Brother Derek, a horse broken and trained at the Salt Lake County Equestrian Center in South Jordan, has become the early favorite for this year's running of the Kentucky Derby after his convincing victory at the Santa Catalina Stakes last weekend. It was his fifth win in seven starts.
The 3-year-old thoroughbred, born on a cattle ranch in Washington state and sold at auction to Craig Tillotson and John Brocklebank, both of Draper, for $150,000 two years ago, was named after Tillotson's son Derek, who is currently serving as a missionary in Armenia for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The horse trained in Utah from September 2004 through March 2005, at which time he was sold at the Barretts Auction for $275,000 to trainer Dan Hendricks for Cecil Peacock.
"Brother Derek was everything you dream about in a horse," said Brocklebank, who has been buying, selling and training horses with Tillotson for the past three years. "The way he looked, the way he moved, he just radiated with class. With certain horses, you can just tell, they have an air about them. We've trained some very good horses, and Brother Derek; well, he just toyed with the others."
Brocklebank, who said he was hoping Brother Derek might not sell at auction after interest in the horse cooled after a veterinarian's exam raised concerns, was disappointed to lose the horse. He and Tillotson even made overtures to buy the horse back from Peacock for $350,000 shortly thereafter. But Peacock, happy with his newest acquisition, wasn't biting.
Said Peacock to the Thoroughbred Times when asked if he considered Brother Derek the best horse he has ever owned, "There's no question about it, that's for sure. But I've only been 35 years at it."
"The horse was loaded with talent, and we knew it," Brocklebank added. "When he was sold, it took me a few months to get over it."
Even though the horse is no longer in the Timberline Farms fold, the former owners admit to following Brother Derek's exploits with vested interest. When the horse is named after a son, it's what you do.
"It's a little bittersweet," Tillotson said. "But it is still fun to watch your namesake be in contention to win the Kentucky Derby, and we wish the new owners the best of luck."
As for Elder Derek, he's due back home in September.
"We keep him (apprised) of Brother Derek, of how he's doing" said Tillotson. "But really, he's pretty focused on his mission work."
Brother Derek will have a final warm-up for the Derby at Santa Anita Derby on April 8 before his Run for the Roses on May 6 at Churchill Downs.