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Dullahan and Jerry Crawford

A headless horseman may well win this year’s Kentucky Derby

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Dullahan and Jerry Crawford

A horse called Dullahan is one of the favorites for the upcoming Kentucky Derby and he will run in the green and gold colors of Donegal Racing stables.

Jerry Crawford, a successful Iowa attorney, is the man behind Donegal Racing tables and he has more than a touch of the macabre about his name for his colt who recently won the Blue Grass stakes, akey pre for the Derby.

Racing fans have no idea what the name of Dullahan actually means. Dullahan is actually a type of Irish monster from mythology.  It is a headless horseman usually seen riding a jet black horse  and carrying his or her head under one arm.

According to Gaelic mythology the head's eyes are massive and constantly dart about like flies, while the mouth is constantly in a hideous grin that touches both sides of the head.

The flesh of the head is said to have the color and consistency of moldy cheese. The dullahan's whip is actually a human corpse's spine, and the wagons they sometimes use are made of similarly funereal objects (e.g. candles in skulls to light the way, the spokes of the wheels made from thigh bones, the wagon's covering made from a worm-chewn pall). When the dullahan stops riding, it is where a person is due to die. The dullahan calls out their name, at which point they immediately perish.

There is no way to bar the road against a dullahan—all locks and gates open on their own when it approaches. Also, they do not appreciate being watched while on their errands, throwing a basin of blood on those who dare to do so (often a mark that they are among the next to die), or even lashing out the watchers' eyes with their whips. Nonetheless, they are frightened of gold, and even a single gold pin can drive a dullahan away.

So if you see a horse named after a headless horseman charging down the home stretch in the Derby two weeks hence, know that Celtic mythology is about to have its day in the sun.

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