Superman (horse)

Chart (and photo) of the week: Superman wins the 1907 Brooklyn Handicap

Chart: New York Daily Tribune, 05/21/1907. Note that Superman won the race “cleverly.”


PHOTO - Superman Brooklyn H. (HW Vol. LI No. 2632 1907.06.01)

Superman (1904. ch. c. by Commando – Anomaly (GB) by Bend Or (GB)) wins the 1907 Brooklyn Handicap at Gravesend.
Photo by N. W. Penfield as published in Harper’s Weekly (Vol. LI, No. 2632), 06/01/1907.


“Started as a forlorn hope, in the face of conditions that seemed overwhelmingly against him, Superman won the Brooklyn Handicap in one of the most remarkable races that a three-year-old ever ran against mature horses. Confronted by a track deep in mud and slush, going to which Superman had shown a strong dislike, James R. Keene, owner of the colt, abandoned all hope of a victory when he arrived at the Gravesend race course yesterday afternoon, and, though Superman had been trained especially for the big event and his stable had considered his chances second to no horse engaged up to the time of the rain Sunday night, Mr. Keene gave orders for Superman to be scratched.

James Rowe, trainer of the Keene stable, alone of the Keene establishment, remained undismayed, however, and to his urgent appeal and argument that in spite of the heavy going, Superman had a good chance, because of his class and perfect racing condition, Mr. Keene yielded, after the report was already in circulation that Superman would not start, and the colt remained in the Brooklyn field, to make turf history by a performance that ranks with the most brilliant victories for the great handicap.

Superman ran a splendidly trained and courageous colt, and, fighting through a long, hard struggle, won the big prize after looking hopelessly beaten six furlongs from the finish. Gallant as was Superman’s effort, Mr. Keene put the victory in a new light to horsemen when he paid tribute to the skill of Jockey Walter Miller, who rode the victor.

Superman ran a superb race under conditions that tried his courage as severely as his speed, and his victory was the sweetest to his owner and breeder of all the four triumphs that have been earned by Keene horses in the Brooklyn Handicap.

The race proved disappointing in everything else than the achievement of Superman, for the condition of the track was such that the field originally announced to start was badly cut up by scratches, and the very conditions that caused the best of the older horses to be scratched induced owners to add two horses which were supposed to be favored by the heavy going. The rain in the night, followed by more rain in the morning at Gravesend, left the course with a surface of liquid mud covering an under stratum of sticky loam, and the trainers of six of the horses named on the programme had only to glance at the track to decide that their horses should remain in the stable. Among the horses scratched were Arcite, though favorite for the Kentucky Derby, passed that race by on account of a muddy track; Dandelion, and Tokalon, the Brooklyn Handicap winner of a year ago. Other horses scratched were Salvidere, Accountant, and Blandy, the six withdrawals reducing the original field of fifteen to nine.

It was known early, however, that because of the mud Trainer Henry McDaniel had decided to add Good Luck to the Brooklyn field, and it was in no sense a surprise when August Belmont’s three-year-old gelding Okenite, always at home in muddy going, was another added starter, bringing the number of runners up to eleven. In spite of the popular interest in the great race, the rule put in force at Belmont Park of holding back the official announcement of the starters until ten minutes before the time set for the race was observed, and all the horses had been through their warming-up gallops and were in the paddock again before the crowd knew what were to be the starters and who the riders were.

The ten minutes rule for betting resulted in a terrific crush in the rings, but even in the limited time permitted for speculation there were some quick changes in the ruling odds, Go Between, Suburban winner of a year ago, which was the opening favorite, being backed down, while on their reported dislike to the mud the three-year-olds Superman and Sewell both went back in the betting. The speculation in the meantime uncovered two “tips” in Buttling and both the Western horse Beacon Light, both of which were heavily backed as good things, Buttling starting second choice to Go Between, while Beacon Light, against which was as long a price as 100 to 1 was laid, went to the post at 30 to 1, though layers were not eager to offer that price.

The warming-up moves were of a perfunctory nature, because of the deep going, but most of the better-backed and more prominent horses cantered through the stretch. Go Between attracting the most attention because of his known ability to race well in mud, and his conspicuous place in the betting.

The parade to the starting post was made with Sewell absent, Sewell, by special permission, having been led to the post in advance of the field. Go Between, the top weight, led the line to the post, the other horses following in the order of the weights, except for the added starters, of which Good Luck was the rear guard. In the chute, at the head of the stretch, the starting point for the mile and a quarter, the horses took their positions with rare docility, and were abreast and facing the barrier, ready for the send-off, so quickly that the start was made with the watching crowd unprepared for it. The Winter campaigner Nealon had the rail, with Okenite next to him, Go Between, Sewell, Buttling, Oxford, Beacon Light, Good Luck, Flip Flap, and Beauclere ranging out in that order from the inside and Superman on the extreme outside.

The barrier was lifted to a perfect start within a few seconds after the horses reached the post, and the field went away as one horse, Superman being the first to break the line and show in front, with Okenite second, Beacon Light third, Nealon fourth, and the others well bunched, with Beauclere last. In the same order they came to the stand the first time at a swift pace in spite of the mud, and a struggle on even at that early stage of the contest, Superman going on to hold the track, while Okenite rushed after him in a desperate effort to wrest the lead from him, Beacon Light in the meantime racing out just behind Okenite, with the same wish for the first place.

Mud showered on the trailers, as the leaders began the first turn opposite the paddock, Superman swinging to the rail there, and Okenite being forced to go around him, while Beacon Light hung just at their heels. Around the turn to the back stretch Superman and Okenite raced as if they already were finishing, and as Okenite, outrunning Superman, showed his head in front as they rounded into the back stretch there arose first a murmur, then a shout, that Superman was beaten. The Keene colt actually was sprawling in the heavy and slippery mud and Okenite drew away from him and went on clear in front as the run through the back stretch was began, and then, as Miller took hold of Superman to steady him, Beacon Light went past and then Nealon showed before the Keene colt.

Still further back on the trailers Superman went in the run down the back stretch, but he never dropped out of his place, though Okenite, Beacon Light, and Nealon went further and further away from him in the run to the far turn, while Go Between, far back in the crowd, and running in the deepest part of the mud on the rail, already looked beaten and out of the contest, along with Buttling and Sewell. Going to the far turn, Nealon made a move for the lead and swiftly closed on Okenite and Beacon Light, the three horses running lapped as they rounded the turn, with Superman still fourth, and for the remainder of the race these were the only contenders.

The three horses in front were struggling on still lapped, when in the middle of the turn Superman began to pick up the pacemakers again, and then, coming to the second run through the stretch, shot up and joined in the contest anew, at the moment that Okenite weakened and began to fall back. As Okenite went back there still were three horses abreast, and Superman was one of the three. Nealon showed in front for just a moment, then gave place to Superman, which, going around on the outside, was in front as the horses straightened out for the final run down the straight.

In that move the Keene horse brought both Nealon and Beacon Light to the last resort, the whip and under the punishment the older horses hung beside him for the next furlong. Then Superman began to draw away. It took his best effort though, and, hard ridden to within a stride or two of the post, Superman came on and won a gallant race by a length from Beacon Light, with the tired Nealon third.

The time of the race was 2:00, exactly the same figure which was made when Conroy, in 1901, racing for the same owner, and in a blinding rainstorm, earned the distinction of being the first three-year-old to win a Brooklyn Handicap, though Superman is the third three-year-old now that has won the big event. The fractional time showed a singularly good pace, a killing rate of speed, in fact, for such going, as the first quarter was done in 0:23 3-5, the three furlongs in 0:35 4-5, the half mile in 0:48 1-5, the five furlongs in 1:01 1-5, the six furlongs in 1:14, the seven furlongs in 1:28, and the mile in 1:42.” (The New York Times, 05/21/1907)