1940: Old Equipoise lives again in Carrier Pigeon

“Belmont Park, N. Y., March 23. – Up in horse heaven (wherever that may be) a liver-colored old stallion is keeping a weather eye cocked these spring days on the antics of one of his sons, and likely as not doing a powerful lot of wishful thinking.

Photo: The Michigan Daily, 04/19/1940.

He’s a battle scarred veteran of the turf wars himself – none other than the indomitable “Chocolate Solider” – and Biblical Bimelech or no he may have a hunch that this son is going to come along and freshen up pa’s famous footsteps.

Anybody with half a memory can thumb back to the racing things that counted in the early ’30s and remember how Equipoise was winning ’em the hard way coming through and around from behind, no matter what the distance his tail straight out as a tight string. A sort of flag, it was, for him to flaunt in the noses of the vanquished.

Well, this son of his, Carrier Pigeon, has the same habits (smack down to the straight out tail), and he’s the spittin’ image, so they say, of his daddy. He hasn’t been really tried as yet, starting only twice as a juvenile, but both times he put away everything that went up against him. It wasn’t any fault of his that the competition turned out to be just so-so.

The sort of talk going around now about Bradley’s Bimelech would indicate that colts and fillies of consequence which he hasn’t licked are scarcer than dollars in a panhandler’s pocket. So, speaking like a lawyer in court for the moment, we beg to take an exception – Carrier Pigeon. He hasn’t eaten any of his dust – yet.

This may come with the Derby, Preakness or Belmont, but remember, you can climb out on a limb with Bimelech, too. and have it sawed off short, just the same as with any other fragile thoroughbred.

C. V. (Sonny) Whitney owns Carrier Pigeon an even a Kentucky Hardboot or a Vanderbilt either, cant sniff at his breeding. Three generations of finding out things by experience and mistakes are behind his royal pedigree.

His isn’t any sprint breeding. All through the pedigree names of stayers stick out, horses and mares that could run all day. And don’t forget that Man o’ War came from a blending of the Rock Sand and Fairy Gold blood. It’s the type of breeding you could muse over for days.

Sonny Whitney, modest young millionaire that he is, won’t give Carrier Pigeon’s well-wishers too much comfort. He has been disappointed before this. He can’t forget, either, that he has another colt of fine promise – Flight Command – in the 3-year-old field. He’s by Peace Chance–Top Flight, by Dis Donc. Remember Top Flight? A fleet filly, she was, indeed, and she earned more money than any other member of her sex.

Flight Command started four times, was once first, once second. But Carrier Pigeon is our story. He won both of his starts with ridiculous easy, the second by eight lengths with the boy looking back and taking it easy like he was in a rocking chair.

Photo: The Washington Post, 03/24/1940.

Let Whitney tell about that second start:

“He was off last. He came around the field and won galloping. He runs with his tail straight out behind him, just like Equipoise. You know, he’s got those funny spots on him. They’re supposed to be a great thing – the bend or spots.”

There have been a good many stories about what happened to Carrier Pigeon as a 2-year-old, why he never went to the post after the two outings at Saratoga.

The answer, simply, is this: He bruised a heel in the second start.

“I’ll tell you what happened,” said Whitney. “He apparently stepped on a stone in that last race. It would be the same as a stone bruise on the heel of a human being. I was pointing him for the hopeful (Bimelech won that one) and we felt he needed a hard work first. A veterinarian was there, the best one I could find, and all of us thought the bruise hadn’t healed enough. I could have got him ready for the futurity (Bimelech won that one, too), but decided to just put him aside. I thought it best to let up on him.”

The reason for the concern and careful handling?

“He is prospectively too valuable as a stallion to me,” Whitney continued. “In my way of thinking he is the right size for a 3-year-old. He stands about 16 hands.”

This chestnut colt with the funny spots and liver-colored coat is like his famous daddy in another respect. John Hervey, who writes as “Salvator,” once said that Equipoise required little strong work or severe training and never once before his 50-odd starts ever ran a trial in any way remarkable.

The young sportsman who owns him must have been thinking of something like that when he talked about Carrier Pigeon, for a faint and fleeting smile of pleasure softened his face. “He (Carrier Pigeon) isn’t a good morning horse,” he said, nibbling at the stem of his pipe, “and he only gives what is wanted. He’s very much like his sire, and he’s going to look just like him.”

This, then, is the story to date of the best son “The Chocolate Soldier” has sent to the races, and only two more crops remain, for Equipoise died suddenly in 1938.

It’s no simple task to touch his record: Fifty-one starts in six years, 29 wins, 10 seconds and 4 thirds. Winnings: $338,610. He went a mile once at Arlington in Chicago in 1:34 2-5, packing 128 pounds. Nothing was within three lengths of him at the finish line.

This huff-puff about Carrier Pigeon may be just so much whistling in the dark, but a wise old man who sits back in the necessary seclusion of a racing secretary’s office backs us up. There isn’t a partisan or biased opinion in John B. Campbell’s mind. He handicaps for the jockey club and weight goes on for merit, not fancy theories.

Even Sonny Whitney was ore than a mite surprised by what this sage veteran of the turf thought of Carrier Pigeon. The jockey club’s experimental handicap for 2-year-olds in which juvenile form is the sole guide had Bimelech on top, of course, with 130 pounds to pack. But in the second hole, and rated at 126 pounds, was the son of Equipoise.

Through the years that Campbell has rated the coming 3-year-olds he never once has put a colt over 126 pounds, with the exception of Bimelech. To our way of thinking that would make Carrier Pigeon the equal of any top 2-year-old of other seasons.

Perhaps Campbell doesn’t figure that he didn’t beat much. He saw how he did it, and it’s better than even he remembered “The Chocolate Soldier” charging up from behind with his tail straight out, winning with his ears pricked.

Carrier Pigeon, Flight Command and Whitney’s highly regarded juvenile colt, Sky Raider, a son of Man o’ War–Top Flight, came in the other day from Kentucky where they spent the winter resting up for the campaign ahead. Trainer E. L. Snyder has been legging them up for some weeks with long gallops, either on the outside mile track when weather permitted, or inside on cold, snowy days.

Not many days will pass before the horse parks will be bubbling over with gossip from the regulars on how fast this colt or that one worked in a trial. Carrier Pigeon probably will keep on about his business, and let Andy K and Bimelech and the others crack watches for the clockers. Maybe he knows you don’t pick up any cash money in the misty morning hours, and that the cash register rings only in the afternoon.” (Max Hill / The Washington Post, 03/24/1940)


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