Year Inducted: 2011
Word of a good racehorse can travel fast and far – as faraway as the oil fields of Ada, Oklahoma. When the news arrived, Travis Mitchell Kerr was intrigued.
By the early 1950s, Travis Kerr’s interest in horse racing had become as large and successful as the family business in the oil industry. Kerr’s stable demonstrated that he was not bashful in spending big money on a racehorse – and he was keen to spend again.
Interestingly, Travis Kerr could have bought Round Table from Bull Hancock’s Claiborne Farm prior to his maiden win. However, his trainer Bill Molter felt the asking price of $40,000 was too high.
At age three, with Bull Hancock retaining 20% ownership, Round Table was reportedly purchased for roughly $175,000 just seconds before the gates opened for his 12th lifetime start, a race in which he finished sixth. He would redeem himself in his next start however, winning by six lengths!
Round Table won the Bluegrass Stakes in 1957 before finishing third in the Kentucky Derby. Later that spring at Hollywood Park, Round Table won the Will Rogers Stakes and began an amazing run of 24 wins in 26 races.
Round Table won many of the most prestigious stakes events from coast to coast, over both main tracks and turf courses. Known as “The Little Machine,” the 950-pound bay horse more than paid for his purchase price. He retired having won 43 of 66 races, 31 of them stakes events. He had eight more seconds and five thirds. Round Table didn’t just win his races, he managed to shatter records more often than not. During the final three years of his career, he set or equaled track or course records at nine different venues in the United States with three of those marks setting new American records. He also managed to win at distances from as short as four furlongs to as long as 1-5/8 miles!
Round Table’s total earnings reached $1,749,869, an astounding figure considering it was late 1950s purse money. Similar success in modern racing would catapult the figure much higher, possibly towards the $10 million-mark.
Round Table was voted Horse of the Year in 1958, as well as the Champion Older Horse in both 1958 & 1959. He was also voted the Champion Grass Horse for three successive years: 1957-1959.
After his racing career, Round Table returned to where he was born, standing stud at Claiborne Farm in Lexington, Kentucky where he became a very popular and prolific stallion, literally saving the historic farm in the process. He was the leading North American stallion in 1972 with his offspring winning major races beyond the United States. Round Table sired English and Irish Champion Apalachee and Canadian Horse of the Year He’s A Smoothie. Queen Elizabeth II even made a special point of visiting Round Table during her tour of Kentucky in 1984.
Round Table is ranked 17th of the Top 100 Racehorses of the 20th Century and was inducted into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame in 1972.
Round Table’s connection to Oklahoma is the story of an investment spun from black gold that proved to be good as gold.