Horses of Yesteryear

Chart of the week: Roamer wins the Saratoga Special, August 1913

Chart: New York Herald Tribune, 08/10/1913.


“Saratoga, Aug 9 – Andrew Miller’s Roamer won the Saratoga Special from a strong field of two-year-olds at the track here to-day like a colt of highest quality.

Breaking on his toes, Byrne took him right to the front, and this advantage counted, as the colt was good enough to force the pace, withstand a bold challenge from Gainer in the run around the turn and shake off his most dangerous rival inside the last sixteenth, to win by a length and a half in the good time of 1:13 for the six furlongs.

J. L. Holland’s Gainer was second, two lengths before E. R. Bradley’s Black Toney, with Punch Bowl fourth and the others badly strung out.

The start had much to do with the outcome. It was fair considering the size of the field, twelve horses going to the post, but in the scramble for position several suffered, including Early Rose, Punch Bowl, and Imperator, all of which were fancied to win. Captain Cassatt’s Spear Head [sic] was another unfortunate, being cut down in a way which may cause his retirement. Punch Bowl and Imperator were both slightly injured, the former being crowded against the fence.

After the race Andrew Miller was congratulated on all sides, and his delight at winning one of the most coveted stakes of the season was plain to see. He bought Roamer from Woodford Clay at Belmont Park two or three weeks ago for a price said to be $4,000 and would not part with him now for three time that amount. Mr. Clay was quite as pleased as Mr. Miller, but could not help expressing regret that he had parted with the horse before winning the real sprinting fixture of the year and the piece of plate, valued at $500, which is such a prized trophy.

Roamer won a selling race at Belmont Park in which he was entered to be sold for $1,000. At that time Albert Simmons bid him up to $2,200, but Mr. Clay retained him. Since then the colt has not shown enough to indicate that he could beat such a good field as he met to-day, but from now on he must be considered, when racing with the best, Old Rosebud excepted.” (New York Herald Tribune, 08/10/1913)

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)

1937: 2-year-old Tiger and his toothache

“Ever hear about this Tiger, the 2-year-old, and his toothache?” queried Mr. [Francis P.] Dunne; “it just goes to show that it might even pay to look a gift horse in the mouth now and then, though this Tiger isn’t exactly a gift horse.”

Photograph of Tiger (1935 br. c. by Bull Dog (FR) – Starless Moment by Night Star (GB)) as published in the Daily Racing Form, 04/21/1938

“Anyway, I think it was in his second race, this Tiger ran out and finished maybe fifth or sixth. They figured something was wrong. Something had bothered the colt or he never would have run like that. With some horses it may be blinkers or bandages – they run better with them on or off, as the case may be. Or it may be your horse has suddenly come down with dyspepsia, hookworm, housemaid’s knee or cholera morbus. You have to look into such things.

Well, they look this Tiger over and found he had a toothache, a violent one, according to all accounts. So they led him to a dentist and had the tooth yanked and he hasn’t lost a race since.”

Probably it was a lesson to the Milky Way 2-year-old. He thinks that if he loses another race they will take him to a dentist and have another tooth yanked. Plenty of humans would run pretty fast under the same spur.” (John Kieran / The New York Times, 08/31/1937)


Upon retiring to the stud in 1941, the stakes winning Tiger would sire the stakes winning Siama, 1960 Broodmare of the Year and dam of One-Eyed King and Bald Eagle.

Photo of Elf (GB) and Sylvabelle (GB), dam and granddam of Broomstick

 1893 photo of Broomstick’s dam Elf (GB) and granddam Sylvabelle (GB) as published in Memories of Men and Horses (1924) by William Allison.

Red Rain (126 lbs.) tops the 1935 Experimental Handicap

Following a brief suspension of the Experimental Handicap in 1934 due to the retirement of Walter Vosburgh (several outlets did publish their own unofficial rankings), the rankings resumed in 1935 under new Jockey Club handicapper Jack Campbell and have continued uninterrupted to the present day.


“Horsemen of thoroughbred persuasion, as well as lovers of racing, are looking forward to Jack Campbell’s Experimental Handicap for our two-year-olds, which is likely to be published shortly in “The Racing Calendar.”

It will be the official handicapper’s rating of the juveniles of 1935 along the lines of the Free Handicap in England. Walter S. Vosburgh instituted the Experimental Handicap in this country three or four years ago after a number of us had been pleading for it over a stretch of time.

It has been a distinct value for those who like to confirm their own figures, or, in any case, have a means for comparison, while a rating always is popular with the enthusiasts of any sport. The Experimental Handicap is more eagerly anticipated than usual this season because the two-year-olds have been so evenly matched, with no actual standout.

With only three or four stakes of prominence to be run before the season ends in the North, no changes of any importance in the present rating are likely. One, of course, must have the honor, always a questionable one, of heading the list at top weight, and it will be interesting to know on which one Jack Campbell places this distinction. So far as can be judged, there are at least six candidates for the place.

Lester Doctor expressed the opinion on Friday that J. E. Widener’s Brevity was the best, in his opinion, on his brilliant race in the Champagne Stakes, when he beat the Wheatley Stable’s Snark a head. His guess, no doubt, is as good as any, even though Brevity started only three times.

In my opinion, seven of our two-year-olds are not more than two pounds apart. These seven are Brevity, Marshall Field’s Tintagel, H. P. Headley’s Hollyrood, C. V. Whitney’s Red Rain, the Bomar Stable’s Grand Slam, the Coldstream Stud’s Coldstream and Morton L. Schwartz’s Bold Venture.” (George Daley / New York Herald Tribune, 11/17/1935)


List of weights for the 1935 Experimental Handicap:

126 lbs. – Red Rain
124 lbs. – Tintagel; Grand Slam; Hollyrood; Coldstream
123 lbs. – Brevity
122 lbs. – Snark
121 lbs. – White CockadeNed Reigh
120 lbs. – Bold Venture; Crossbow IIBow to MeThe Fighter; Sun Teddy
118 lbs. – Postage Due; Bien Joli; Delphinium; Memory Book
116 lbs. – Forever Yours (f); Triumphant; Jean Bart; Bright Plumage; Maeriel
115 lbs. – Split Second (f); Valevictorian; Infidox; Wise Duke; Black Highbrow
114 lbs. – Deliberator; Little Miracle (f); Beanie M. (f); Parade Girl (f); Seabiscuit
113 lbs. – Banister; Granville
112 lbs. – Bright and Early; Sparta (f); Clocks; Go Home; Mansco; Bow and Arrow; Galsac; Sangreal; Bright Light; Tatterdemalion
110 lbs. – Dnieper; Fair Knightess (f); Brush Hook; Booming Guns; Nedrow; Pharosay; Teufel; Empty Bottle; Mr. Bones
109 lbs. – Challephen
108 lbs. – Proclivity; Pelerine (f); Lemont; Billie Bane; Erin Torch; James City; He Did; Termination; Higher Cloud
106 lbs. – Danise M. (f); High Fleet (f); Maid of Perth (f); Sea Cradle (f); Thatagal (f); Tinkling Brook (f); Gleeman; Pullman; Piccolo; Wha Hae; Transporter; Boston Pal; Down Under; Indian Broom
105 lbs. – Toration; Winter Sport; Mag Mell (f); Ste. Louise (f); Victorious Ann (f); Tony’s Wife (f); Valse (f); Lovely Girl (f); Little Nymph (f); Neap; Faust; Her Reigh; Jair; Jay Jay; Redley; My Colin; Speed to Spare; Fair Stein (f)
104 lbs. – Knowing
102 lbs. – Sir Quest; Grog; War Emblem

*(f) Filly

Overall, sixty-three sires were represented among the one hundred horses weighted, with a total of twenty-two stallions having sired more than one horse on the list. As he did in the rankings of 1933, Sir Gallahad III once again led the list, this time with five horses listed. St. Germans (GB), Toro, and Victorian were next with four, followed by Blue Larkspur, Bull Dog (FR), Diavolo, Whichone, and Wise Counsellor with three. Bud Lerner, Display, Epinard (FR), Hard Tack, High Cloud, Jock, Man o’ War, Pharamond (GB), Polymelian (GB),  Royal Minstrel (GB), Sickle (GB), Sun Flag, and The Porter each had two horses make the list.


“Jack Campbell, official handicapper of The Jockey Club, puts C. V. Whitney’s Red Rain in the proud place at the top in his Experimental Handicap for two-year-olds of the season just closed.

The New York Times, 12/16/1935.

This handicap, which corresponds to the Free Handicap of England, is published in the current issue of “The Racing Calendar,” official organ of the turf’s governing body. Campbell assigns 126 pounds to Red Rain and thereby rates him as the best of his age in training this year.

As a further indication of the evenness of the juveniles of 1935, four two-year-olds are rated two pounds away from Red Rain at 124 each. These are Marshall Field’s Tintagel, winner of The Futurity; Hal Price Headley’s Hollyrood, winner of the Pimlico Futurity; Bomar Stable’s Grand Slam, that beat Tintagel in the Arlington Futurity; and Coldstream Stud’s Coldstream, that ran a dead heat with Red Rain in the Saratoga Special of six furlongs at Saratoga Springs early last August.

Campbell’s ratings of ninety-nine two-year-olds of both sexes are of particular interest to all followers of thoroughbred racing, chiefly as a barometer of that expert opinion which may guide respective owners and trainers of the juveniles involved through the treacherous three-year-old racing seas of 1936. …” (W. J. Macbeth / New York Herald Tribune, 12/16/1935)

August 1947: Quarter horse Barbra B defeats Fair Truckle (GB) in a 2 furlong match race at Hollywood Park

Quarter Horse Barbra B defeats Thoroughbred Fair Truckle (GB) in two furlong match race at Hollywood Park on August 4, 1947. Two months later, Fair Truckle would go on to set a new world record for six furlongs (1:08 2/5) at Golden Gate Fields in October 1947. In the stud, Fair Truckle would become the damsire of Soldier Girl, who equaled the world record for five furlongs (:56 2/5) at Del Mar in August 1964. Photo available from historicimages.com, part number neb63238.


“INGLEWOOD, Calif., Aug. 4 (AP) – Barbara B [sic], champion quarter horse of the Arizona-New Mexico bush tracks, stepped out of her class today and handed a proud thoroughbred, Fair Truckle, a fancy whipping in a quarter-mile dash for a winner-take-all purse authoritatively reported to be $100,000.

The little brown four-year-old filly, bred as a cow boy pony, simply was too fast for the expensive importation from Ireland, owned by the wealthy turfman Charles S. Howard. A wild cheer went up from an estimated 5,000 spectators, as Barbara B [sic] sprinted over the finish line two and one-half lengths in front in 21 3-5 seconds.

It was a colorful crowd, from the southwestern cow country, which walked through the open gate to watch the seldom-if-ever saga of the tracks. Clad mostly in wide-brimmed hats, boots and overall trousers, they occupied the boxes where last Saturday a fashionably dressed movie crowd helped close out the Hollywood Park season.

Aboard Fair Truckle, four-year-old son of Fair Trial by Truckle, was the veteran Johnny Longden. Up on Barbara B [sic], a not so costly importation from the Arizona ranch country, sired by a cheap thoroughbred and whose dam was a $30 mare, was Tony L. Licata, who has been riding Arizona tracks.

Barbara B’s [sic] owner, Roy Gill, of Tucson, was a spectator, but an attack of influenza kept Fair Truckle’s boss, C. S. Howard, in bed. His son, Bob, did the honors for the family.

Melville Haskell, president of the Quarter-Horse Racing Association of Arizona, apparently settled on the $100,000 nature of the purse. “I know it’s $100,000,” he declared, “but I guess the owners didn’t want too much said about that and we of the Quarter-Horse Association don’t either, because we look on this as more of a sporting proposition.”

The elder Howard earlier had spiked reports that his share was $50,000, describing it as “much less.” Each owner had posted a $10,000 forfeit.

Sporting proposition or no, there was plenty of cash in sight. Many of the visitors, from Arizona, New Mexico, and as far distant as Texas, were literally bulging with coin and greenbacks. Thousands of dollars in side bets changed hands. There was no pari-mutuel betting.

Hollywood Park officially took no part in the event, beyond leaving the gate open. The event had been advertised as closed to the public and otherwise the crowd might have been larger.

The race was set from a regulation starting gate set back forty-five feet from the quarter pole, a condition agreed upon because Barbara B [sic] wasn’t used to fancy gates. Before today, her trainer Lyo Lee, had claimed a time of 22 3-5 seconds for her over the quarter, but told reporters he feared the change in altitude from the New Mexico tracks where she had been running might tell on her.

She has been racing only a year, Gill picking her up for $3,000 after her original owners had decided she might be worth more racing than for calf roping. Each horse carried 110 pounds.

Contrary to appearances from the grandstand, Fair Truckle was out of the gate first, but Barbara B [sic] within a few strides grabbed the lead and Licata said he knew the race was in the bag from then on.

Longden was more specific.” (New York Herald Tribune, 08/05/1947)


“A recent composition in this corner dealt with the famous match race of a few years back when the quarter horse Barbra B outlegged the thoroughbred Fair Truckle two days after a regular Hollywood Park meeting.

It was a noteworthy event, for the late Charles S. (for Seabiscuit) Howard put up $50,000 in the belief that his Fair Truckle could fly a quarter of a mile faster than Barbra B, owned by Roy Gill of Arizona.

The cover that concealed the monetary problems attendant to a match race of such fiscal magnitude was pried off for us by Ralph W. Bilby, a well-known Tucson who is attorney and corporation director for the Gill brothers – Roy, Emmett and Adolph, successful and prosperous cattle ranchers.

Fair Truckle had been regarded as the forerunner of jet propulsion. Hailed as the fastest thing on four feet for a quarter of a mile, the Howard charger’s fame spread until it reached the ears of Roy Gill. A few discreet inquiries revealed that Howard was prepared to back his speedster with 50 grand against anything the quarter horse people could come up with short of a motorcycle. Gill promptly cranked up Barbra B.

Scores of Arizona cowpokes and ranch owners immediately beseeched Gill for a piece of his action. He retained $30,000 for his own interests, and let the rest of it out in bets ranging all the way from $50 to $500.

The day before the race Gill telephoned Bilby, who was vacationing in La Jolla, asking him to help him get the bets squared away.

“So I did,” Bilby explained. “Roy handed me a bundle of currency about a foot high. Did you ever try to count out $50,000 in 5s, 10s, 20s and nothing bigger than a century note? Don’t do it unless you get backed into a corner.

I’ll bet I counted that stuff 40 times trying to make it come out even Finally I was satisfied there was $50,000. I took it out to Hollywood Park with me and went over to an armored car we had hired for the occasion.

Pretty soon Mr. Howard’s emissary showed up. He was a suave, sophisticated, well-dressed gentleman who looked as if he had just stepped out of the U.S. Mint. I handed him my bundle. He counted it carefully and finally said, with great dignity, ‘I make 50.’

Then he extracted a thin envelope from his inside coat pocket. In it were 50 new, crisp $1000 bills. I determined not to let this guy make me look like a big hayshaker from Arizona, so I made a neat pile of them and replied, ‘I, too, make 50.’

As you know, Barbra B won by about two lengths. Outside was the armored car with $100,000 in it. I figured we’d leave it right there. But the moment the race was over, most of the people who had a chunk of Roy’s bet came up and demanded their money.

So out to the truck we went and I counted out what each man had coming to him. In the meantime, the armored wagon had departed and I had about $65,000 left. I put it in an envelope, stuck it in my pocket and we made for the nearest establishment specializing in liquid resuscitation. Well, one revitalizing led to another. Heaven only knows how many different spots we checked size and quality, but I recall we reached our hotel about 3 a.m.

Early the next morning I opened one eye. It was quite a trick, all things considered. Then panic set in and I hit the floor with both feet, grabbed for the light switch and tried to think what I’d done with the 65 grand. You know where it was? In an envelope on top of the dresser about eight feet from a door we’d forgotten to lock. I died a thousand deaths waiting for the bank to open so I could deposit it to Gill’s account in Tucson.

But if my nerves were a little quick then, you should have seen them when I picked up the morning paper. On the front page was a story about a grocer who had been killed that very night for a lousy 500 bucks. What do you suppose they would have done to me for $65,000?”
(Ned Cronin / Los Angeles Times, 05/09/1955)