Foals of 1937

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)

Hauca, Perida & Thingumabob

Hauca – 1936 ch. f. Wise Counsellor – Fire Boat by Big Blaze
Breeder/Owner: Glen Riddle Farm (Samuel D. Riddle)
Trainer: G. Conway

Record: (5) 3-1-0 / $2,255
ETR at Suffolk Downs (06/21/1938): 5 furlongs in :58 ⅘

Owned and bred by Sam Riddle, Hauca was a daughter of champion Wise Counsellor and the first foal out of the Big Blaze mare Fire Boat. Fire Boat was unraced, having been bred to Wise Counsellor as a 2-year-old.

Thingumabob – 1936 b. c. Boojum – Refine by Ormondale
Breeder: C. V. Whitney
Owner: Manhasset Stable (Joan Whitney Payson and Mrs. Charles S. Payson)
Trainer: William Brennan

New York Times, 08/12/1938

Thingumabob following his win in the 1938 Arlington Futurity. Photo: The New York Times, 08/12/1938.

Record: (3) 2-0-0 / $31,810
1st: Arlington Futurity (6f,AP)

Bred by C. V. Whitney and owned by Mrs. C. S. Payson’s Manhasset Stable, Thingumabob was a son of the speedy Whitney-bred stallion Boojum. Boojum, by John P. Grier, was a precocious sort who counted the Hopeful Stakes among his three wins as a juvenile, and “whose blazing speed was too much for the strength of his legs. Boojum broke down after a fine 2 year old campaign and was retired to the Whitney stud.” (Chicago Daily Tribune, 07/28/1938)

Following retirement to the breeding shed, Boojum would sire thirty-two foals at stud, one of them being the bay colt out of the young Ormondale mare Refine, later named Thingumabob.

Among others, Refine would later produce the Mahmoud (FR) filly Miss Mood (1944), who is of current relevance as the 7th dam of champion and current leading 3-year-old American Pharoah (2012 b. c. by Pioneerof the Nile).

Perida – 1937 b. f. Chance Shot – Black Queen by Pompey
Owner/breeder: Joseph E. Widener
Trainer: P. Coyne

Record: (3) 2-0-0 / $4,950
1st: Fashion S. (4.5f,BEL)

Owned and bred by Joseph Widener, Perida was the second foal out of the young Pompey mare Black Queen, herself the only foal produced by the champion mare Black Maria prior to that mare’s premature death in 1932.

It was an ill-fated line, as Black Queen’s first foal, the Polymelian (GB) filly Black Polly (1936), would produce only two foals before her premature death in 1942. One of those foals was the classic winning champion Polynesian (1942 br. c. by Unbreakable).

Hauca, Perida, and Thingumabob did not share pedigree, owner, trainer, or competition, and aside from sky high expectations, at first glance may not seem to have much in common. However, all three are forever linked as a result of the circumstances of their respective demises.

Saratoga – the graveyard of favorites, indeed.

MAY 1938
Under the tutelage of trainer William Brennan, the 2-year-old Thingumabob had garnered notice for his speedy works at Belmont Park, including a four furlong work in :48. Entered in a 4 ½ furlong maiden race at Belmont on May 10, Thingumabob would cover the sloppy going in :54⅖, winning by six lengths under Eddie Arcaro. Future stakes horse T. M. Dorsett would finish seventh in the field of fourteen.

JUNE 1938
The 2-year-old Hauca would make her debut at Belmont Park on June 1 in the Graceful Purse (5f). Racing greenly, she would finish second to Sun Girl by 1 ½ lengths. Five days later at Aqueduct, she would win a maiden event on June 6 by four lengths in 1:00 ⅗.

Hauca’s third and final start for the month of June would come at Suffolk Downs, where in a winning effort on June 21 she would equal the track record for five furlongs, running the distance in :58 ⅘.

JULY 1938
After a lengthy break, Thingumabob was shipped to Arlington Park in late July in preparation for the Arlington Futurity (6f) on July 30. While at Arlington, his athleticism in the mornings caused the maiden winner’s bandwagon to continue to grow.

“That he will be the favorite was made evident yesterday morning when he turned in the most sensational trial of the Futurity training period on the Arlington Park Course. Apparently as much at home in this going as he is over a fast track, he splashed mud in all directions while he breezed a half mile in the spectacular muddy track time of 48 seconds. He had stepped the first quarter in :22 ⅖ and the three-eighths in 35 seconds.” (Chicago Daily Tribune, 07/29/1938)

Now at Saratoga, Hauca would win a 5 ½ furlong allowance on July 29 by four lengths, clocking a time of 1:07 in the muddy going.

Thingumabob, again under the guidance of Eddie Arcaro, would take the Arlington Futurity on July 30 by five lengths in 1:12. No Competition would finish second, with Hants third.

“Not once during the race did Arcaro use his whip. Soon after he passed the finish line he hit Thingumabob one crack with it just to keep the bay son of Boojum-Refine from pulling up too suddenly. Thingumabob not only scored one of the easiest victories in the history of the Futurity but many horseman acclaimed him as the best looking juvenile ever to win it.” (Chicago Daily Tribune, 07/31/1938)

Chicago Daily Tribune, 07/31/1938

Thingumabob winning the 1938 Arlington Futurity. Photo: Chicago Daily Tribune, 07/31/1938.

Thingumabob - 1938.07.30 A Futurity chart (NYT 1938.07.31)

The New York Times, 07/31/1938

Following his win in the Arlington Futurity, Thingumabob would make a quick turnaround for the Sanford Stakes (6f) at Saratoga on August 11. Rumors swirled about Thingumabob, with railbirds saying that not only had insurance on the promising juvenile had been upped from $10,000 to $50,000, but that the Paysons had turned down a $200,000 offer for the colt.

“Classed with El Chico and Ariel Toy as one of the nation’s foremost juveniles, Thingumabob broke well and was coming up fast on the inside when the field went into the far turn. Here Ariel Toy swerved over. Suddenly the favorite faltered and the leg snapped. Jockey Eddie Arcaro took him around the bend and dismounted. Examination showed the leg had broken clean just above the ankle and there was no hope of saving the colt.” (Chicago Daily Tribune, 08/12/1938)

Los Angeles Times, 08/12/1938

Ariel Toy would finish first by a length over Birch Rod. He was later disqualified “partly because of what happened on the back stretch, and partly because of Ariel Toy’s bearing out just at the finish. …He was handled by Eddie Arcaro, who stated after the accident that he was not bothered by Ariel Toy. This makes the disqualification the more mysterious. Wayne Wright, rider of Birch Rod, lodged no claim.

Thingumabob started a trifle slowly, well back of the flying Ariel Toy, and was rushed up along the rail by Arcaro in an effort to save ground. Arcaro then ran into what is known on the race track as “an open switch.” Hardy, rider of Ariel Toy, “closed the switch” by bearing over toward the fence. This forced Arcaro to take back. In snatching Thingumabob back out of full stride, when the colt was just getting up steam in earnest, he may have stepped in a hole.

It is a fact that Thingumabob did not break down until after Ariel Toy had gone completely over to the fence and begun to draw off. Whether or not Ariel Toy actually bumped Thingumabob is a matter for the patrol judge on duty at that point. He made no such statement that could be gained by the press.” (The New York Times, 08/12/1938)

New York Times, 08/13/1938

The next day, the Saratoga stewards rendered the following verdict placing blame solely on Ariel Toy’s jockey, Lee Hardy.

“The racing stewards at Saratoga, after a long and detailed investigation, today charged Lee Hardy, veteran jockey, with causing the accident which resulted in the destroying of Mrs. C. S. Payson’s highly regarded two-year-old Thingumabob, during the running of the Sanford Stakes yesterday.

As the result the 30-year-old Lexington, Ind., rider was suspended for the remainder of the meeting, which ends August 27, and an additional ten racing days and his case referred to the Jockey Club for further action.

On the report of the patrol judges stationed at the point of the accident, the stewards charged Hardy with deliberately crossing in front of Thingumabob and causing interference. Eddie Arcaro, up on Mrs. Payson’s colt, was forced to take up sharply, which is believed to have caused Thingumabob to break his leg.

In their ruling the stewards said an inspection revealed marks on the rail where the accident occurred. A subsequent examination of the body of the horse showed a shoe to have been pulled half off the left fore foot, a severely-grabbed left quarter and badly torn ligaments in the right fore leg.

Ariel Toy, Hardy’s mount, also was disqualified from first money for swerving in front of Trailer and Birch Rod, ridden by Raymond Workman and Wayne Wright, respectively, in the stretch run. Birch Rod, a rank outsider, was awarded the purse.” (The Washington Post, 08/13/1938)

On August 13, two days after the Sanford, Hauca would make her stakes debut in the Spinaway Stakes (6f). With three wins in four starts and a track record equaling effort to her name, she was instilled as the favorite for the race.

New York Times, 08/14/1938

“Thanksgiving won the historic Travers before 20,000 at Saratoga today as tragedy struck for the second time within three days. Samuel D. Riddle’s Hauca, favorite for the Spinaway, secondary feature, suffered a broken leg at the far turn, and had to be destroyed. The accident happened at almost the precise spot where Thingumabob suffered a broken leg on Thursday.

The stewards grounded [Jocky] Lee Hardy following the Thingumabob accident and this afternoon issued the following statement in the Hauca case: “Jocky [sic] Samuel Renick is suspended for the remainder of the meeting and ten additional racing days, effective Tuesday, Aug. 16, and his case referred to the jocky [sic] club. Renick’s suspension was the result of crossing over and causing Hauca to fall.” (Chicago Daily Tribune, 08/14/1938)

MAY 1939
Perida would debut at Belmont Park in a 4 ½ furlong maiden event on May 11, defeating Small World and future Reine-de-Course mare Thorn Apple by 1 ½ lengths in :53 ⅗.

Perida - Fashion (NYT 1939.05.14)

Wasting no time, she would return to the starting gate two days later in the Fashion Stakes (4.5f), winning her stakes debut by three lengths over Us in :52.

After an extended break following her win in the Fashion S., Perida’s next start would not come until the Spinaway Stakes (6f) at Saratoga on August 19. Despite having been away from the starting gate since mid-May, she would be named the favorite for the race.

Perida - Spinaway (NYT 1939.08.20)

“In the $10,000 Spinaway, Perida, the favorite, broke her leg and was destroyed. The accident occurred soon after the start of the six furlong sprint and near the spot where the fleet filly Hauca met her end in the same race last year. Other two year olds have come to grief at approximately the same spot, notably Thingumabob, another casualty of 1938.” (New York Times, 08/20/1939)