Foals of 1953

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)

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Needles and dam Noodle Soup in Ocala, 1957-1961

A few photos of Needles, his dam Noodle Soup, and his half-sister First Nominee (by Rough’n Tumble) at Bonnie Heath Farm and Ocala Stud Farm in Ocala, FL at various points between 1957 and 1961.

State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/75018
Needles at Bonnie Heath Farm, Ocala, FL 10/1957.
Photo: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/75018

 State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/77647
Needles at Bonnie Heath Farm, Ocala, FL 05/1960.
Photo: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/77647

State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/77648
Needles at Bonnie Heath Farm, Ocala, FL 05/1960.
Photo: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/77648

State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/77681
Noodle Soup (dam of Needles) at Ocala Stud Farm, Ocala, FL 05/1960.
Photo: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/77681

State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/77678
Noodle Soup (dam of Needles) with her nine-day-old Rough’n Tumble filly (later named First Nominee) at side, Ocala Stud Farm, Ocala, FL 05/1960.
Racing at the ages of two and three, including a third place finish in the 1962 Adirondack S., First Nominee would retire with a record of (19) 3-2-6 and earnings of $14,972. She was the dam of stakes winner/graded stakes placed filly Fine Prospect (dam of handicapper/track record setter Fighting K and stakes winner Calistay), stakes placed filly Royal Reproach, as well as Raise a Queen (dam of graded stakes winner/sire Believe the Queen). She is the ancestress of Australian Group 1 winner Fraar.
Photo: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/77678

 State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/79530
Needles with Susan O’Farrell at Bonnie Heath Farm, Ocala, FL 10/1961.
Photo: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/79530

Hakuchikara (JPN)

Hakuchikara (JPN)
1953 (Apr. 20) ch. c. Tobisakura (JPN) – Noborishiro (JPN) by Diolite (GB)

“A few years ago, they imported Hakuchikara, a champion runner from Japan, and as he paraded to the post at Santa Anita, a young thing in the audience was heard to murmur disappointedly “He doesn’t look Japanese.”” – Jim Murray (Los Angeles Times, 02/23/1962)

Breeder: Yashima Bokujo
Owner: Hiroshi Nishi
Trainer: Robert “Bob” Wheeler (in United States)
Also known as Haku Chikara

First Japanese-bred horse to win a stakes race in the United States

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Record in Japan: (31) 20-6-1 / JPY 14,956,000
1st: Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby,2400mT), Kabutoyama Kinen (2000mT), Tokuhan (1800mT), Meguro Kinen-Spring (2500mT), Tokyo Hai (2400mT), Nihon Keizai Sho (3200mT), Mainichi Okan (2600mT), Meguro Kinen-Autumn (2600mT), Tenno Sho-Autumn (3200mT), Arima Kinen (Grand Prix, 2600mT)
2nd: Asahi Hai Sansai Stk. (1100mT), Nikkan Sports Sho Kim Pai (2600mT), Yasuda Sho (1600mT), Sankei Sho All Comers (2000mT)

1957 Japanese Champion Older Horse and Horse of the Year
Elected to the Japanese Racing Hall of Fame in 1984

Record in the United States: (17) 1-2-1 / $57,050
1st: Washington’s Birthday H. (SA,12fT)
3rd: San Gabriel H. (SA,10fT)

First Japanese-bred horse to win a stakes race in the United States


Arrival in the United States
On May 27, 1958, Japanese champion Hakuchikara arrived in Los Angeles from Tokyo via private charter on a DC-4. Accompanied by jockey Takayoshi Yasuda and Reikichi Ishida of the Nosawa Limited bloodstock agency of Japan, his travel expenses were sponsored by the Japan Racing Association (and possibly Hollywood Park). Owned by Hiroshi Nishi of Tokyo, Hakuchikara was under the supervision of trainer Robert “Bob” Wheeler while in the United States.

Hakuchikara arriving in the United States.
Photo: Los Angeles Times, 05/28/1958.

Once in Los Angeles, things were off to a bad start for Hakuchikara, as due to nutritional differences between the feed he was to receive in the United States and the feed he received in Japan, the colt began receiving smaller portions than he was accustomed to. This was upsetting to him, and he resorted to eating the bedding of his stall.

While the original goal for Hakuchikara was the Hollywood Gold Cup (10f) at Hollywood Park on July 2, his first start in the United States would instead come in the Legion Fireworks Purse (8.5f) on the Hollywood Gold Cup undercard. Ridden by Yasuda, who had been aboard for the majority of his starts in Japan, Hakuchikara would finish last in the field of nine.

Hakuchikara (Takayoshi Yasuda up) prior to the Legion Fireworks Purse at Hollywood Park, 07/02/1958. Photo: USC Digital Library (Los Angeles Examiner Collection, 1920-1961).

Hakuchikara (Takayoshi Yasuda up) prior to the Legion Fireworks Purse at Hollywood Park, 07/02/1958. Photo: USC Digital Library (Los Angeles Examiner Collection, 1920-1961).

Hakuchikara (Takayoshi Yasuda up) during the running of the Legion Fireworks Purse at Hollywood Park, 07/02/1958. Located in the front, second from left in photo. Photo: USC Digital Library (Los Angeles Examiner Collection, 1920-1961).

Making two more starts at Hollywood in the month of July, Hakuchikara would again finish last in a field of nine in an eight furlong race on July 8 and fourth in the Sunset Handicap (13fT) behind winner Gallant Man (GB) on July 22.

Moving to Del Mar for the rest of the summer, Hakuchikara would finish sixth in the Del Mar Handicap (9f) on September 1. He may have finished sixth in the Oceanside Handicap in August; however, at that time the Oceanside was restricted to 3-year-olds (Hakuchikara was a 5-year-old at the time) and was run on July 26, so it is uncertain if this is information is erroneous, pertains to a race similarly named, or if there was a second Oceanside run for older horses.

After an extended break, Hakuchikara would return for a second place finish in a nine furlong turf allowance at Santa Anita on December 26. Yasuda was no longer aboard, replaced by Eddie Arcaro.

Hakuchikara would begin 1959 with a third place finish behind MacBern and Andrew Alan at Santa Anita in the San Gabriel Handicap (10fT) on January 1. He would make two more starts at Santa Anita in the month of January, finishing second in a ten furlong race on January 16 and fifth in a nine furlong race on January 27. With Arcaro no longer aboard and Raymond “Ray” York up, Hakuchikara would finish fourth in the San Luis Rey Handicap (12fT) on February 10.

Nine months after his arrival in Los Angeles, Hakuchikara would earn his first win, defeating Anisado (ARG) by a neck in the Washington’s Birthday Handicap (12fT) at Santa Anita on February 23. Over a soft Santa Anita turf course and considered an extreme longshot against the likes of the overwhelming favorite Round Table, he would return $91.40 for the win. Round Table would grab a quarter during the race and finish last in the field of sixteen.

Hakuchikara winning the Washington’s Birthday H. at Santa Anita, 02/23/1959. Photo: Los Angeles Times, 02/24/1959.

Hakuchikara winning the Washington’s Birthday H. at Santa Anita, 02/23/1959. Photo: Los Angeles Times, 02/24/1959.

Hakuchikara winning the Washington’s Birthday H. at Santa Anita, 02/23/1959. Photo: Los Angeles Times, 02/24/1959.

The Washington’s Birthday would be the only win and final in the money finish for Hakuchikara in the United States. Over the next five months, he would finish last in a field of fourteen in the San Juan Capistrano Handicap (14fT) at Santa Anita on March 11, sixth in an eight furlong allowance at Hollywood on May 9, last in a field of nine in the Californian (8.5fT) at Hollywood on May 23, last in a field of eleven in the Bowling Green Handicap (1 ¾ miT) at Belmont Park on June 24, eighth in the Sussex Turf Handicap (11fT) at Delaware Park on July 4, and sixth in a one mile allowance at Delaware on July 22.

Hakuchikara was retired to stud in Japan (Aomori Prefecture) in 1960, with his first reported foals arriving in 1961. He was sent to India in 1968, where he resided until his death on August 6, 1979.

Hakuchikara with trainer Bob Wheeler. Photo: Los Angeles Times, 03/11/1959.