Champions

Photo of champion Longstreet, ca. 1891

Photo of retrospective 1891 Horse of the Year Longstreet (1886 b. c. by Longfellow – Semper Idem by Glen Athol (GB)), as published in The Illustrated American (Vol. VIII, No. 86, for the week ending 10/10/1891).

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November 1929: Obituary of Rose of Sharon

Photo of champion Rose of Sharon (1926 br. f. by Light Brigade (GB) – Rosa Mundi by Plaudit) as published in John Hervey’s Racing in America 1922-1936, written for The Jockey Club.

“VERSAILLES, Ky., Nov. 8. – The American thoroughbred breeding industry and the turf in particular suffered an almost irreparable loss here today when former Senator Johnson N. Camden’s champion filly of the year, Rose of Sharon succumbed to pneumonia.

A winner in ten of her fourteen starts, which included two seconds, a third and unplaced but once, the prepossessing 3-year-old daughter of Light Brigade – Rosa Mundi, was believed destined to rank with Princess Doreen, My Dear and other great stars of her sex had it not been for her untimely end.

Rose of Sharon’s victories during the present year came in the Ashland, Kentucky, Pimlico and Illinois Oaks, Potomac Handicap and Chicago Test, the latter event a race Mike Hall is alleged to have ducked when connection learned of the filly’s nomination.

Her earnings for the year amounted to $64,069. She went amiss at Laurel about two weeks ago and Trainer Dan Stewart immediately threw her out of training. It was during the trip westward that she contracted the fatal pneumonia.

Rose of Sharon did not start as a 2-year-old but made her record in the 3-year-old class. Rose of Sharon was the only filly ever to have won the Four Oaks. Her last win was in the Potomac Handicap. The filly started in fourteen races, finished first ten times, second twice, third once and was unplaced once. Her winnings totaled $64,069.” (The Washington Post, 11/09/1929)

October 1878: Obituary of Harry Bassett

Illustration of Harry Bassett as published in Harper’s Weekly (Vol. XV, No. 764), 08/19/1871.

“He was a large horse, being over 16 hands high, chestnut in color, with a beautiful star and a slight blaze running down his face and inclining toward his right nostril. His hind feet were white half way to the hocks. He was a magnificently formed horse and looked like a first-class racer, as he was. He had a splendid head, well set on a strong neck, running into powerful and well-inclined shoulders. With great body, he possessed a good back and strong loins, powerful quarters, with well-extended and strong limbs. He dropped well down in the flanks, and had strong and powerful stifles. With good legs and feet, strong arms, and clean hocks, he looked a thorough race-horse.” (The New York Times, 10/28/1878)


Harry Bassett, one of the most noted horses that ever appeared on the American turf, and the champion 3-year old of his year, died yesterday at the farm of Col. McDaniel, at Trenton, N. J. Since his retirement from the turf Harry Bassett has been regarded as one of the coming stallions, but death has suddenly deprived the turf of his services.

In his prime Harry Bassett was as popular as that phenomenal colt, Duke of Magenta, who is henceforth destined to measure strides with the champions of the British turf, and, like the latter, Bassett was regarded as invincible.

Bassett was foaled April 27, 1868, and was consequently in his eleventh year. He was sired by the now famous Lexington, the sire of a line of victorious horses. Bassett’s dam was Canary Bird, a chestnut mare, foaled in 1867, who was sired by Albion, who was foaled in 1837, bred by M. E. Peel, and imported in the ship China to Charleston, S. C., in January, 1839. He was sired by Cain or Active [sic], out of Panthea, by Comus.

Canary Bird ran many races as a 3 and 4 year old, but without success. Her only produce besides Bassett was Ortolan, by Donerall. Canary Bird’s dam was Panola, by imported Aincler, and her dam was Sweetbrier, by Recovery; her dam Primrose, by Comus, and she out of Cowslip, by Cockfighter.

Harry Bassett was purchased at the Woodburn sale of yearlings in 1869 by S. D. Bruce, for Col. McDaniel, the price being $315. He was a large horse, being over 16 hands high, chestnut in color, with a beautiful star and a slight blaze running down his face and inclining toward his right nostril. His hind feet were white half way to the hocks. He was a magnificently formed horse and looked like a first-class racer, as he was. He had a splendid head, well set on a strong neck, running into powerful and well-inclined shoulders. With great body, he possessed a good back and strong loins, powerful quarters, with well-extended and strong limbs. He dropped well down in the flanks, and had strong and powerful stifles. With good legs and feet, strong arms, and clean hocks, he looked a thorough race-horse.

Harry Bassett’s career justified the expectations regarding his appearance and breeding. He made his debut as a 2-year-old in 1870, when he started four times, and was thrice a winner. He made his debut in the Saratoga Stakes when he was unnamed, and was unsuccessful, running third to Mary Louise, then owned by John O’Donnell. His next appearance was in the Kentucky Stakes, also at Saratoga, one mile, when he defeated in fine style his seven competitors, on a heavy track, in 1:51. The stake was worth $3,400. He next appeared in the Nursery Stakes, at Jerome Park, which he won in 1:49 ¼, Fifteen horses started, and the stake was worth $4,000. His fourth and last appearance as a 2-year-old was in the Supper Stakes, at Baltimore, one mile, when he defeated his only competitor, Madame Dudley, in 1:49 ¼; the value of the stake being $7,350.

As a 3-year old Harry Bassett started nine times, and on every occasion defeated his competitors with ease. He won the Belmont Stakes from 10 competitors, among them being Monarchist and Wanderer, neither of whom were placed. The stake was worth $5,850, and the time was 2:56 – the distance of the race at that time being a mile and five furlongs. He supplemented this by winning in succession the Jersey Derby at Long Branch, the Travers and Kenner Stakes at Saratoga, the Champion (now called Jerome) Stakes, and a dash of a mile and three-quarters at the Jerome Park Fall meeting; the Reunion, now called the Dixie Stakes, and a dash of a mile and a half at Baltimore, and wound up his career as a 3-year old at the same meeting by winning the Bowie Stakes, four mile heats, beating Helmbold, who was then 5 years old, in two straight heats, which was a great performance for a 3-year old, especially against so good a horse on a heavy track.

As a 4-year-old Harry Bassett started twelve times and won nine of the events. He began the season by beating Lyttleton for the Westchester Cup at Jerome Park, which he followed up by distancing Metelia, at two-mile heats, at the same meeting. He then left the scene of his triumphs for Long Branch, to meet Longfellow in the Monmouth Cup. The scenes of that memorable day are still fresh in the minds of turfmen. Such a crowd has never assembled on a race-course in this country before or since. Longfellow won a hollow victory, and then Bassett was taken to Saratoga, and won the All-aged Stakes, one mile and a quarter, and three days afterward again met Longfellow in the Saratoga cup. It was the fiercest struggle ever seen in this country, and Bassett won in 3:59, Longfellow breaking down in the race. Bassett had now disposed of Longfellow, and had everything clear before him until he met Monarchist, in the Maturity Stakes, four miles, at the Jerome Park Fall meeting. Hayward, the well-known English jockey, who was then riding for Mr. Sanford, prayed the latter to allow him (Hayward) to run at Bassett from the start, and being allowed to have his way, Bassett was defeated. At the same meeting they again measured strides in a dash of four miles, and Bassett again lowered his colors. This was his last appearance for the season.

In 1873, being 5 years old, Harry Bassett appeared eight times, but gained only two victories. Being forced by circumstances and the importunities of his partners, Col. McDaniel entered Bassett in all sorts of races in 1874, and finally ran the great horse virtually off his legs, and was obliged to retire him. With this action the famous McDaniel confederacy was broken, and the Colonel entered upon a career of misfortune. Harry Bassett had shown his ability as a race-horse until he was abused, and gave promise of making a name as a sire, as shown by the running of the two fillies Fawn and Lillian. His early death will be regretted by turfmen, with whom he was a general favorite.” (The New York Times, 10/28/1878)

July 1930: Enthusiasts in autos follow Gallant Fox to the track when training at Saratoga

“SARATOGA SPRINGS, N. Y., July 28. – James Fitzsimmons, trainer of Gallant Fox, William Woodward’s 3-year-old champion, has a new problem on his hands because of the popularity of the colt.

At first the number of visitors to the stall caused it to be roped off, as too many folks wanted to talk to the horse. Then Fitzsimmons built a light wooden railing at a greater distance from the stall. Now his flivver, which he uses when going out early in the morning for training, is followed by a long line of autos. They all want to see Gallant Fox gallop.

Many are lay folks who cannot tell Gallant Fox from a lead pony and ask Fitzsimmons innumerable questions. But thus far they have gotten courteous answers, for Fitzsimmons, who is known far and wide as Sunny Jim, is as good-natured as trainers come.”
(The New York Times 07/29/1930)

On Sysonby’s overstep and propulsion

Sysonby was a horse with tremendous leverage in his hind legs. Few horses do more than slightly overstep the imprint of the front feet, whereas the imported son of Melton completely cleared it, indication enough of the great propulsion he possessed in the rear.”
(Leonard W. Collins / The Washington Post, 04/28/1929)

PHOTO - Sysonby Flash S. (HW Vol. XLVIII No. 2487 1904.08.20)

Sysonby wins the 1904 Flash Stakes at Saratoga over Augur (2nd).
Photo by N. W. Penfield as published in Harper’s Weekly (Vol. XLVII, No. 2487), 08/20/1904.

On champion Decathlon’s unorthodox running style

“Physically handicapped horses, like their human counterparts, sometimes scale to great heights. One of the more telling cases is that of King Ranch’s Assault, Triple Crown winner of 1946, which had a club foot. Now along comes Decathlon.

Considered the fastest sprinter among the 3-year-olds, which not only was born with a club-footed left fore hoof, but seriously aggravated his right fore hoof by jamming a nail through it after a workout at Hialeah early in the winter of 1955.

Decathlon almost did not survive the blow, but after five weeks, trainer Rollie Shepp succeeded in getting the colt to step on his hoof again. There has been a noticeable effect in the colt’s running action ever since.

The son of Olympia-Dog Blessed races as if he were shot from a rifle. He throws his injured member out to the side in a “straddling” gesture that makes him appear as if he were in a spinning, trajectory flight towards the wire.”
(Walter Haight / The Washington Post and Times Herald, 04/11/1956)