Riskulus (1931)

Riskulus – 1931 ch. c. by Stimulus – Risky by Diadumenos (GB)
Breeder: A. B. Hancock
Owner: Northway Stable (Norman W. Church), Los Angeles, CA
Trainer: E. L. “Woody” Fitzgerald

Riskulus - photo (CT 1935.02.17)

Out of the Diadumenos (GB) mare Risky, Riskulus was a full-sibling to major stakes winner Risque (1928 f.) and a half-sibling to Risk (1929 b. f. by Sir Gallahad (FR)), the dam of stakes winning Sky Larking and of Beaugay (Champion 2-Year-Old Filly of 1945). Risky was named a Reine-de-Course in 2001.

[META: I actually have had a biography on Sky Larking completed on here for something like a year now; it’s probably time to post it.]

Through Risque descends 1980 Broodmare of the Year Key Bridge (1959 f. by Princequillo (IRE)), dam of Key to the Mint, Key to the Kingdom, and Fort Marcy, among others and 1989 Canadian Broodmare of the Year Passing Mood, the dam of With Approval, Touch Gold, and Daijin (1992 f. by Deputy Minister), among others. Daijin would foal stakes winner Handpainted (2000 f. by A.P. Indy), 2009 Canadian Champion Older Mare Serenading (2004 f. by A.P. Indy), and the unraced Speed Succeeds (2001 f. by Gone West), herself the dam of stakes winners Brilliant Speed (2008 c. by Dynaformer) and Souper Speedy (2009 c. by Indian Charlie)

Other selected stakes winners descending from Risky include La Reigh (1940 f. by Count Gallahad), Happy Mood (1951 f. by Mahmoud (FR)), Am-a-Cutie (1965 f. by Ambiopoise), Madam Gaylady (1973 f. by Sir Gaylord), Madam Forbes (1980 f. by Bold Forbes), The Happy Hopper (1996 f. by El Prado (IRE)), Pine Dance (1997 c. by Pine Bluff), Shilla (2005 f. by Marquetry), and Mulrainy (1999 f. by Star de Naskra).

Record: (41) 9-6-6 / $31,540
1933: 1st Burlingame H. (6f,TAN); 3rd Juvenile S. (170 ft. less than 6f,TAN)
1934: 1st Agua Caliente Derby (1 1/8 mi.,AC), Arlington H. ( 1 1/4 mi.,AP), Columbia Purse (1 mi.,AP); 2nd Derby Trial H. (1 mi., AC), Agua Caliente H. (1 1/4 mi.,AC); 3rd Texas Derby (1 1/8 mi.,Arlington Downs); Christmas S. (1 mi.,SA)
1935: 1st Los Angeles H. (NTR-1 1/8 mi.,SA), Santa Clara H. (6f,BM), Penn A. C. Handicap (1 mi. 70 yds.,HDG), Cumberland H. (1 1/16 mi.,LRL); 2nd San Carlos H. (1 1/16 mi.,SA), Laurel S. (1 mi.,LRL), Somerset Purse (1 1/16 mi.,LRL), Fort Worth H. (1 1/16 mi.,Arlington Downs); 3rd Cavalcade Handicap Purse (6f,WAS), Stars and Stripes H. (1 1/8 mi.,AP), Arlington H. (1 1/4 mi.,AP)

NTR at Santa Anita (01/26/1935): 1 1/8 mi. in 1:49 3/5 in the Los Angeles Handicap

1933: (7) 2-0-1 / $2,500
1st Burlingame H. (6f,TAN); 3rd Juvenile S. (170 ft. less than 6f,TAN)

While gaining a reputation as a “far west” horse during the course of his career, Riskulus would make at least the first four starts of his career in Michigan at the Detroit Fair Grounds.

Debuting on September 20 in a 5.5 furlong maiden claiming event, Riskulus would run unplaced in the muddy going. Returning for the Essex Golf Club Purse (6f) on September 30, he would again run unplaced. His first win would come in his third start – a six furlong allowance on October 4. Following the win, he would run unplaced in the all age Au Revoir Handicap (1 mi.) on October 7.

Moving to the West Coast following his time in Detroit, Riskulus, now based at Tanforan, would then finish third in the Juvenile Stakes (170 ft. less than 6f) over the A. B. Spreckels course on November 4 and win the Burlingame Handicap (6f) at on November 11.

One unplaced start in 1933 is missing from his record – this race likely occurred at either Detroit or Tanforan.

1934: (11) 3-2-2 / $16,940
1st Agua Caliente Derby (1 1/8 mi.,AC), Arlington H. ( 1 1/4 mi.,AP), Columbia Purse (1 mi.,AP);
2nd Derby Trial H. (1 mi.,AC), Agua Caliente H. (1 1/4 mi.,AC);
3rd Texas Derby (1 1/8 mi.,Arlington Downs); Christmas S. (1 mi.,SA)

Riskulus and his highly regarded multiple stakes winning stablemate Gallant Sir arrive at Agua Caliente on February 16. Riskulus is being pointed towards the Agua Caliente Derby on March 4, with Gallant Sir towards the defense of his title in the Agua Caliente Handicap on March 18. Riskulus’ ultimate springtime goal is said to be the Kentucky Derby on May 5.

Riskulus - photo Gallant Sir (NYT 1934.03.19)

Gallant Sir (1929 b. c. by Sir Gallahad (FR) – Sun Spot by Omar Khayyam (GB)). Photo: The New York Times, 03/19/1934

In preparation for the Agua Caliente Derby, Riskulus’ first start at Agua Caliente would come in the Derby Trial Handicap (1 mi.) on February 22, where over a track rated slow, he would finish second to the Bistouri (FR) filly Bissagos. Despite the slow track, Bissagos’ time of 1:38 would equal the track record.

Riskulus - Riskulus Nag Derby Threat headline (LAT 1934.02.23)Riskulus - Derby Trial H. results (NYT 1934.02.23)

“Beat Riskulus and win the Agua Caliente Derby. That is what they are saying this afternoon, though the Northway stable colt, a nominee for the 3-year-old stake, the Caliente Handicap, and Kentucky Derby, was beaten a half length in his first start at this course. Bissagos, a fleet filly from the stable of John D. Speckles III, equaled the track record for a mile, recently set at this course by Bonny Grafton, to win the Derby trial, feature of the Washington’s Birthday racing program here this afternoon. Riskulus got the place and Kieva the show.

Riskulus ran into plenty of trouble midway in the race, and despite this was running fastest at the end and probably would have overtaken the filly had they been doing the full derby distance of a mile and one-eighth. Running strongly in third position going down the back stretch, Riskulus’s way was closed off suddenly and Jockey Jack Pollard had to pull up sharply. He took the horse to the outside after this experience, and when the Northway colt made its second move in the stretch, he closed rapidly.

The time of 1:38 is considered remarkable for a 3-year-old, and stamps the two leaders as certain of places in fast company.” (Los Angeles Times, 02/23/1934)

While Bissagos would get Riskulus’ number in the Derby Trial H., Riskulus turns the tables on Bissagos in the Agua Caliente Derby (1 1/8 mi.) on March 4, defeating her by a nose in a final time of 1:50 4/5. Third place finisher Marceita was ten lengths back.

Riskulus - AC Derby headline (2) (LAT 1934.03.05)

“In a wild, nose-and-nose battle through the closing yards of the mile-and-one-eighth test, Riskulus, the big chestnut 3-year-old from the Northway stable, scored by a nostril over Bissagos, California-bred filly running in the colors of John D. Spreckels III, to win the $2000 added Agua Caliente Derby before 18,000 roaring fans here this afternoon.

It was a two-horse race from the stretch turn to the wire, with Jockey Georgie Woolf on the winner and Apprentice Mack Winters on Bissagos, fairly pushing their mounts towards the finish. The pair had laid back during the early running, leaving the job of setting the pace to the Meadowbrook stables filly, Marceita. The latter faded, after going into a wide lead, and first Bissagos, then Riskulus, passed her at the stretch turn and fought it out the rest of the way. Marceita finally wound up a badly beaten third, ten lengths behind Bissagos.

After the race, Winters dashed to the judges’ stand to file a protest on the grounds that Woolf had kicked him just before reaching the wire and forced him to take Bissagos over against the rail. After ten minutes deliberation, during which time the official board was kept down, the stewards ruled against the protest and took no action. A sigh of relief passed through the big throng which anxiously had awaited the outcome, for despite its being a heavy favorite, Riskulus was running with a substantial sum wagered on his chances.

Spreckels was in the stand while the argument was in progress and was said to have declared he may ship his stable to Texas as a result of the decision.” (Los Angeles Times, 03/05/1934)

Riskulus - AC Derby results (NYT 1934.03.05)

“His victory definitely stamped Riskulus as one of the greatest thoroughbreds in the West and indicated he may give his stablemate, Gallant Sir, a terrific battle in the Agua Caliente Handicap here the 18th inst. It almost showed he must be considered a threat in both the Kentucky and Texas derbys, for which he has been nominated.” (Los Angeles Times, 03/05/1934)

As a result of his performance in the Agua Caliente Derby, Riskulus’ Kentucky Derby odds drop from 100-1 to 15-1 in the future book set by St. Louis betting commissioner Thomas (Tom) Kearney. The filly Mata Hari is listed as the early Derby favorite at 8-1, with Chicstraw at 10-1.

“Riskulus probably will be sent with Gallant Sir in the [Agua Caliente] handicap as a companion. The big horse is worked with a stablemate at all times and prefers a companion while running.” (Los Angeles Times, 03/13/1934)

Following a poor performance in a handicap trial race on March 11, rumors that Gallant Sir is unsound had begun to circulate; however, trainer Woody Fitzgerald says the rumors are just that: “Gallant Sir is sound and in fine shape,” Fitzgerald said. “It is just a question of finding a way to make him run. I may have to return to blinkers. He ran his last four races last fall without blinkers and we thought he had him cured, but I guess we’ll have to put them back on him. The trouble yesterday was that horse and rider got into a fight,” he continued. “It was man against beast and Gallant Sir won the argument.” (Los Angeles Times, 03/13/1934)

On March 16, the coupled entry of Riskulus and Gallant Sir are listed at 3/5 in the early betting for the Agua Caliente Handicap (1 1/4 mi.). Confidence in Riskulus’ chances has been bolstered by a monstrous work he turned in over the Agua Caliente strip, running the full 1 1/4mile handicap distance in 2:05 (:23 4/5, :47 3/5. 1:00, 1:12 3/5, 1:38).

“When reports of the brilliant showing of Riskulus reached the ears of the betting master of the border track it was reported that he rushed madly to the blackboard, eraser in hand, and set up some new “figgers” making the Northway entry odds-on.

So if Gallant Sir chooses to sulk – why let him sulk. Who cares? The Northway stable’s “in,” whether it be Riskulus or his running-mate Gallant Sir, that dashes first past the judges’ stand.” – Gerald Pidge (Los Angeles Times, 03/15/1934)

Riskulus - AC Handicap headline (NYT 1934.03.19)When handicap day arrives on March 18, Riskulus (108 lbs.) finishes second to Gallant Sir (130 lbs.) by a head, five lengths ahead of Pari-Mutuel. While Gallant Sir and Riskulus were under hand rides in the stretch, the final time was 2:02 4/5, only 1/5 of a second off of the track record set by Gallant Sir in the previous year’s running.

Riskulus’ impost of 108 lbs. in the Agua Caliente H. was the highest ever carried in the race (in both the Agua Caliente H. and its predecessor the Coffroth H.) by a 3-year-old. Sir Harry would carry 103 lbs. in his win in 1927, Carlaris would carry 100 lbs. in his win in 1926, and Naishapur would finish second in 1929, carrying 105 lbs.

Riskulus - AC Handicap results (LAT 1934.03.19)


“The Far West, after a long stretch of barren years, bobbed up today with a definite Kentucky Derby threat in the handsome chestnut colt, Riskulus.

The son of Stimulus out of Risky created a stir in Pacific Coast racing circles by his performance in finishing second to Gallant Sir, stable mate, in the Agua Caliente Handicap.

“If he can keep the form he showed yesterday,” said C. Bruce Head, presiding steward and steward of Churchill Downs, where the Blue Grass classic is annually held, “he’ll be hard to beat.” Other experts echoed the opinion of the veteran judge.” (The New York Times, 03/20/1934)

Riskulus - Riskulus derby threat headline (NYT 1934.03.20)

“Riskulus bears a marked resemblance to Bubbling Over, one of the derby winners of yesteryears.” – Paul Zimmerman (Los Angeles Times, 03/20/1934)

It is reported on March 20 that Riskulus and Gallant Sir will head to Arlington Downs (Arlington, TX), where Riskulus is an expected entrant in the Texas Derby (1 1/8 mi.). Following the Texas Derby, Riskulus is expected to head to Churchill Downs in preparation for the Kentucky Derby, then possibly to Chicago for the American Derby and Arlington Classic.

Riskulus - Derby favorites headline (CT 1934.04.08)


On April 3, Tom Kearney names Mata Hari, Chicstraw, Riskulus, and Sir Thomas the 10-1 Kentucky Derby co-favorites. He would alter his rankings four days later, naming Riskulus and Sir Thomas the 8-1 co-favorites, with Chicstraw and Mata Hari remaining at 10-1, and Cavalcade just behind at 12-1.

In the Texas Derby (1 1/8 mi.) at Arlington Downs on April 21, Riskulus would “race indifferently,” finishing third by four lengths behind Plight and Hickory Lad.

Riskulus - KD odds soaring headline (LAT 1934.04.24)

Riskulus - TX Derby results (NYT 1934.04.22)

Off of his disappointing performance in Texas, which resulted in the raising of his Kentucky Derby odds to 30-1, Riskulus arrives at Churchill Downs on April 27.

Following a work over the Churchill surface on April 29, confidence in Riskulus continues to wane, “Thumbs down on Riskulus – Riskulus didn’t make such a good impression. He was asked to gallop a mile and an eighth. He went to the quarter in :25 2-5, the half in :51 3-5, the six furlongs 1:17 3-5, the mile in 1:43, and the mile and an eighth in 1:56. Wise old Kentuckians puffed clouds of smoke out of their pipes, shook their heads and returned a verdict to the effect that this cold is going to disappoint his many followers out in Hollywood and in other parts of California.” – French Lane (Chicago Tribune, 04/30/1934)

However, within the week it appears he has begun to turn the corner, “Another sparking training move this morning which caused some of the clockers to get so excited they almost dropped their watches was turned in by Riskulus. He sailed over the mile-and-a-quarter route in 2:06 1/5 and appeared to be breezing for the entire trip. This was the finest showing he has made since he left California and everybody around the Norman W. Church barn was pleased.” – French Lane (Los Angeles Times, 05/08/1934)

Riskulus - Churchill fire headline (DRF 1934.05.07)

On the evening prior to the Kentucky Derby, a large fire on the backside of Churchill Downs resulted in the destruction of the “U” and “W” barns. While no horses perished (some minor injuries were reported) approximately 400 horses were endangered by the fire and had to be evacuated, including Riskulus.

“The Derby choices, Cavalcade and Mata Hari, also Cavalcade’s stablemate, Time Clock, were stabled close to 200 yards away from the fire. They were not disturbed, but Riskulus, N. W. Church’s Agua Caliente Derby winner, was among the many horses led from barns endangered. After “blowing out” a quarter mile through the stretch, Riskulus suffered an attack of colic, probably induced by last night’s excitement.” (Daily Racing Form, 05/07/1934)

As the events of the prior night would result in Riskulus suffering an attack of colic, reportedly accompanied with a 102 degree fever, he would be scratched from the Kentucky Derby on the day of the race. With scratches reducing the potential eighteen horse field down to a modest eleven starters, Cavalcade would defeat Discovery by three lengths for the win, with Agrarian third.

“Mae West promenaded up and down the clubhouse lawn with Clark Gable and was almost unnoticed until she registered a loud complaint when the California horse Riskulus was scratched. She, too, had gone along with the native sons and backed this colt, whose price in the future books dropped from 80 to 1 to 10 to 1 a few weeks ago.” (Chicago Tribune, 05/06/1934)

“Riskulus was scratched and reports came up of a woman who fainted. She had bet $4,000 in the winter books on Riskulus and he was scratched just before the race. Her money was gone. Without a run. The stables reported a touch of colic made it inadvisable to start the California horse.” – Ralph McGill (The Atlanta Constitution, 05/06/1934)

Riskulus - Preakness to run in headline (DRF 1934.05.10)

As the colic episode proved to be minor, Riskulus would rebound quickly and in time for the Preakness Stakes (1 3/16 mi.) at Pimlico on May 12. He would finish last in the field of seven, being “always far out of things,” with winner High Quest’s time of 1:48 1/5 setting a new stakes record. High Quest, stablemate to Cavalcade, would defeat the Derby winner by a nose.

Riskulus - Preakness S. chart (DRF 1934.05.14)

Following an aborted attempt at the Kentucky Derby and the worst showing of his career in the Preakness, Riskulus moves to Arlington Park in Chicago, where he would win the Columbia Purse (1 mi.) on July 4 by one length over Signalman. Prior to the start of the Columbia Purse, Signalman would become fractious at the post, unseat jockey Don Meade, and run off for more than two miles before being captured, delaying the start of the race by more than fifteen minutes.

Pointing toward the Arlington Classic (1 1/4 mi.) on July 14, Riskulus would turn in a fantastic workout on July 11, “Riskulus, California’s hope in the Classic, went a mile in 1:42 and pulled up at the end of a mile and an eighth in 1:57. This colt looks better now than at any time since he left California early last spring.” – French Lane (Chicago Tribune, 07/13/1934)

“Riskulus, after sensational performances on the Pacific coast early last spring, has not raced brilliantly since moving east. A training injury kept him out of the Kentucky Derby. Then an attack of sickness halted later attempts to prove his greatness. He has scored one impressive victory at Arlington lately and appears to be the Riskulus of last spring, when no task appeared to be too great for him.” – French Lane (Chicago Tribune, 07/14/1934)

However, as had been (and would continue to be) a continual theme throughout his career, Riskulus’ form in the mornings would not translate over to the afternoon, and he would finish fourth behind Cavalcade, Discovery, and Hadagal in the Arlington Classic Stakes (1 1/4 mi.) on July 14.

Riskulus - Arlington Classic photo (CT 1934.07.15)

Start of the 1934 Arlington Classic (click to enlarge). Riskulus is #5.
Photo: Chicago Tribune, 07/15/1934

Riskulus - Arlington Classic chart (LAT 1934.07.15)

However, the Arlington Handicap (1 1/4 mi.) on July 21 would mark a return to winning ways for Riskulus. Defeating Watch Him by a head, his time of 2:02 2/5 in the Arlington H. was 3/5 of a second off the track record set by Sun Beau in the 1931 edition of the race. Hadagal was third.

“Riskulus, a temperamental colt which turned out to be nothing but a losing risk since he left his happy hunting grounds at Agua Caliente, ran the race of his life today to beat out Mrs. John D. Hertz’s Watch Him in the $10,000 Arlington Handicap.” (The Washington Post, 07/22/1934)

Riskulus - Arlington H. finish photo (CT 1934.07.22)

Finish of the 1934 Arlington Handicap (click to enlarge).
Photo: Chicago Tribune, 07/22/1934

Riskulus - Arlington H. chart (DRF 1934.07.23)

At the end of July, the Northway horses are sent to Norman Church’s Mira Monte Ranch near Los Angeles, CA for a rest. Church states he intends to enter both Riskulus and Gallant Sir in the first ever running of the Santa Anita Handicap (1 1/4 mi.), to be held on February 23, 1935 at the soon to be reopened Santa Anita Park. While still seven months out, the excitement and publicity for February’s “hundred grander” is growing by the day.

“The Santa Anita Handicap will truly be the greatest horse race ever run – actually the “Race of the Century.” Project this image before you – Cavalcade, High Quest, Discovery, Riskulus, Gallant Sir, and possibly the great Equipoise at the barrier together. Colossal is the word that best describes it – and colossal it is.” (Los Angeles Times, 08/05/1934)

“The Australian horse Winooka is to be sent to California, and will potentially contend the 1935 Santa Anita H. “If the plans of the Australian sportsmen materialize the Santa Anita handicap should develop into what may be the greatest international race of all time.” – Gerald Pidge (Los Angeles Times, 08/07/1934)

“Announcement that Admiral Drake, winner of the Grand Prix in Paris last June, may be shipped here to compete in the $150,000 Santa Anita Handicap at the new Los Angeles Turf Club plant on Feb. 23, was made today by Gwynn Wilson, assistant club manager.” (The New York Times, 08/12/1934)

In August, it is announced that Church will build private stables at both Bay Meadows and Santa Anita.

After spending the summer at Mira Monte, the Church horses (including Riskulus and Gallant Sir) head to Bay Meadows during the month of October. Having been away from the races since July, Riskulus had been working well in the mornings and would make his first start at Bay Meadows in the San Francisco Handicap (1 1/16 mi.) on December 8. He would run unplaced behind winner Top Row, whose final time of 1:42 was a new world record for 1 1/16 miles.

Riskulus - San Francisco H. WR headline (LAT 1934.12.09)Riskulus - San Francisco H. results (CT 1934.12.09)

Entered in the $25,000 Bay Meadows Handicap (1 1/8 mi.) on December 16, Riskulus would show early speed while ultimately finishing fifth behind winner Time Supply. Run over a course said to be comprised of “mist and mud,” Time Supply’s win was surprising to most, as he was not considered to be a mudder.

On Christmas Day, Santa Anita reopens after a 25-year absence. Riskulus would finish third in the Christmas Stakes (1 mi.) behind the filly High Glee and Chictoney.

Riskulus - Christmas S. results (NYT 1934.12.26)

“Riskulus was the horse that really appeared best in the race. “Risky” was almost left at the post and did a powerful lot of running to finish third. He appears to like this track and should be tabbed for future reference by that element of our population which is interested in cashing pari-mutuel tickets at a later date.” – Oscar Otis (Los Angeles Times, 12/26/1934)

Riskulus - Christmas S. photo (LAT 1934.12.26)

Finish of the 1934 Christmas Stakes (click to enlarge).
Photo: Los Angeles Times, 12/26/1934

Riskulus - photo High Glee (NYT 1934.12.26)

High Glee (1931 br. f. by Pharamond (GB) – Beaming by Whisk Broom).
Photo: The New York Times, 12/26/1934

1935: (19) 4-4-3 / $12,100
1st Los Angeles H. (NTR- 1 1/8 mi.,SA), Santa Clara H. (6f,BM), Penn A. C. Handicap (1 mi. 70 yds.,HDG), Cumberland H. (1 1/16 mi.,LRL);
2nd San Carlos H. (1 1/16 mi.,SA), Laurel S. (1 mi.,LRL), Somerset Purse (1 1/16 mi.,LRL), Fort Worth H. (1 1/16 mi.,Arlington Downs);
3rd Cavalcade Handicap Purse (6f,WAS), Stars and Stripes H. (1 1/8 mi.,AP), Arlington H. (1 1/4 mi.,AP)

NTR at Santa Anita (01/26/1935): 1 1/8 mi. in 1:49 3/5 in the Los Angeles Handicap

After running off the board at Santa Anita in the New Year’s Day Stakes (1 1/16 mi.) on January 1 and in the San Felipe Handicap (1 mi.) on January 19, Riskulus would win the Los Angeles Handicap (1 1/8 mi.) on January 26 by two lengths over Wacoche. As it is early days at “new” Santa Anita, the track records are in a constant state of flux, and Riskulus’ time of 1:49 3/5 in the Los Angeles H. becomes the fastest time for the distance so far in the track’s young history, lowering the previous record of 1:51 4/5 held by Rowdy Boy.

Riskulus - Los Angeles H. results (NYT 1935.01.27)

“Bogart Rogers, moompitchur tycoon, ex-aviator, ex-athlete, always puts a dime on Riskulus. “The only time I didn’t he won at 10 to 1,” Mr. Rogers explains. When the Northway stable’s pride and joy came to life last Saturday after several miserable races, Mr. Rogers disgraced himself with bloodcurdling yelps rooting Riskulus in.” – Bill Henry (Los Angeles Times, 01/30/1935)

Making a quick return for the San Carlos H. (1 1/16 mi.) on February 1, Riskulus would finish second by a half-length to the Whitney filly Jabot. Jabot’s (who would later foal Horse of the Year Counterpoint) time of 1:42 4/5 was not only a new track record, but was just off the world record of 1:42 set by Top Row at Bay Meadows the previous December.

“One of the bad boys of the race track, Jovius, won the seventh and last race of the day at one and one eighth miles – his second in a row. And around Jovius’ bay hide the story of an interesting comeback has developed. Two weeks ago his former owner and trainer, Clyde Phillips, dropped Jovius into a $1,200 claiming race. The horse, a full brother to Riskulus, ran last and was claimed by C. E. Graham. Phillips was glad to get rid of the animal. Despite his fine breeding, a son of Stimulus-Risky, Jovius had been running like a pig for Phillips. … In two races Jovius has returned his new owner $1,300 in prize money, more than the claiming price. He won my won and one-quarter lengths from Crystal Prince yesterday. Phillips stood in the stands and watched the performance. “What a headache this horse (game?) is. “It makes you feel ninety years old sometimes.”” – Paul Lowry (Los Angeles Times, 02/12/1935)

Attention soon turns to the upcoming Santa Anita Handicap (1 1/4 mi.), to he held on February 23. With $109,500 to the winner, the Santa Anita H. will be the richest horse race in history, eclipsing the previous record of $105,730 to Whichone in the 1929 Futurity Stakes.

Riskulus - Riskulus hoof test headline (LAT 1935.02.21)

“Riskulus, the only California owned contender in the list of nineteen likely starters considered to have much chance at the $100,000, became a dubious starter tonight when Trainer E. L. [Woody] Fitzgerald announced that he had spread a hoof. A bar plate was put on the ailing heel, and it was announced Riskulus would take a gallop tomorrow, and might still start in the handicap if the workout went off with no trouble.” – Harvey Woodruff (Chicago Tribune, 02/21/1935)

Riskulus - 100k to winner headline (LAT 1935.02.23)

“The thud and thunder of the thoroughbred, which came back to Southern California after a lapse of twenty-five years, will be climaxed today with the running of the world’s richest handicap race – the $100,000 added Santa Anita Handicap.

The drum of hoof beats, the music of the track, will be sung to the tune of $109,500 for the winner, $10,000 for second place horse, $5,000 to third and $2,500 to fourth.

When twenty-one horses accepted today’s issue in the one and one-quarter mile feature to be run over the site of Lucky Baldwin’s old potato patch the previous money standard was topped. Nineteen of these horses, paying $1,000 each for the privilege, are virtually certain starters.” – Paul Lowry (Los Angeles Times, 02/23/1935)

Twenty starters would ultimately take the field in the Santa Anita Handicap (1 1/4 mi.) on February 23. Despite his promising morning works and repaired hoof, Riskulus would finish twelfth of twenty. Azucar (IRE) wins, with Ladysman and Time Supply taking the place and show. Equipoise, running with a “burr” in his bit for the first time, and hoping with a win to eclipse Sun Beau’s all-time money winning record, would finish seventh.

Riskulus - photo Azucar (NYT 1935.02.24)

Azucar (IRE) (1928 ch. g. by Milesius (GB) – Clarice (GB) by Picton (GB).
Photo: The New York Times, 02/24/1935

Riskulus - Santa Anita H. chart (NYT 1935.02.24)

Back at Bay Meadows following his poor performance in the Santa Anita H., Riskulus wins the Santa Clara Handicap (6f) on April 13, defeating Top Row by 1 1/4 lengths.

“Riskulus came back to the races here this afternoon with astonishing success. He turned in one of the most impressive races of his career to win the $5000 Santa Clara Handicap from a crack field of sprinters, including Top Row, which finished second, and Percy M. Pike’s Indiantown, a well beaten third.” – Oscar Otis (Los Angeles Times, 04/14/1935)

Riskulus - Santa Clara H. chart (DRF 1935.04.16)

In late May, Riskulus is shipped to Washington Park in Chicago, where he would have a relatively unsuccessful time – finishing third behind Cloud D’Or and Slim Rosie in the Cavalcade Handicap Purse (6f) on June 22 and last behind winner Late Date in the Washington Park Championship Handicap (1 1/4 mi.) on June 29. He had been listed as an expected starter in the Blue and Gray Memorial Handicap (1 1/8 mi.) at Washington Park on May 29; however, it is uncertain as to whether he made the start.

Moving to Arlington Park, Riskulus would then finish third behind Discovery and Chief Cherokee in the Stars and Stripes Handicap (1 1/8 mi.) on July 4, and third behind Discovery and Stand Pat in the Arlington Handicap (1 1/4 mi.). Carrying 135 lbs., Discovery’s time in the Arlington H. (2:01 1/5) lowered the track record set by the 3-year-old Omaha (2:01 2/5) the week prior and became the second fastest 1 1/4 miles ever run in America with the amount of weight (behind Whisk Broom’s 139 lb. impost and debated final time of 2:00 in the 1913 Suburban Handicap).

Riskulus - Stars and Stripes H. results (NYT 1935.07.05)Riskulus - Arlington H. results (NYT 1935.07.28)

Riskulus would then make his first trip to the East Coast, winning the Penn A. C. Handicap (1 mi.,70 yds.) at Havre de Grace on September 19 by a half-length over Stocks and then run unplaced in the Havre de Grace Handicap (1 1/8 mi.) in late September.

Following his time at Havre de Grace, he would move to Laurel Park, where he would win the Cumberland Handicap (1 1/16 mi.) by a head over Stocks on October 2, run second to Psychic Bid in the mud plagued Laurel Stakes (1 mi.) on October 12, and finish second by a nose to Tabitha in the Somerset Purse (1 1/16 mi.) on October 23.

Riskulus - Cumberland H. results (NYT 1935.10.03)Riskulus - Laurel S. results (NYT 1935.10.13)
Riskulus then possibly ran unplaced in the Laurel Handicap at Laurel Park on October 25 or the Riggs Handicap at Pimlico in early November, but this is unconfirmed.

Heading southwest to Arlington Downs following his time in Maryland, Riskulus would run unplaced in the Waggoner Memorial Handicap (1 1/8 mi.) on November 16 and second by a head to Ariel Cross in the Fort Worth Handicap (1 1/16 mi.) on November 20.

Riskulus - Waggoner Memorial results (LAT 1935.11.17)Riskulus - Fort Worth H. results (NYT 1935.11.21)

Riskulus - Au Revoir H. results (CT 1935.12.15)

Following their time in Texas, the Church horses would move to Bay Meadows in Northern California for the remainder of the year, where Riskulus would run unplaced in the Au Revoir Handicap (1 1/16 mi.) on December 14.

1936: (4) 0-0-0 / $0

Riskulus would finish fifth in the New Year’s Day Stakes (1 1/16 mi.) at Santa Anita on January 1. He is reported to have grabbed a quarter during the race.

Riskulus - New Year's Day results (NYT 1936.01.02)

Following some time away from training due to the quarter injury, Riskulus would next run in the Santa Anita Handicap on February 22, turning in a lackluster effort with a thirteenth place finish behind winner Top Row.

Riskulus - photo Top Row SA H. win (NYT 1936.02.23)

Top Row (1931 b. c. by Peanuts – Too High by High Time).
Photo: The New York Times, 02/23/1936

Riskulus - Santa Anita H. chart (LAT 1936.02.23)

Riskulus reportedly arrived at Arlington Park on June 11 and ran unplaced in two unknown races during the rest of 1936 – possibly in Chicago.

1937: (0) 0-0-0 & Retirement

While an expected contender for the Santa Anita Handicap (1 1/4 mi.) on February 27, trainer Woody Fitzgerald apparently had other plans. Back on January 1, following a win in a six furlong race, the Church/Fitzgerald horse Proclivity reportedly tested positive for alkaloids. Upset at the allegations, Church would boycott the remainder of the Santa Anita meeting.

Riskulus - Santa Anita H. out headline (LAT 1937.02.11)

“Riskulus was officially declared from the $100,000 Santa Anita Handicap yesterday by E. L. (Woody) FitzGerald, trainer for Norman W. Church. FitzGerald made out an official scratch blank yesterday morning, will load his former handicap threat with his other horses this morning en route for the Church ranch in San Jose.

When FitzGerald made out the scratch blank, he was asked why, so that the space provided might show the reason.

“Shall I say because you are mad at us?” queried Racing Secretary Webb Everett.

“Yes!” said FitzGerald, as he stomped out of the office.” (Los Angeles Times, 02/11/1937)

Riskulus would subsequently be retired and enter stud at Tollie Young’s Creekview Farm the same year.

Riskulus - North Shadow filly (LAT 1939.07.24)

Riskulus initially entered stud in 1937 at Tollie Young’s Creekview Farm (KY), before reportedly (according to scant internet evidence) being eventually purchased by Dr. John C. Burnett for $30,000 and retired to his Wild Horse Island in northwest Montana. This is unconfirmed, and accounting for inflation, would have been a wildly high price (approx. $250,000-$400,000 depending on the year of sale) to pay for horse as unsuccessful and unproven to that point in the stud as Riskulus; however, he does have at least two reported foals who appear to have been foaled in the state of Montana (Montana Risk (1951), Hayne’s Risk (1952)).

Riskulus was the sire of 52 reported foals, with 42 starters (81%) and 31 winners (60%) totaling $317,883 in earnings. His highest earner was Sorisky (1941 b. c. o/o Sobieha by Sir Gallahad (FR)), earner of $42,419 and a record of (102) 19-11-12 over nine years of racing (1943-1951).

His 1938 filly out of North Shadow (later named Risky Lady) is pictured at right as a yearling in 1939. She would race for four years (1940-1943), retiring with a record of (26) 5-3-2 / $2,355.


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