Of Nack, bourbon & the ‘Twin Spires’ horse

The tributes and memories are flowing appropriately for the legendary writer Bill Nack, the authoritative biographer of Secretariat and former Sports Illustrated scribe. Here are two favorites, one of which is personal.


In my “youth” I ordered a Maker’s Mark and Coke at a media party while Nack was beside me at the bar. Nack, politely but firmly, informed me that I had just ruined good bourbon.

My favorite Nack story before I read Secretariat was the story of his “Twin Spires horse.”

While at SI, Nack would prepare for the Derby learning copious amounts about the horses and their connections. Except for one, the “Twin Spires horse.” That was the horse in Nack’s estimation had no chance, zero, nada, zilch at getting its name on a Kentucky Derby glass.

Should the Twin Spires horse win, Nack said he would crawl out on Churchill Downs’ signature architectural icon and thrust himself to his death to avoid having nothing to write about the winner of the Kentucky Derby.

The Twin Spires horse was mentioned in an SI publisher’s letter, quoted below, after the 1984 Kentucky Derby when Swale won but Coax Me Chad finished second.

“Coax Me Chad was what Nack calls his Twin Spires horse, which is the one he is sure has no chance. Every racing writer knows that creeping dread when he thinks, ‘My God, what if Glue Factory wins? I’ve no quotes. I’ve no anecdotes.’ Nack came up with a solution to this years ago. If Glue Factory won, he would go up on the roof between the twin spires of Churchill Downs and throw himself off.”

This Derby, raised a bourbon, neat, to Nack and pray the Twin Spires horse doesn’t win.


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