The Outstanding Bonny Grafton

Bonny Grafton – 1930 dkb/br. f. by Bon Homme – Donna Grafton by Fitz-Grafton (AUS)

Breeder: Foaled in Riverside County, CA for John McKeon’s San Diego based Meadowbrook Stable
Owners: (1) Meadowbrook Stable (until 11/4/1934); (2) A. H. Lamberth (from 11/4/1934 to 2/19/1935); (3) Maj. Austin C. Taylor’s A.C.T. Stock Farm (from 2/19/1935 through retirement)
Trainers: (1) Unknown; (2) W. Baumgartner; (3) H. B. Thomas

Total race record: (83) 20-20-16 or (83) 20 -21-15 / Earnings: $21,150

Over the course of five years, Bonny Grafton raced at six tracks in three countries (Canada, Mexico, and the United States) and set five track records (with another equaled) at distances ranging from 5 furlongs to 1 mile.

Bonny Grafton was referred to in print as “dainty” and as a “long-striding mare with a world of courage, she usually charges through the stretch like a tiger and has little trouble picking up the tiring leaders.” Photo: San Jose News, 03/17/1934.

The below summarization of Bonny’s career is incomplete, as there are twenty-one starts that while I know which year they were run and her placing, I am unable to locate any additional information regarding the specific location, type of race, distance, or surface.

1933 (3YO): Agua Caliente, Longacres, Tanforan
Record: (36) 9-7-6 / $6,820
1st: Albany Purse (6f,TAN), Guernewood Park H. (6f,TAN), Speed Test H. (NTR-5f,Longacres), Community Chest H. (NTR-170ft less than 6f,TAN), Berkeley H. (170ft less than 6f, TAN)
2nd: Au Revoir H. (6f,TAN)
3rd: Memorial Day H. (6f,TAN), Berkeley H. (170ft less than 6f, TAN), Golden Gate H. (1 1/8mi, TAN)
Disqualified from first to last in the Tanforan H. (1 1/16 mi, TAN) for crowding Teralice too vigorously in the stretch.

Established NTR at Longacres (9/8/1933): 6f in 1:10 4/5.
Established NTR at Longacres (9/10/1933): 5f in :58 1/5 in the Speed Test H.
Equaled track record at Tanforan (11/5/1933): 170 ft. less than 6f in 1:07 4/5 in the Community Chest H. Time equaled that set by Lamp Black on 12/8/1930.

Racing under the silks of Meadowbrook Stable, 3-year-old Bonny Grafton would make her debut at Agua Caliente on February 1, winning a 6f $600 maiden claiming event. Following a win four days later in a 5.5f claiming race on February 5, she would finish sixth in the Burgoo King (1mi,20yds) on March 5. Her final start of the Agua Caliente meet would come in a fourth place finish in the Agua Caliente Derby (1 1/16 mi) on March 19.

With the stable now moved to Tanforan, Bonny would finish fourth in a claiming race (230 ft less than 1 mi) on April 20. She would then finish third in an unspecified race over the A.B. Spreckels course (170ft less than 6f) on April 29 and win the Albany Purse (6f) on May 10, in which she defeated Jim Dandy and Sarazen II.

Following her win in the Albany Purse, Bonny would begin a streak of six losses from mid-May to early June. She would finish fifth in an unspecified 6f race on either May 13 or 14, second to Frisky Matron in the Au Revoir H. (6f) on May 20, fourth in an unspecified 6f race on May 25, second to Bahamas in the “feature race” over the Spreckels course on May 27, third behind Onrush and Sharp Thoughts in the Memorial Day H. (6f) on May 30, and second to Onrush in the 1 mi 70 yd “feature race” on June 3.

The losing streak would be broken with Bonny’s win in the Guernewood Park H. (6f) on June 17. Her final time of 1:11 3/5 was 1/5 of a second off of the track record.

Bonny was reportedly shipped to Arlington Park in late June 1933. It is uncertain if she made any starts at the track, or even made the trip. The chronology of Bonny Grafton’s 1933 racing season is incomplete, with eleven races (two firsts, four seconds, two thirds, and five unplaced finishes) unaccounted for. These starts most likely came between late June and early November.

It was reported on September 4 that discussions had taken place regarding a three horse “international” race between Bonny Grafton, the Australian horse Winooka, and the Canadian horse Tea Trader (not to be confused with the New Zealand-bred Tea Trader also racing in North America at the time; however, she’d meet up with him later). Nothing appears to have come of this, with there being no record of this type of race having taken place.

Now at Longacres, Bonny would set the track record while winning an unspecified 6f race on September 8, running the distance in 1:10 4/5. She would then set another track record in winning the Speed Test H. (5f) on September 10 with a time of :58 1/5, defeating Quickaway, Linden Tree, and Tea Trader (NZ).

On November 5, Bonny would equal Lamp Black’s track record for 170 ft less than 6f at Tanforan while winning the Community Chest H. “in a gallop” in 1:07 4/5, defeating Tea Trader (NZ), Quickaway, Teralice, Sundot, Boardwalker, and Bahamas.

Her next start would come in the Burlingame H. (1 1/16 mi) on November 11; however, a spill around the turn would cause her to pull up before finishing. She would then finish third in the Berkeley H. (Spreckels course) behind Desert Call and Teralice on November 18.

While crossing the wire first in the Tanforan H. (1 1/16 mi) on December 2, she would be disqualified to last for “crowding Teralice too vigorously on the stretch” 70 yards from the wire. Teralice would be placed first. On December 9, Bonny would finish third behind Boardwalker and Teralice in the Golden Gate H. (1 1/8 mi), seventh of eight starters in the San Francisco H. (1 3/16 mi) on December 16, and eighth and last in the Christmas H. (1mi,70yd) on December 25.

1934 (4YO): Agua Caliente, Bay Meadows, Longacres, Tanforan
Record: (16) 5-2-3 / $5,740
1st: Agua Caliente Speed H. (6f,AC), Ruby Keeler H. (NTR-8f,AC), Seattle H. (8f,Longacres), Inaugural H. (6f,BM)
2nd: George White Scandals H. (6f,AC), Bay Area H. (1mi70yd,TAN)
3rd: Golden West H. (1mi70yd,AC), British Columbia H. (8f,LGA)

Established NTR at Agua Caliente (2/11/1934): 1 mile in 1:38 in the Ruby Keeler H.
Established NTR at Bay Meadows (11/10/1934): 6f in 1:10 4/5.

Bonny would start the year of 1934 off with a sixth place finish over a sloppy Agua Caliente course in the New Year’s H. (1 1/16 mi) on January 1. Onrush and Bahamas would finish 1-2. She would return several weeks later in the George White Scandals H. (6f) on January 28, finishing second to stablemate Marcelita.

Bonny would then win the Agua Caliente Speed H. (6f) on February 3 or 4, with the final time of 1:10 4/5 setting a new meet standard and coming within 2/5 of a second of the track record. Onrush and Up would take the place and show.

In continued good form, Bonny would set a new track record in the Ruby Keeler H. (1 mi) on February 11. Her time of 1:38 was 1/5 of a second under the previous record, held jointly by Seth’s Hope and Up. In a reversal of the finish New Year’s H., Onrush and Bahamas would finish second and third.

“By her victory here today, Bonny Grafton, a California-bred thoroughbred, established herself as one of the greatest fillies ever to dig her hooves into the Caliente racing strip.” [On her win in the Ruby Keeler] – Los Angeles Times, 02/12/1934

Bonny would make her next start one month later in the Golden West H. (1mi,70yds) on March 11, finishing third behind Gaillardia and Onrush. On the same card, Bonny’s one-eyed 2-year-old full brother San Luis Rey would win the Agua Caliente Futurity. She would then finish sixth in the Agua Caliente H. (1 ¼ mi) on March 18, a race won for the second year in a row by the game Sir Gallahad (FR) horse Gallant Sir.

Soon departing from Agua Caliente, the Meadowbrook horses arrived at Tanforan on March 21. Bonny would finish second to Onrush in the Bay Area H. (1 mi,70 yds) on March 31.

The chronology of Bonny Grafton’s 1934 racing season is incomplete, with five starts (one third and four unplaced finishes) unaccounted for. These starts most likely came between April and July.

Now at Longacres, Bonny would finish third behind Trombone and Frisky Matron in the British Columbia H. (1 mi) on July 29. Trombone would set a new track record of 1:37. Quick off the turnaround, Bonny would win the Seattle H. (1 mi) on August 5, turning the tables on second place finisher Frisky Matron and third place finisher Trombone. Her time of 1:37 2/5 in the Seattle H. was 2/5 of a second off of Trombone’s  track record of 1:37.

The Meadowbrook stable would arrive at Pleasanton on August 21. While many of the Meadowbrook horses were said to most likely not start at the Stockton, CA track, Bonny was noted to be a likely starter in September’s Governor’s H. (1mi,70yds). While Bonny and Marcelita were named the favorites the day before the race, it appears Bonny may have been a late scratch as it cannot be determined that she ever entered the starting gate.

With much fanfare, Bay Meadows would open its doors to the San Francisco Bay area for the first time on November 3. Bonny, scheduled to run in the opening day Inaugural H. (6f), was part of a group of four horses  (which also included her yearling half-sister Sue Grafton, a Bon Homme colt named Poco Diablo, and a Bistouri (FR) filly named Mystic Moon) to be sold to California cotton merchant A.H. Lamberth for $10,000 the day of the race. However, per the option terms, if Lamberth took one horse, he took them all. The sale was called off after the third race when a veterinarian revealed Bonny had a bad spavin, and advised Lamberth to wait until after the running of the Inaugural H. Bonny would turn in a spectacular performance, winning the Inaugural H. by 1 1/2 lengths, defeating Wise Daughter and Tea Trader (NZ), among others.

“Bonny’s race was sensational. She came from absolutely last place in a 6 furlong spring [sic], came through a narrow opening on the rail, and won going away by half a length… Bonn’s victory was a triumph for California sports. Bred in Riverside county, she long has been a longstanding handicap on the Pacific Coast. In winning this afternoon she soundly whipped some of the best of eastern sprinters, not to mention the best that could be mustered in the Western Division.” – Oscar Otis/Los Angeles Times, 11/4/1934

Lamberth would purchase the group of four horses the day after the Inaugural. Seven days later, now running under Lamberth’s colors, Bonny would win a six furlong claiming handicap at Bay Meadows, running the fastest time for the distance so far (1:10 4/5) in the track’s young history.

However, the enthusiasm for Bay Meadows was to be short lived. Less than a month after opening day, continued rain and sloppy track conditions resulted in owners and trainers leaving the track en masse for the soon to be reopened Santa Anita Park. On November 23, Lamberth leaves Bay Meadows for Santa Anita with Bonny Grafton and the rest of his stable. Once at Santa Anita, Lamberth makes a trainer change, hiring W. Baumgartner.

On Christmas Day 1934, Santa Anita Park reopens after having been shuttered for the past twenty-five years.

1935 (5YO): Lansdowne, Santa Anita, Tanforan
Record: (18) 3-5-4 / $4,130
1st:  Special Handicap (NTR-6f,Lansdowne Park), Princess Doreen (1 1/6 mi,TAN)
2nd: Hotel Rosslyn H. (6f,SA), Labor Day H., Alisal H. (6f,SA)
3rd: Arcadia H. (6f,SA), Huntington Hotel H. (7f,SA)

Established NTR at Lansdowne Park (8/8/1935): 6f in 1:11 2/5 in the Special H.

While Bonny would start her career for Lamberth off with a win back at Bay Meadows, the success was to be short lived. “After that Bonny Grafton and her stablemates presented their new owner with nothing but feed bills.” – Paul Lowry/Los Angeles Times, 09/06/1935

Bonny would not win another race for A.H. Lamberth. Starting off the year with a third place finish in a 7f claiming race at Santa Anita on January 4, she would then finish fourth in a 1 mile claiming race on January 8. Her best showings would come in a second place finish behind Semaphore in the Hotel Rosslyn H. (6f) and third place finishes in the Arcadia (6f) and Huntington Hotel Handicaps (7f) at Santa Anita in January/February.

Following a fifth place finish in the L. A. Tennis Club H. (6f) on February 2, Bonny was entered in a 6f claiming race on February 19. Finishing fourth, Bonny was claimed out of the race by Maj. Austin C. Taylor’s A.C.T. Stock Farm for $4,000.

Much like the years prior, the chronology of Bonny Grafton’s 1935 racing season is incomplete, with three starts (one second, one third, and one unplaced finish) unaccounted for. These starts most likely came between late February and early August.

Bonny would win the Special H. (6f) at Lansdowne Park in Vancouver, BC on August 8 and the R. F. Leighton Memorial H. (unknown distance) at Lansdowne on an unspecified date. On September 2, Bonny would record a second place finish in the Labor Day H. (unknown track and distance).

Spending the fall at Tanforan, Bonny would finish fourth in the A. B. Spreckels Inaugural H. (6f) on October 6 and a troubled sixth in the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge Exposition H. on October 20 in which she “…was in trouble repeatedly while attempting to save ground next to the rail in the early running, found an opening … stretch turn to look up dangerously but was again pocketed in the last sixteenth and lost all chance.”

Following two disappointing performances, Bonny would then finish second to Bamboula in an unspecified race on October 25, and win the Princess Doreen (1 1/16 mi) on November 6.

Arriving at Santa Anita on November 11, Bonny would finish second to Sea Cliff in the Alisal H. (6f) on December 27. After initially being placed third by the stewards, Bonny was awarded a second place finish upon viewing of the finish line photo. “So close was the decision that it took the camera to reverse the judges on the placing of Kent and Bonny Grafton. Sea Cliff, coming through on the inside in the last sixteenth, was clearly the winner, but the stewards posted Kent in 2nd place. The official picture of the finish showed it the other way around.” –  Paul Lowry/Los Angeles Times, 12/28/1935

1936 (6YO): Longacres, Santa Anita, Tanforan
Record: Officially (8) 1-4-2 / $2,300, but record may actually be (8) 1-5-1
1st: Vallejo Purse (6f,TAN)
2nd: Bonsall H. (R,7f,SA), Racine Purse (6f,TAN), R.F. Leighton Memorial H. (Lansdowne Park), Golden Jubilee H.
3rd: Seattle H. (1 1/16 mi,LGA)

Bonny would begin her 1936 campaign with a second place finish behind Davidor in the CA-bred restricted Bonsall H. (7f) at Santa Anita on January 9.

She would finish third in the Seattle H. (1 1/16 mi) on July 18 behind Primulus and noted stablemate, the world record setting Indian Broom. Primulus would set a track record of 1:42 3/5 in the performance.

Bonny and Indian Broom would be coupled in the entry box for the Longacres Mile on August 30. Going off as the overwhelming favorites, Indian Broom (carrying 129 lbs) would finish third with Bonny (carrying 113 lbs) finishing eighth. The winner was a tiny, unknown three-year-old filly named Blue Boot who was a recent claim by trainer Earl Beezley. Setting a track record in the process, Blue Boot became the first filly to win the race. However, all was not it seemed. It would be revealed the following January that the then three-year-old Blue Boot was actually a four-year-old filly named Exotude.

While all races are accounted for, the dates/distances are not. Of missing races, Bonny would finish second in the R. F. Leighton Memorial H. (unknown distance) at Lansdowne and second to Indian Broom in the Golden Jubilee H. (unknown distance, track) on dates unknown – possibly sometime in September.

Spending October at Tanforan, Bonny would finish second to Alviso in an unspecified 6f race on October 11, would win the Vallejo Purse (6f) on October 16, and would finish second to Chief Pilot in the Racine Purse (6f) on October 24.

1937 (7YO): Santa Anita and retirement
Record: (5) 2-2-1 / $2,230
1st: Ridgewood H. (6f,SA), Catalina H. (6f,SA)
2nd: Rel Del Sierras H. (7f,SA), Napa H. (7f,SA)
3rd: Unspecified “Grade C Handicap” (6f,SA)

Bonny would start her 7-year old season off with a win in the Ridgewood H. (6f) at Santa Anita on January 5.

“In another high light of the afternoon Basil James gave Bonnie [sic] Grafton a brilliant charge to nose out the favored Campillo at the finish line. Sonny Workman was so far out in front with Campillo that it looked as if he failed to persevere with the mount as Maj. A. C. Taylor’s game mare stole through on the rail and literally snatched victory out of the jaws of defeat. … At the sixteenth pole Campillo had the race won by at least two lengths, but from there on Bonny Grafton simply flew.” – Paul Lowry, Los Angeles Times, 01/06/1937

Following the Ridgewood, Bonny would win the Catalina Handicap (6f) on February 3 and finish second in the Rel Del Sierras H. (7f) on February 20 and the CA-bred restricted Napa H. (7f) on February 27. She would end her career with a third place finish in an unspecified “Grade C Handicap” on March 6.

Bonny would race through early March 1937, at which time Maj. Taylor sent her to Kentucky to be bred in the first crop of Kentucky Derby/Preakness winning stallion Bold Venture. The resulting foal, Bold Grafton (1938 br. g.), would race for three years and retire with a record of (20) 2-3-1 and earnings of $1,950. He would not come close to the on track brilliance of his sire or dam.

Bold Grafton was Bonny Grafton’s only reported foal, and it is unknown what happened to her after 1938. Taylor would disperse most of his stock at the outbreak of World War II, and it is possible Bonny was sold on.


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