America's Best Racing
A "Joy Ride" for Team Hardest Core Print E-mail

America’s Best Racing
The Jockey Club Website
www.followhorseracing.com
October 2014

The Arlington Million is one of our most fabled and rousing turf races. This year the usual pack of top-flight Euros and North American horses jetted in.HardestC 1

But for Team Hardest Core, it was the overland route. They drove all night from Coatesville,  Pa. to Chicago-- 13 hours total-- to get Hardest Core to the million dollar race.  They are all longtime Chester County horse people-- trainer Eddie Graham, barn manager/groom Brianne Slater, exercise rider/champion jump jockey Jody Petty and Keith Cooper, the van driver.

The travel itinerary didn't faze Hardest Core. Piloted by a Parx jockey, Erilus Vaz, the handsome dark bay gelding roared down the stretch to defeat five Group/Grade 1 winners, including the reigning Breeders' Cup Turf champion to capture the 31st edition at the Arlington International Racecourse last August.  With the victory Hardest Core earned an automatic berth with a travel allowance to the $3 million Breeders' Cup Turf at Santa Anita Park on Nov. 1.

And, that's just a slice of this hard to believe tale. Roll cameras.

 
Skullduggery: Felix Francis' Damage Print E-mail

America’s Best Racing
The Jockey Club Website
www.followhorseracing.com
October 2014

Someone is trying to bring down the British Horseracing Authority, the austere organization that regulates the whole of the racing industry. Extortion is the game. A villain named Leonardo demands £5 million in exchange for not destroying the integrity of the sport. Sounds like a job for one of Dick Francis' stalwart heroes.Damage 1

The October release of "Damage" is the 50th book in the stable of the legendary thriller writer who died in 2010. It's youngest son Felix Francis ' fourth solo "Dick Francis" novel, and it maintains the high standard that readers have come to expect since Dick's first mystery novel "Dead Cert" in 1962.

A former Welsh steeplechase jockey who became the official jockey for Queen Elizabeth and the Queen Mother, Dick Francis won over 350 National Hunt races.  Then he stumbled into a second, even more lucrative profession on his retirement from professional racing. Francis went on to become one of the most respected and popular mystery writers in the world, winning numerous awards including three Edgar Awards, the Crime Writers' Association Cartier Diamond Dagger, and the Mystery Writers of America's Grand Master Award. He died four years ago at the age of 89.

 
Damascus: A Nobly Named Champion Print E-mail

America’s Best Racing
The Jockey Club Website
www.followhorseracing.com
September 2014

It's been said no horse could finish on the far turn quite the way Damascus did.  With an explosive turn of foot, he pounced on his rivals like a cat on its prey.Damascus 1

Known for his toughness, versatility and durability, Damascus' accomplishments -- especially his three-year-old season in which he scored 12 wins from 16 starts -- were superb in a decade full of remarkable racehorses. He retired with 21 victories in 32 starts, finishing out of the money only once and that was his last race which produced a career ending injury. He would go on to a stellar career at stud.

Damascus came into the world on April 14, 1964 at John Bell III’s Jonabell Farm. His owner and breeder was Edith Woodward Bancroft, the daughter of the late William Woodward Sr., patriarch of one of America’s great racing dynasties, and the breeder (Maryland's Belair Stud) of 96 stakes winners in America and Europe. The famous white silks with the cherry red dots had been carried to victory by Triple Crown winners Gallant Fox and Omaha, as well as champions Nashua, Granville, Vagrancy, and Happy Gal.

Sired by 1959 Horse of the Year Sword Dancer from Kerala (*My Babu), Damascus was given a name laced with religious symbolism -- a reference to Paul's conversion on the road to Damascus. A handsome chestnut, Sword Dancer was only 15.3 hands, but had  buckets of heart and toughness. A late-developer as a two year-old, Sword Dancer tore up the track at three when he was crowned Horse of the Year.

 
Isaac Murphy: Greatest American Jockey Print E-mail

America’s Best Racing
The Jockey Club Website
www.followhorseracing.com
August 2014

He was the Eddie Arcaro, the Willie Shoemaker of his era. One hundred forty years ago, the son of a slave began to carve his indelible mark on the tree of American Thoroughbred history.

A slight man, Isaac Burns Murphy was known for his soft hands and bowlegs. He rode upright, rather than in a crouch, and was a superb judge of pace. His mounts tended to close with devastating speed in the deep stretch, often winning by a head or less. Those tight finishes came to be known as "Murfinishes."Murphy 1

Many consider Murphy the greatest American jockey of all time. By his own account Murphy won 44 percent of his races. Racing historians can only verify 34.5 percent from the era, but it's likely that some of Murphy's races were not documented. Either way, Murphy set a standard that no other jockey has come close to matching. Consider that Eddie Arcaro-- recognized as the greatest U.S. jockey of the 20th century-- had a winning percentage of only 22 percent. Murphy was the first jockey inducted into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame in 1956.

Murphy was born on a farm near Frankford, Ky., the same month the Civil War broke out in 1861. His father James Burns, by then a free black man, was a bricklayer and his mother, America, was a laundrywoman. Burns joined the Union Army and later died in a Confederate prisoner of war camp.  Meanwhile, Isaac and his mother had moved to Lexington, Ky. to live with her father, Green Murphy, a bell ringer and auction crier. When Isaac Burns became a professional jockey he changed his last name to Murphy as a tribute to his grandfather.

 
Chasing California Chrome's Maryland Roots Print E-mail

America’s Best Racing
The Jockey Club Website
www.followhorseracing.com
May 2014

With a light mist falling California Chrome set foot on the Pimlico racetrack for the first time. Surveying the new surroundings the flashy chestnut colt let out a loud whinny to announce his presence before leisurely bouncing along the dirt strip with exercise rider Willie Delgado aboard.Heritage 9

California Chrome's life had coe full circle. Though California-bred, the Kentucky Derby-Preakness winne's roots run deep in Maryland. There has been much talk of his obscure and unheralded breeding. The colt was sired by Lucky Pulpit ($2,000 stud fee) out of Love the Chase, purchased for $6,000. But if you dive into the colt's pedigree you will discover the high quality stallions that sired California's Chrome's dam and second dam.

The broodmare sire of California Chrome is Not For Love (by Mr. Prospector- Dance Number, by Northern Dancer) and the next dam is by Polish Numbers (by Danzig- Numbered Account by Buckpasser).

Both have been stellar stallions at Northview Stallion Station in Chesapeake City, Md.,  owned by Richard Golden in partnership with the late Allaire du Pont and Tom Bowman, DVM, until last year when Bowman left the organization after 25 years.

 
Omaha: The Belair Bullet Print E-mail

America’s Best Racing
The Jockey Club Website
www.followhorseracing.com
May 2014

He stands alone in the annals of thoroughbred racing, the only Triple Crown winner sired by a Triple Crown winner.Omaha 1

Omaha had big shoes to fill when he was foaled at Claiborne Farm in Paris, Ky. on March 24, 1932. His daddy was 1930 Triple Crown winner Gallant Fox who scored nine victories in 10 races and had become the greatest money winner in the history of American racing.  

With a striking blaze down his handsome chestnut face, Omaha also inherited his famous father's tall, leggy frame and penchant for speed. He was out of Flambino, a successful stakes mare by Claiborne's top sire Wrack.  Like his sire and his dam, the "Belair Bullet" was owned and bred by William Woodward Sr., owner of Belair Mansion and Belair Stud Farm. It was at Belair in 1774 that Samuel Ogle, the three-time provincial governor, imported the first pair of thoroughbred stallions to America.

A New York investment banker, Woodward took control of the 500-acre tract of land in Bowie, Maryland in 1998 after his uncle James' death. It was the headquarters for his passion -- racing and breeding thoroughbreds. Throughout much of the 1930s, '40s and '50s, Belair Stud was the premier racing and breeding stable in America, and rivaled any in the world.

 
Whirlaway: Calumet's Mercurial Star Print E-mail

America’s Best Racing
The Jockey Club Website
www.followhorseracing.com
May 2014

It's never a good thing when your boss calls you a knucklehead.

"You can teach him," quipped legendary trainer Ben Jones in the spring of 1941, " but you can't teach him much."Whirl 3

Exasperated by the colt's penchant for bolting out sharply on the stretch turn, Jones devised the "one-eye blinker" that shielded Whirlaway's right eye. Conducting a daring experiment with new jockey Eddie  Arcaro in the irons, Jones was perched on his stable pony stationed ten feet from the inner rail at the head of the stretch. Arcaro was instructed to pilot the flaming chestnut colt through the slim opening.

"I could see that old man just sitting there on his pony," Arcaro said. "I was bearing down on him full tilt, and I was scared to death we'd have a collision that would kill the both of us. But B.A. [Jones] never moved a muscle, and Whirlaway slipped through there as pretty as you please. Then I knew we had a hell of a chance in the Derby."

 
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