Champions

March 1909: Obituary of Sir Dixon

Photo of Sir Dixon as published in Hoofprints of the Century: Excerpts from America’s oldest journal of horse racing and breeding, the Thoroughbred Record, and its predecessor publications, the Livestock Record and Kentucky Live Stock Record, as compiled and annotated by William Robertson (covering 1875-1919 and 1966-1974) and Dan Farley (1920-1965).

“Lexington, Ky., March 24. – Sir Dixon, Colonel E. F. Clay’s famous old thoroughbred stallion, is dead. Sir Dixon, while romping in his paddock at Runnymede stud, near Paris, yesterday afternoon, fell and broke a bone in his right hip. Colonel Clay, seeing that it would be impossible to save the son of Imported Billet and Jaconet, by Imp. Leamington, had him destroyed.

Sir Dixon was bread in the Runnymede stud and was foaled in the spring of 1885, making him 24 years old. As a yearling he was sold to W. S. Barnes, who disposed of him at the same age to Green B. Morris, for whom, as a two-year-old, he won the Camden and Select Stakes and Flatbush Handicap.

Morris took him to Washington the following spring, 1888, and won the Analostan Stakes, then moved on to Brooklyn and won the Carlton Stakes so easily from Raceland, the only other starter, that Dwyer Brothers bought him for a large price. For them he won that year the Withers, the Belmont, the Travers and the Lorillard Stakes. He did not go to the post in 1889. His only victory in 1890 was the defeat of Taragon in the St. James Hotel Stakes at Brooklyn, and his racing career ended with his breakdown in a high weight handicap sweepstakes at Coney Island in June of that year.

Sir Dixon’s winnings for Mr. Morris and the Dwyer Brothers aggregated nearly $50,000, and after his breakdown he was sold to Colonel Clay and Catesby Woodford, for something like $6,000, to become the premier stallion at Runnymede.

The first of Sir Dixon’s get made their appearance in racing in 1894, and the following is a schedule of their winnings:

1894 . . . . . . . . . . . $61,470
1895 . . . . . . . . . . . $25,435
1896 . . . . . . . . . . . $41,208
1897 . . . . . . . . . . . $35,085
1898 . . . . . . . . . . . $83,617
1899 . . . . . . . . . . . $59,499
1900 . . . . . . . . . . . $68,806
1901 . . . . . . . . . . . $206,926
1902 . . . . . . . . . . . $92,092
1903 . . . . . . . . . . . $32,165
1904 . . . . . . . . . . . $75,454
1905 . . . . . . . . . . . $99,905
1906 . . . . . . . . . . . $64,916
1907 . . . . . . . . . . . $68,070
1908 . . . . . . . . . . . $24,392

Making an aggregate of $1,039,040 in 15 years.

The most distinguished performers by Sir Dixon were Alpen, Ahom, Agile, Audience, Blues, Blue Girl, Butterflies, Captain Arnold, Conjurer, Countess Irma, Diminutive, Disobedient, Dr. Bernays, Druid, Donation, Elusive, Femesole, George Arnold, George B. Cox, Hymettus, Jack Point, John Bright, Kernel, Kilmarnock, Martha Gorman, Memories, Mercer, Maceo, Necedah, Nones, Queen Dixon, Orimar, Outcome, Running Water, Six Shooter, Sir Vassar, Sir Dixon Jr., Sweet Dixie, South Breeze, Sir Oliver, Sir Hubert, Surmise, The Conqueror, Thirty-Third, Yankee Girl.

The star winners of these were: Blue Girl, $68,900; Blues, $62,805; Running Water, $52,990; Butterflies, $50,830; Agile, $49,332; Kilmarnock, $46,595.” (Cincinnati Enquirer, 03/25/1909)

Sir Dixon’s champion daughter Blue Girl (1899 ch. f. o/o Bonnie Blue by Hindoo) as a 2-year-old. Photo as published in Management of Breeding of Horses by Merritt Wesley Harper, 1913.

July 1904: Highball runs his final race

PHOTO - Highball (The Metropolitan Magazine, Vol. 21 Issue 2, Nov. 1904)

Photo of Highball (1901 b. c. Ben Strome (GB) – Strychinia by Strachino (GB)) as published in The Metropolitan Magazine (Vol. 21, Issue 2), November 1904.

Highball, largest winner of 1903 among the two-year-olds, and the New York trained colt that went to Chicago and captured the American Derby at Washington Park three weeks ago, came to the end of his sensational career at the Brighton Beach race track yesterday, when in contest for the Sea Gate [sic] Stakes, and hardly more than a furlong from the finish, he broke his left fore leg and suffered such injuries that, as there was no hope of saving him, he was shot to put him out of his pain.

The accident to the great colt, valued at $40,000, and the result that it led to, marred the afternoon’s racing, for every spectator on the course, as for nearly and hour and a half after he had been crippled Highball was in plain sight of the crowds in the grand and field stands, standing either on the track or in the infield, quivering with agony, while the track officials and the horse’s owner and trainer waited for an ambulance to move him out of sight, as it was thought best not to shoot him while the crowd was present, and there was promise that some means of moving him back to the stables speedily would be found.

Highball with trainer Bud May at Chicago 1904 (SDN-002447, Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago History Museum)

Photo of Highball with trainer Bud May at Chicago, 1904 (Item SDN-002447, Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago History Museum).

As an additional reason for the delay in destroying the famous colt, it was stated that the owner, Walter M. Scheftel, hesitated to have Highball killed because of fear that such an order from him might vitiate an insurance of $25,000, held on the life and well-being of the colt. That Highball was insured for such a large sum is a fact, but Mr. Scheftel was in no way to blame for the delay, as even when in doubt as to whether or not he might be able to recover the amount of the policy if he permitted the colt to be killed he gave the order that Highball be shot if there was no way of saving him.

Later in the day, after a wait of more than an hour for a horse ambulance and agents of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Highball was led limping on three legs and stumbling across the track to the stables beyond the field stand, and here, by order of the owner, was shot under the supervision of Veterinary Surgeons Ashe and Farley. The destruction of the colt, as later was ascertained by Mr. Scheftel, did not remove the liability of the insurance company – in this case Lloyds of London – as there was a clause in the contract providing that in case of injury which would destroy the usefulness of the animal insured, and from which there was no chance of saving him, the certificate of two qualified veterinary surgeons to that effect would permit of the destruction of the horse, without effect on the validity of the policy.

Highball with trainer Bud May at Chicago 1904 (SDN-002446, Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago History Museum)

Photo of Highball with trainer Bud May at Chicago, 1904 (Item SDN-002446, Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago History Museum).

Highball came to his end in the fourth race of the day’s programme, the Seagate Stakes, at one mile and a furlong. Ridden by George Odom, Highball started a 2 to 1 on favorite, and though he walked a trifle sore in the paddock as the result of his hard campaign this Spring, warmed out of it and went to the post seeming perfectly fit to run a good race. Knight Errant made the pace, and Highball at the first turn tried to go wide, and there set Odom to work rapping him alongside the head to keep him in. To the turn, less than a quarter of a mile from the finish, Highball was well up, and his backers were expecting him to run over Knight Errant, still leading, when just as the three straightened out for the run down the straight Highball appeared to stumble, and then, wavering in his stride and all but falling, came to a stop, and let Knight Errant go on and win.

Highball in Chicago 1904 (SDN-002445 Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago History Museum)

Photo of Highball at Chicago, 1904 (Item SDN-002445, Chicago Daily News negative collection, Chicago History Museum).

Odom dismounted as soon as Highball came to a stop, and held the horse’s bridle while Trainer May and Owner Scheftel, accompanied by a number of horsemen, ran up to the colt, standing in the middle of the track, about thirty yards beyond the turn. Veterinary Surgeon F. W. Ashe was called at once, and after a careful examination of the colt he declared that Highball had broken the bone of his lower left leg in two places, and gave it as his opinion that there was no chance to save the colt either for racing or breeding purposes. For humanity’s sake he advised that Highball be destroyed, in which opinion Veterinary Farley concurred after he too had examined the colt.

Highball in Chicago 1904 (SDN-002443 Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago History Museum)

Photo of Highball at Chicago, 1904 (Item SDN-002443, Chicago Daily News negative collection, Chicago History Museum).

Trainer May, who owns a half interest in the colt, demurred at the advice of the insurance man who joined the group, but later yielded to his partner, and after a long wait for an ambulance Highball was led stumbling across the track to get him out of sight of the thousands in the stands and then was shot by an aid to the veterinarians.

In all the time that he waited for the end, Highball, stumbling and falling, kept his ears pointed and showed fight when the grooms who helped him across the track tried to hurry him too fast.

Highball at Chicago 1904 (SDN-002442, Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago History Museum)

Photo of Highball at Chicago, 1904 (Item SDN-002442, Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago History Museum).

To insure a racehorse is unusual in this country, but Mr. Scheftel knew that Lloyds took all sorts of commercial risks, and the insurance was accomplished without difficulty through a New York agent. The policy written, as is customary in English insurance for animals, was for one year, and the premium was 8 per cent. The policy, though for but a year, covered the time of the greatest risk to Highball, as he was engaged in races that extended through the season, and which represented a total value of about $200,000.

Highball this year has won nearly $33,000, inclusive of the American Derby at Chicago and the Spindrift Stakes at Sheepshead Bay, and the second and third money in the big stakes for which he has been placed, but that sum will not much more than pay the forfeits due for him in the many stakes for which he was entered.

Highball in Chicago 1904 (SDN-002444 Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago History Museum)

Photo of Highball at Chicago, 1904 (Item SDN-002444, Chicago Daily News negative collection, Chicago History Museum).

Last year as a two-year-old Highball won a total of $39,965, his victories including the Junior Champion, Golden Rod, Flatbush, and Grand Union Stakes.

Highball was a bay colt, three years old, by Ben Strome-Strichinia [sic], bred in Kentucky and bought by Messrs. Scheftel & May as a yearling in company with Pulsus, Wotan, and Steelmaker. Highball was the best of the stable, and his winning placed Mr. Scheftel, a new-comer on the turf, among the leading winners of 1903.

Following his campaign as a two-year-old, Highball early this Spring showed a rather sour temper, and also developed a somewhat unsound right fore leg. In several of his races he favored this leg, and it is supposed that when it hurt him yesterday he tried to ease it and threw all his weight on his sound leg, the one on the rail side, and thus broke the bone.”
(The New York Times, 07/13/1904)

Highball in Chicago 1904 (SDN-002440B Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago History Museum)

Photo of Highball at Chicago, 1904 (Item SDN-002440B, Chicago Daily News negative collection, Chicago History Museum).

Highball in Chicago 1904 (SDN-002441 Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago History Museum)

Photo of Highball at Chicago, 1904 (Item SDN-002441, Chicago Daily News negative collection, Chicago History Museum).

On Sickletoy and the origin of Sickle’s Image

“Find a man who has bred horses and you’ve found a game guy. Locate one responsible for a one-in-a-million-shot mating that hit the jackpot and you must be talking with L. E. “Buck” McClellan.

He suggested the union of Sickletoy and Ariel Image, from whence originated Sickle’s Image, earner of almost $400,000 for Clarence Hartwick, and recognized as an outstanding race mare.

McClellan is now campaigning at Charles Town. It has been some time since he’s had a thoroughbred of Sickletoy’s ability.

After a successful racing career, during which he returned slightly less than $25,000 on an initial $3500 investment Sickletoy was installed at stud at McClellan’s 60-acre farm at Hicksville, Ohio, near the Indiana border.

As is the case quite often when trying to “make” a stallion, McClellan offered free services. At that time, as he explains it, “I was friendly with Hartwick. We had raced against one another. In fact, he had claimed a horse from me, and, later I got the horse back the same way. Anyway, he had a mare named Ariel Image. She had broken down in the fall of 1946, a few months after Sickletoy had gone wrong. In a way it is rather odd. They both broke down in New England, at different tracks, and then were brought together in Ohio.”

Sickletoy was bred to only two mares that first season 1947, and the remarkable fact is that, against almost overwhelming odds – a 1-to-1,000,000-chance – came Sickle’s Image, a very well-named animal since she favors her defunct sire in conformation.

After the death of his breeder, Joseph E. Widener, the then 2-year-old Sickletoy was along with other stock of the sportsman, offered for sale. Sickletoy was a son of Sickle – Way About [sic] by Fair Play. At the time McClellan was training for partners Rice and Goshen. They bought Shuffle, Watercolor, Glance About and Sickletoy for $12,000 estimating the latter at $3500.

As a three-year-old in 1944, he won seven of 12 starts then with the war blackout of the sport in 1945 journeyed to Mexico City. One of his best efforts there was in the $25,000 added handicap De Las Americas, in which he was fourth to Gay Dalton.

Subsequently he came back to the United States, broke down in 1946, begot Sickle’s Image and had to be destroyed in 1949.” (Walter Haight / The Washington Post, 03/07/1954)


Despite the above article listing Sickletoy’s death occurring in 1949, the Jockey Club reports his year of death as 1950. Sickletoy, a half-brother to Bolingbroke (Equipose), Thataway (Polynesian), and Whiffenpoof (Bull Dog), would sire only two registered foals prior to his death.

In addition to the aforementioned Sickle’s Image, Sickletoy would also sire the colt Sickle Star (o/o Vickie Vee by The Code), who following a seven-year race career (1951-1957) would retire with a record of (68) 4-9-2 and $4,725 in earnings. Sickle Star would sire no registered foals.

Sickle’s Image would race for five years (1950-1954), retiring with a record of (73) 27-13-16, two track records, a multitude of stakes, and $413,275 in earnings. Like her sire, Sickle’s Image would only produce two registered foals, both by the Sir Gallahad (FR) stallion Roman: Roman Image (1956 br. f) and Thirty Romans (1957 b. c.).

Thirty Romans would race for three years (1960-1962) and retire with a record of (32) 2-3-4 and $7,737 in earnings. He would enter the stud upon retirement, siring 118 foals, of which he had 96 starters and 69 winners (5 stakes winners) totaling $4,494,960 in earnings. Two of his most noteworthy progeny were the Louisiana-bred champion fillies Lil’ Liza Jayne (Louisiana-bred Champion 2-Year-Old Filly of 1977 and Champion 3-Year-Old of 1978) and Sassy Bee (Louisiana-bred Champion 3-Year-Old Filly of 1973 and Co-Champion 4-Year-Old and Up of 1975).

Roman Image would race for three years (1958-1960), set a track record at River Downs, and retire with a record of (31) 6-3-2 and $13,165 in earnings. Upon retirement, she would enter the breeding shed, ultimately producing the seven foals listed below:

Gunflint ad

Ad for Gunflint courtesy of sporthorse-data.com.

Gunflint (1963 (Mar. 16) b. c. by Rough’n Tumble)
-Bred in Florida by Frances A. Genter.
-Selling for $59,000 as a 2-year-old in January 1965, Gunflint became the highest priced colt ever sold at the Florida Breeders’ Sales vendue at Hialeah.
-Raced for 4 years (1965-1968), retired with a record of (28) 5-3-4 / $105,735.
-1st Kent S. (8.5f,DEL), 2nd Garden State S. (8.5f,GS), 3rd Hibiscus S. (7f,HIA)

Retired to Ocala Stud in Ocala, FL, Gunflint would sire 285 foals, of which he had 242 starters and 208 winners (19 stakes winners) totaling $6,309,479 in earnings. His chief earner was the outstanding filly Miss Musket, winner of the Santa Susana S. (8.5f,SA), Santa Ysabel S. (8.5f,SA), Fantasy S. (8.5f,OP), and Hollywood Oaks (9f,HP), who despite her stakes accomplishments ultimately became best known for her match race that wasn’t against Chris Evert at Hollywood Park in 1974.

Sickle’s Shadow (1964 (Mar. 17) dkb/br. f. by Rough’n Tumble)
-Unraced; bred in Florida by Frances A. Genter.
-Did not produce her first foal until the age of ten. Ultimately produced four registered foals: Sonex (1974 c. by Son Excellence), Rough n Ready (1980 c. by The Real McCoy), Determined George (1982 c. by Determined King), and Spanish Shadow (1988 c. by Spanish Hind (IRE)).

Unnamed colt (1966 (Apr. 4) ch. c. by Rough’n Tumble)
-Bred in Florida by Frances A. Genter.

Silver Image (1967 (May. 17) gr. f. by Native Charger)
-Bred in Florida by Frances A. Genter.
-Raced for 2 years (1970-1971), retired with a record of (11) 0-0-0 /$555.
-Did not produce her first foal until the age of eleven. Ultimately produced two registered foals: Silverbluff (1978 c. by Big Bluffer) and Silver Khartoum (1985 f. by Khartoum).

Real Image (1970 (Mar. 19) b. c. by In Reality)
-Bred in Florida by Frances A. Genter.
-Raced for 3 years (1973-1975), retired with a record of (22) 4-4-1 / $25,200.

Real Dream (1971 (Apr. 10) ch. f. by In Reality)
-Bred in Florida by Frances A. Genter.
-Raced for 1 year (1973), retired with a record of (4) 1-1-1 / $3,530.
-Produced no foals.

Unnamed colt (1972 (May 12) ch. c. by In Reality)
-Bred in Kentucky by Thoroughbred Breeding Corp.

Photo of champion filly Now What

Below is a photograph of the Chance Play filly Now What, Champion 2-Year-Old Filly of 1939, taken with Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt and Morning Telegraph editor James F. Milner.

Out of the High Time mare That’s That, herself a full sister to champion Sarazen, Now What would continue the family predisposition towards championships, later foaling the Bull Lea filly Next Move, Champion 3-Year-Old Filly of 1950 and Co-Champion Handicap Mare of 1952.

Now What (For Gold and Glory)

Photo of Now What as published in For Gold and Glory: The Story of Thoroughbred Racing in America by Charles B. Parmer.

Notes on then yearling Campfire, champion 2-year-old of 1916

“NEW YORK, Nov. 8.—Horsemen who desire to keep in touch with racing find the study of yearlings particularly interesting at this season of the year, and the fine weather of October and thus far in November has greatly facilitated these studies. The yearlings of many of the leading stables owned in and about New York are now being given their early lessons, and already not a few have been picked out as especially promising candidates for honors in the two-year-old division of the season of 1916.

R. T. Wilson’s American-bred yearlings, which are in the care of P. Dwyer, are coming on nicely, while in point of individuality they will compare favorably with any youngsters now quartered at Belmont Park.

A chestnut colt by Olambala—Nightfall, nearly or quite solid colored. This is a grand-looking big colt with beautiful quarters and fore-end, a strong, massive barrel and splendid limbs. He is a heavily-muscled colt and full of individuality, not as handsome as some of his stablemates, but a particular favorite with Trainer Dwyer who, having seen him in his workouts, may have some especial reason for his liking. He looks like a thoroughly good colt, not wholly without some small faults in his conformation, but they are not of the sort which a first-class race horse could well afford to have.” (The Thoroughbred Record (Vol. 82, No. 20), 11/13/1915)

Campfire photo (TB Record, Vol. 84 No. 10, 1916.09.02)

Photo: The Thoroughbred Record (Vol. 84, No. 10), 09/02/1916

Photo of Shecky Greene ca. 1976

The below is a photo of track record setting champion Shecky Greene, as published in the Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City, OK) in October 1976.

Shecky Greene - Oklahoma Historical Society (Daily Oklahoman, 1976.10.23) Shecky Greene (1970 b. c. by Noholme (AUS) – Lester’s Pride by Model Cadet)
Photo: Oklahoma Historical Society (originally published in the Daily Oklahoman, 10/23/1976)