The Great Priscillian: The Pride of the Belmont Stable

Priscillian (1905 ch g. Hastings-St. Priscilla by Rayon d’Or (FR))
“The pride of the Belmont stable.”
Owner/breeder: August Belmont
Trainer: A. J. Joyner then Sam Hildreth
Family 2-n

Known record (possibly incomplete): (38) 25-3-2 / $28,740
1st: Claremont H. (6.5f,BEL), Commonwealth H. (10f,SHE), Occidental H. (9f,GRA), Howard H. (6f,PIM), Baltimore Brewers’ H. (9.5f,PIM); Wentworth Plate (NTR/EWR-6f,HAM)
2nd: Challenge S. (6fT,NEW), Van Courtlandt H. (1mi.,BEL)
3rd: Parkway H. (8.5f,GRA), Belvedere H. (6f,PIM)

ETR at Sheepshead Bay (06/29/1908): 1 mile in 1:37 3/5
NTR at Saratoga (08/31/1910): 7f in 1:24 2/5
NTR at Pimlico (10/19/1910): 1 1/16 miles in 1:46
NTR at Pimlico (05/04/1911): 1 mile 60 yards in 1:43 3/5
NTR and EAR/EWR at Hamilton, ON (06/19/1911): 6f in 1:11

“A big, gawky, raw-boned, sickle-hocked chestnut, with two far from sound ankles, Priscillian is little he should be with respect to looks.”
Photo: Priscillian following the Commonwealth H. (New York Tribune, 07/05/1908)

Age 2 (1909): Unraced due to weak ankles
“”Priscillian was always my favorite yearling,” said Mr. Belmont.” It was because I fancied him so highly that I reserved him for racing in this country. He was a fast two-year-old, but he had weak ankles. During the winter I was afraid that he would not stand training and I declared him out of all his important engagements. I’m sorry now that I did this, for I believe now that he will prove to be a fine race horse.” (Daily Racing Form, 05/26/1908)

“Priscillian did not go to the post as a two-year-old because of weak ankles, and they are still under suspicion, being almost as big as a boxing glove, as Joyner himself says.” (New York Daily Tribune, 07/05/1908)

In addition to the ankle troubles, Priscillian reportedly suffered from gastric problems, a trait which would also plague his younger brothers Stromboli and Princeps.

Age 3 (1908): Undefeated in 7 starts
1908 Record: (7) 7-0-0 / $18,850
ETR at Sheepshead Bay (06/29/1908): 1 mile in 1:37 3/5, carrying 108 lbs.

“Good judges say that Priscillian is a better three-year-old than Fair Play, which, if true, means that he is not far behind Colin and Celt as to class and form.” (Daily Racing Form, 07/02/1908)

Priscillian broke his maiden first out at Jamaica on May 6, running six furlongs in 1:13 1/5 (defeating future stakes winner Peter Quince). His wins during the 1908 season included the Claremont Handicap (6.5f) in the mud at Belmont on May 22 (defeating King Cobalt and Roseben), the Pontiac Purse (1 mi) at Sheepshead Bay on June 29, the Commonwealth Handicap (1 ¼ mi) in the mud at Sheepshead Bay on July 4, and the Occidental Handicap (1 ⅛ mi) at Gravesend on September 14, where it was later written that “No better race was run by a 3-year-old at the Brooklyn track.” (The Atlanta Constitution, 05/30/1910)

In reference to his win in the Pontiac Purse, in which he won by ~4 lengths and equaled the track record of 1:37 3/5, it was noted, “If Priscillian had been pressed in the last quarter of a mile there is no doubt that he would have beaten the world’s record of 1:37 2-5, held jointly by Dick Welles and Kiamesha. Priscillian was only galloping at the end of the journey. E. Dugan taking him up at the last sixteenth pole.” (The Washington Post, 06/30/1908)

He was reported to have “struck a leg while being exercised” following the Occidental H. and was rested for the remainder of the 1908 racing season. Priscillian ended his 3-year-old campaign considered one of America’s top handicap horses.

Daily Racing Form, 10/11/1908

Age 4 (1909): England
1909 Record: (6) 0-1-0 / $150

Due in part to anti-betting/gambling legislation passed by the state of New York in the form of the Hart-Agnew Law, sixty horses owned by August Belmont, H. B. Duryea, T. Hitchcock, Jr., James P. Keene, and H. P. Whitney were shipped to England in late 1908 aboard the steamship Minnehaha. Baby Wolf, Ballot, Colin, Delirium, Mediant, Priscillian, and Stamina were amongst the horses onboard.

This transport was noted at the time as being the “largest consignment of race horses ever sent abroad, and a year ago it would have been valued at $500,000 or even more.” (The Washington Post, 10/17/1908)

A week later, a second ship holding Fair Play, Fayette, and Sir Martin, among others, would also embark for England.

In England, Priscillian resided at the Belmont/Whitney-leased Newmarket training facility Ballarton Lodge. He would make six starts in England in 1909, with his best performance coming as in a second place finish to St. Martin in the Challenge Stakes (6fT) at Newmarket. He would run unplaced in the Duke of Cambridge and Cambridgeshire Handicaps at Newmarket, the Stewards’ Cup at Goodwood, the Champion Sprint Handicap at Hurst Park, and the Portland Plate Handicap at Doncaster.

The S.S. Minnehaha

Age 5 (1910): Return to North America
1910 Record: (13) 8-2-1 / $4,380
NTR at Saratoga (08/31/1910): 7f in 1:24 2/5, carrying 110 lbs.
NTR at Pimlico (10/19/1910): 1 1/16 miles in 1:46, carrying 120 lbs.

Priscillian’s stakes wins in 1910 included the Howard Handicap (6f) at Pimlico on May 2 and the Baltimore Brewers’ Handicap (1 3/16 mi) at Pimlico on October 28. Entered in the Metropolitan Handicap (1 mi) at Belmont on May 13, he would finish fifth behind winner Fashion Plate.

Entered in a 7f selling race at Saratoga on August 31, Priscillian would set the track record, travelling the course in 1:24 2/5. He would then set another track record at Pimlico on October 19, running 1 1/16 miles in 1:46.

Age 6 (1911)
1911 Record: (7) 7-0-0 / $3,555
NTR at Pimlico (05/04/1911): 1 mile 60 yards in 1:43 3/5, carrying 124 lbs.
NTR/EWR at Hamilton, ON (06/19/1911): 6f in 1:11, carrying 113 lbs.

Priscillian started his 1911 campaign off with a two length win in a 6f allowance at Pimlico on April 29. A week later, he would set a new track record for 1 mile and 60 yds at Pimlico, running the distance in 1:43 3/5.

In June, Priscillian would make his first voyage into Canada, racing at Blue Bonnets (Montreal) and Hamilton (Ontario). Running against his track record setting and Preakness winning stablemate Watervale, Priscillian would turn in a brilliant performance in the Wentworth Plate (6f) at Hamilton on June 19, clocking a track record setting/world record equaling final time of 1:11. Of the performance, it was written, “Priscillian had the speed of the wind…” (The New York Times, 06/20/1911)

Age 7 (1912)
1912 Record: (4) 3-0-0 / $1,755

“Priscillian never looked better. This strapping son of Hastings, who has a marvelous turn of speed, appears to be ready for the word, and will doubtless be seen in the sprint races early in the meeting.” (The Washington Post, 04/26/1912)

Priscillian would begin his 1912 campaign on May 3, running unplaced in the Rennert Handicap (1 mi.) at Pimlico. It was reported at the time that this loss ended a fifteen race win streak for Priscillian, but this might have been in error. This is unconfirmed, but it appears Priscillian may have actually been on an eleven race win streak going into the Rennert H. instead of the aforementioned fifteen.

On his performance in the Rennert H., “The horse [Priscillian] was not up to a hard race, that was easy to see, but added to that was the weirdest kind of ride given him by Jockey White, a lad who has ridden all of the Belmont horses since the meeting began.” (The Washington Post, 05/04/1912)

He would once again venture to Canada, running at Blue Bonnets and Woodbine, winning all three starts.

Age 8 (1913)
1913 Record: (1) 0-0-1 / $50

Priscillian would make one start in 1913, finishing a troubled third in the Belvedere H. (6f) at Pimlico on May 12.

“Priscillian was unfortunate in that Butwell dropped him into a pocket in the early part of the race and whenever he made a move he was blocked.” (Daily Racing Form, 05/13/1913)

His limited campaign in 1913 was attributed to soundness issues in his forelegs; however, this would not be his undoing. Unfortunately, Priscillian was destroyed in either late October or early November 1913 as a result of blood poisoning which developed due to an injury he suffered while in transit from Saratoga.

In Memoriam
During a six year career, Priscillian raced on both dirt and turf in three countries (Canada, England, United States) on at least fourteen different tracks at distances ranging from 5.5 to 10 furlongs.

He raced and won on tracks rated fast, good, slow, heavy, and muddy. He established track records at four different distances (6f, 7f, 1 mile and 60 yards, and 1 1/16 miles) at three different tracks (Pimlico, Saratoga, Hamilton), and equaled a track record (1 mile at Sheepshead Bay) and a world record (6f at Hamilton).

He was a front runner who was rated a “superior mud runner” by the Daily Racing Form, occasionally sported 30-40 lbs over his rival entrants (and won), and defeated horses such as Dandelion, Firestone, Guy Fisher, Jack Atkin, King Cobalt, Master Robert, Peter Quince, Roseben, and Watervale during his career.

“Priscillian was one of the fastest horses ever seen on the American turf.” (The Washington Post, 11/06/1913)

“The recent death of Priscillian removed one of the fastest horses that ever trod an American race course… Priscillian was a great favorite with his owner and beloved of the followers of racing he had served so well in his honorable career.” (Daily Racing Form, 11/07/1913)

“Priscillian, a three-quarters brother of Stromboli, rehabilitated the Hildreth fortunes when they were at a low ebb.” (The Washington Post, 10/06/1918)

Photo: The Washington Post, 03/02/1913

Priscillian was a three-quarters brother to Stromboli (1911 g. by Fair Play), a multiple major stakes winner (Autumn H., Jerome H., Kings County H., Manhattan H., Metropolitan H., Pimlico Fall Serial H., Suburban H., et al) and track/world record holder (incl. then WR 8.5f in 1:43.60). It was written, “Stromboli hasn’t the robust constitution of his big half brother, which was killed last fall.” (The Washington Post, 05/03/1914)

Full brother Practical (1906), was stakes placed, including a 2nd in the 1909 Travers S. On Practical: “Unlike Priscillian, Practical is an entire horse and a corking good looker. Already he stands nearly fifteen hands three inches on his plates and his body is muscular and well developed. He is a horse of better conformation behind than Priscillian. His hind legs are a bit crooked, but they are not as crooked as Priscillian’s.” (Daily Racing Form, 07/21/1908)

Full sister Pyramid (1908) was the 2nd dam of stakes winner Priscilla Ruley (incl. Alabama S., Bronxville H., Gazelle S., Jerome H., October H.). Priscilla Ruley established a stakes record in the Gazelle S., completing the 1 1/16 mi distance in 1:44 2/5.

Full sister Peccadillo (1909) foaled twins (colt and filly) by Hourless (GB) in April 1920. The colt remained with Peccadillo while the filly was sent to a nurse mare. While it was said at the time that the colt was the stronger of the two foals, he was reported as deceased by September 1920. The filly, later named Media Hora, survived and went on to produce at least fourteen foals.

Three-quarters brother Princeps (1915 by Fair Play) equaled the track record at Belmont on 06/29/1911, running 1 1/16 mi in 1:44 1/5 while carrying 105 lbs. The track had been playing exceptionally fast, proven by the fact that the current track record for 1 1/16 miles had been set one race prior by Trompe la Mort (carrying 118 lbs) in the Searington H. This record would be broken outright a week later. On Princeps, “…is Princeps, a brother of Stromboli and a half-brother of Priscillian. A better-looker, in that he is bigger of bone and more robust and a much better underpinned horse than either of his fast relatives…” (Daily Racing Form, 02/02/1918)

Three-quarters sister Fair Priscilla (1917 by Fair Play) was the dam of Fairness by Hourless (GB), who would finish 2nd in the Beldame H. and 3rd in the Test S. Among others, Fair Priscilla would also foal the stakes winners Pricemaker (by Hourless (GB)) and Projectile (by Swift and Sure (GB)).

Projectile in workout at Havre de Grace.
Photo: Chicago Daily Tribune, 04/23/1933


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