexington. A bay foal, he was sold at two to Capt. Jim Williams who paid $510 for him. (Just over a decade since the Civil War, men who could afford to race horses were also the men who had been officers, hence the copious captains.)

Williams named the colt for Luke P. Blackburn, the then governor of the state of Kentucky and proceeded to race him thirteen times. Luke won twice. When the horse turned three, Capt. Williams sold him to the famous (or infamous) Dwyer Brothers for $2,500 and the Dwyer Brothers placed him in the hands of the Hall of Fame trainer, James G. Rowe, Sr..

In his first start at three, Luke lost again (to a colt named Fonso who would win the Kentucky Derby that year), but then he won twenty three of his next twenty four races…and he won them by six lengths or ten lengths or even fifteen, breaking records as he did. Luke Blackburn was so strong and pulled so hard his jockeys complained when they rode him. Sports writers wrote that he was the most muscular horse in America even though he stood only 15 and a quarter hands high.

The famous Hall of Fame jockey, Jim McLaughlin, said Luke could not be held back. He also said he was the best horse he’d ever ridden. McLaughlin had the mount on Hindoo, Hanover, Miss Woodford, Firenze, Kingston, George Kinney, Tremont, Tecumseh and Salvator.

In his final start as a three-year-old, Luke was injured, but came back to the races at four. After two races, he was retired. The injury had proved the end of his days on the track.

At stud

Luke Blackburn was sent to General William Hicks Jackson’s “Belle Meade Stud” located near Nashville, Tennessee. Luke produced one great horse, Proctor Knott, the only horse Salvator could never beat.

In 1904, at the age of twenty seven, Luke Blackmore was sold at auction for $20 to a W.H. Allison. He died within months.


  • "The History of Thoroughbred Racing in America" by William H.P. Roberton, Bonanza Books, New York, 1964


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