A lanky chestnut that went by the name of Exterminator was born on May 30th 1915. He was sired by McGee, who had recently fathered the 1913 Kentucky Derby winner Donerail as well. Known for his enormous size, Exterminator was considered a late bloomer because it took so long to fill out his frame.
Exterminator won two of his four races as a juvenile. He spanned 17 hands at this point in his life, and was sold as an early 3-year-old to owner Willis Sharpe Kilmer for $9,000.
Kilmer had initially intended to use Exterminator as a workhorse to help train U.S. Champion 2-year-old Colt, Sun Briar. But the training sessions didn’t fit Kilmer’s hopes at all. Exterminator was far too talented to be held back, and impressed trainer Henry McDaniel extensively.
The ongoing tension between Kilmer and Exterminator was well known at the time. Sun Briar had developed ringbone and would not be able to compete in the 1918 Kentucky Derby. Still, Kilmer held fast that he would not run the horse he called “the goat” for his awkward gait. McDaniel urged otherwise, and further endorsement by the owner of Churchill Downs, Colonel Matt Winn, helped Kilmer change his mind.
Exterminator went off as a 30/1 longshot in the Derby with Willie Knapp in the saddle, but he beat Escoba by a length to win the 1918 Kentucky Derby.
Exterminator had a series of close defeats in his next five races but won several good races in the fall. He won seven races in total as a 3-year-old.
Back as a 4-year-old, Exterminator won nine of 21 starts, including the Saratoga Cup and Pimlico Cup. As a 5-year-old, he won 10 of 17 starts, winning the Saratoga Cup and Pimlico Cup again, as well as the Brookdale Handicap and Jockey Club Handicap. He was rated as Champion Older Male, though plans for a race with the 3-year-old sensation Man o’ War never eventuated.
Exterminator was back in good form again as a 6-year-old in 1921, winning eight of 16, and again was regarded as Champion Older Male, losing Horse of the Year to Grey Lag, who beat him in the Brooklyn Handicap.
Returning once again as a 7-year-old in 1922, Exterminator had a fantastic season. He won 10 of his 17 races, including victories in the Clark Handicap, Kentucky Handicap (carrying 138 pounds), Saratoga Cup, and the Brooklyn Handicap, where he turned the tables on Grey Lag by a head. This time he was Horse of the Year.
Exterminator ran at the age of eight and nine, and though he won races, wasn’t quite the same force. He finished his career with 50 wins, 11 seconds and 15 thirds from 99 starts, and earnings of $221,227. The popular and hardy gelding was inducted in to the Hall of Fame in 1957.