LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Lil E. Tee, who upset heavily favored
Arazi to win the 1992 Kentucky Derby, has died. He was 20.
The horse was euthanized at Old Frankfort Stud on March 18. Farm
owner Jim Plemmons said the horse fell ill last month following an
operation to repair an obstructed bowel and struggled to recover.
"He was losing his equilibrium and we didn't want him to
suffer," Plemmons said. "Up to that point he had been fabulous.
He looked like he was 10 years old."
The chestnut colt's career nearly ended before it began after
Lil E. Tee underwent lifesaving stomach surgery as a yearling,
dimming his racing prospects.
W. Cal Partee took a chance, purchasing the colt after he won
his maiden race and sending him to trainer Lynn Whiting at
Churchill Downs. Lil E. Tee thrived under Whiting, winning the Jim
Beam Stakes and finishing second in the Arkansas Derby to earn a
spot in the run for the roses.
Lil E. Tee, like the rest of the Derby field, spent the week
leading up to the race as a mere afterthought behind European star
Arazi. The Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner the previous October
entered the Derby as the prohibitive favorite while Lil E. Tee went
off at modest 17-1 odds starting from the 10th post.
Jockey Pat Day tucked Lil E. Tee behind Arazi around the far
turn, though Day figured his best bet was to simply hit the board.
"When (Arazi) went by me, I thought 'Well we're running for
second money,"' Day said.
Lil E. Tee, the son of 1984 Derby third-place finisher At The
Threshold, had other ideas. He caught the fading Arazi early in the
stretch then turned his attention to leaders Casual Lies and Dance
"I felt I had a pretty good response and went to looking down
the racetrack and saw that we were catching up," Day said.
Giving Lil E. Tee - who had a tendency to loaf once he got the
lead - stern urging through the stretch, Day roared past the
front-runners to win by a length for the only Derby victory of his
Hall of Fame career.
"Realistically speaking, I've went into the (Derby) with more
confidence on other mounts, like Easy Goer in '89," Day said.
"I'd been fortunate enough to run the race on a favorite. ... But
I believed if we'd get some breaks in the race or at least didn't
have any bad luck, we'd be in the thick of it."
Respect, even in victory, proved to be hard to come by. Lil E.
Tee's winning time of 2:03 over a fast track was considered a
little too slow for the expert's liking and most of the aftermath
was spent wondering what went wrong with Arazi, who faded to
"In the aftermath I think everybody kind of had the wind taken
out of their sails because Arazi had performed so poorly," Day
said. "He continued to get a lot of ink in defeat."
Added Plemmons: "He never got credit for beating Arazi. It was
the race that Arazi lost."
Lil E. Tee's bid for a Triple Crown ended with a fifth-place
finish in the Preakness. He skipped the Belmont due to a lung
infection and a leg injury later ended his season. He returned as a
4-year-old to win the Razorback Handicap before retiring with seven
wins in 13 career starts.
He spent his stud career at Old Frankfort Stud, where his
progeny included Oak Tree Derby winner Mula Gula. Lil E. Tee
remained active throughout his career, producing a live foal last
Day last saw Lil E. Tee about a year ago, and the horse still
had the playful nature that endeared him to Day when they first met
18 years ago.
"He was a big showman," Day said. "He was proud of himself.
He carried himself well and he loved to be around the cameras. He
loved the activity."