Foals of 1868

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)

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