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  • Dani Gallagher

Famous Kentucky Derby Winners from Ocala

There’s a lot you should know about Ocala. One interesting fact relates to the equine history of the area. Several Kentucky Derby winners have been from the Ocala area. If you’re not already familiar with the name Needles, it’s time you brushed up on some Ocala equine history.



About Needles


One of the most famous Ocala horses went by the name of Needles. Ironically, the winning horse was named after the many injections he needed as a foal. His illnesses required him to be poked and prodded.


Needles came from the Bonnie Heath Farm, which was located in Ocala. Today, Needles is the farm’s claim to fame. In 1956, Needles won the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes. He was the first Florida-bred horse to win the derby, paving the way for many other horses from Ocala and surrounding areas.


After his success, Florida horse breeding was put on the map. In fact, you could argue that Ocala is the equine capital that it is today because of Needles far-reaching success. The horse became so famous that he was inducted into the United States National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.


Since Needles, there have been other Ocala champions. The last two Triple Crown winners had ties to Marion County.


Visiting Ocala


If you want to learn more about the horses of Ocala, start planning your trip. Call us today at the Equus Inn to book your hotel room and start exploring the town.

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