The Pimlico Cup: Miss Grillo first, the rest nowhere

In October 1945,  the filly Miss Grillo (ARG), a longshot at odds of 26-1, would defeat favored colt Rico Monte (ARG) by a hard fought neck in the Gran Premio Nacional (2500m) at Buenos Aires. The two horses caught the eye of Argentinian-born trainer Horatio Luro, a man who knew a good horse when he saw one, and both were soon purchased (Miss Grillo for $20,000 on behalf of Mrs. Barclay Douglas – aka the late Josephine Hartford Bryce – of the Mill River Stable and Rico Monte for $35,000 on behalf of William Arnold Hanger) by Luro for a U.S. campaign.

Miss Grillo - 1947 Pimlico Cup headline (NYT 1947.11.14)The rivalry between Miss Grillo and Rico Monte would cross hemispheres, and having finished second by eight lengths to Rico Monte in the 1946 edition of the Pimlico Cup (2 ½ mi.), Miss Grillo (with her stablemate absent from the starting gate) would make the 1947 edition her own, winning by 40 lengths in 4:29 ⅘ over a “dull” track.

“It was on the second entrance into the stretch that Miss Grillo took the lead. With a mile to go the 5-year-old mare was three lengths in front of Calvados. With six furlongs left, she was ten to the good. Midway through the backstretch the last time she was twenty on top. The gap kept widening the rest of the way, finally reaching forty.”
(James Roach / The New York Times, 11/14/1947)

As they approached the finish line, jockey Conn McCreary stood up in the stirrups and gave a hearty wave to the crowd. By the time last place horse Shivaree had crossed the finish, Miss Grillo was halfway around the clubhouse turn and preparing to turn back to collect accolades.

PHOTO - Miss Grillo 1947 Pimlico Cup winPhoto: The Blood-Horse Golden Anniversary Edition: A Second Quarter Century of American Racing and Breeding, 1941-1965

1947 Pimlico Cup chart (NYT 1947.11.14)Chart of the 1947 Pimlico Cup, held on 11/13/1947 at Pimlico Race Course (The New York Times, 11/14/1947).
Note: This race is erroneously listed as being the fifteenth running, it should be the sixteenth.

A 40 length win would be the highlight of a career for many a racehorse, but Miss Grillo would return to the scene of her remarkable achievement to record an even more remarkable triumph.

Winning the 1948 Pimlico Cup by 1 ½ lengths over Flying Missel, Miss Grillo’s time of 4:14 ⅗ would shave two full seconds off the previous world record set by Golden Myth at Ascot on June 5, 1922 and lower the Pimlico track record (set by by Megogo in the 1944 Pimlico Cup) by 5 ⅖ seconds.

Miss Grillo - 1948 Pimlico Cup headline (NYT 1948.11.13)“Miss Grillo was coupled in the betting with J. de Atucha’s Bois Joli as the Trainer H. A. Luro entry. Bois Joli was used as a pacemaker and collapsed after doing that job for most of a mile. During this stage McCreary on Miss Grillo, Henri Mora on Flying Missel and Carson Kirk on Pilaster were restraining their mounts.

Miss Grillo was first to move. Walter M. Jefford’s Loyal Legion had supplanded Bois Joli in front. McCreary gave his mare the gun and she overtook Loyal Legion in noble fashion. The crowd expected the mare to draw far out, as was the case in the 1947 renewal.

However, Flying Missel and Pilaster rallied and went after the 6-year-old. McCreary went to a drive and it is well that he did. Flying Missel on the outside and Pilaster on the inside both packed punch in the early stretch. But approaching the wire, Miss Grillo turned on more steam and there was a daylight gap between her and her rivals going into the wire.”
(Walter Haight / The Washington Post, 11/13/1948)

1948 Pimlico Cup chart (WP 1948.11.13)Chart of the 1948 Pimlico Cup, held on 11/12/1948 at Pimlico Race Course (The Washington Post, 11/13/1948).
Note: They ran so fast that Flying Missel and Pilaster each apparently split into two.

The Pimlico strip was playing fast on Cup day, as two other track records would fall in addition to the record set by Miss Grillo. Royal Governor would lower the track record for 1 1/16 mi. (set by Capot earlier in the meeting) by ⅕ of a second to 1:42 ⅖, while Chains would lower the record for 1 ⅛ mi. (set by Watervale in the 1911 Preakness Stakes) by ⅕ of a second to 1:50 ⅘.

On another note, runner-up Flying Missel would claim a world record himself in 1949, setting a new world record for 2 1/16 mi. (3:32 ⅘) in the Daingerfield Handicap at Jamaica on November 15, 1949, lowering the previous record of 3:33 ⅖ set by Eurasian in the 1945 edition of the race. His record would in turn be lowered by Royal Castle (3:30 ⅖) in the 1950 Daingerfield, a race in which Flying Missel would run second.

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