Gay Dalton and other Forgotten Horses of Hollywood Park

By Rosana Rivera (copyright 2014)

Many articles have been written recently portraying the insurmountable loss suffered by the sport of thoroughbred racing with the closure of Hollywood Park. Now the grand structure is just waiting to be demolished and all we are left with are the memories of past champions and racing feats.

Yet unbeknownst to many racing fans, somewhere within the vicinity of the stable area are interred several equine athletes from a long time ago. These horses that were “lost to time” did not have the fortune of having their resting places identified for posterity, making the relocation of their remains nearly impossible. These forgotten horses will most probably end up lying underneath a parking lot or a building.  While they did not reach the stature of Landaluce, Great Communicator or Native Diver, they were also protagonists of the racing past of Hollywood Park and some were the idols of racing fans that are no longer around to reminisce about them.

Towering among these horses is the dual Horse of the Year in México, Gay Dalton, a New Mexico-bred with a movie-script like story. This descendant of “Big Red” started up in the bush tracks of Arizona and Colorado and then continued his career in Aztec lands. His fame was such that was dubbed the “Mexican Man o’ War” by the American media.

Another notable racer that rests within the Inglewood track is the William duPont-bred Manyunk. This hard-hitting gelding faced the likes of Citation, Noor, Coaltown, Bewitch, Bed o’ Roses, Capot, Olympia, Bolero, Mount Marcy and other stars of that era.  Lastly, two California bred stakes winners, both bred by Ted N. Tepper, are also buried at the famed racetrack. They were the massive Mr. America and the gladiator Ronnie’s Ace.

Found below are the names of these memorable thoroughbreds with a description of their accomplishments.

Gay Dalton (1940)

20140321-185825.jpg

Gay Dalton (Photo- The Palm Beach Post, April 15, 1945)

Chicago businessman William B. Greenlee raised this son of American Flag and Traumerette at his 12,700-acre Prado Verde Ranch located in Abiquiu, New Mexico. Gay Dalton’s name was a combination of the names of two of his owners, Gaylord Burt, an electrical plant owner, and Dalton Denton, a gas station vendor, both of them residents of Taos, New Mexico.

The third partner in Gay Dalton’s ownership was his trainer, Captain Patrick Irving O’Hay, who was originally from County Mayo, Ireland, and reportedly grew up with legendary trainer James “Sunny Jim” Fitzsimmons. O’Hay has been variously described in print as “soldier of fortune,” “boulevadier,” “adventurer,” “actor,” and “public speaker” and indeed had a vast collection of accomplishments. In fact, his past was inspiration and fodder for writer Richard Harding Davis, whose novel, “Soldiers of Fortune,” is based on the captain’s life. According to noted sportswriter Walter Wellesley “Red” Smith, at one point, O’Hay owned a hotel in Taos that he bought with the proceeds from wagers placed on Gallant Fox during his Triple Crown run. These bets were placed on the advice of friend Fitzsimmons, and suitably, he named the hotel after the son of Sir Gallahad III.

As detailed in Smith’s article, Gay Dalton started his racing career in the bush tracks of Arizona and Colorado; afterward (in 1943) he headed south of the border to México along with his American Indian grooms.  The chestnut was endowed with heaps of class, but the devotion and dedication of his caretakers were said to be major factors to his exceptional achievements. His unconventional care included singing and the application of deer grease to his knees.  His first season at Las Américas resulted in seven wins out of 12 starts including a triumph in the Handicap Gran Premio Nacional and a fourth-place in the Handicap Presidencial, behind his fellow American-breds Air Master, Blue Stripe, and Step By.

During his second season (1944) at Las Américas racetrack he fared even better by winning seven out of 9 starts, placing once, and finishing third on the other occasion. Gay Dalton’s fame was well known in the United States by this time.  His conquests included the Handicaps Hidalgo, Jalisco, Morelos, and Presidencial. Most importantly, he won his first Handicap de Las Américas with jockey Melvin Duhon aboard, while conceeding from 20 to 23 pounds to his opponents.  After trailing the field, the chestnut rushed to the stretch and won by 15 lengths while establishing a new track record for the 1 ¼ miles.  This epic performance in Handicap de Las Américas was rewarded with a 20-minute ovation from his Méxican fans.

In fact, early that year Captain O’Hay had received a telegram from Fitzsimmons enticing him North. It had read, “Have empty stall. No feed Bill.” Unfortunately, the captain passed away in October of that year and was unable to accept his friend’s invitation.

But Gay Dalton nevertheless made a single incursion to the United States that year. On December 14, 1944, Gay Dalton ran at Hollywood Park for new trainer Michael E. “Buster” Millerick, who also trained Charles S. Howards’ horses and decades later would train the great Native Diver. Jockeyed by Ralph Neves, the New Mexico-bred beat a good field by 1 ½-lengths while displaying his usual come-from-behind style to finish 3/5ths of a second shy of equaling the 7/8th-mile record.

Due to 1945 World War restrictions on US racing, Gay Dalton was sent back to compete in México. During the season at Las Américas racetrack he won four races, including repeat wins of the Handicap de Las Américas (ridden by Ralph Neves) and the Handicap Presidencial. With those conquests he buckled his second title of Horse of the Year in his adopted country. By June of that year, there was another foray into United States soil to race at Santa Anita. In a period of three weeks, from June 16 to July 7, he competed in the Beverly Hills Handicap, the Arcadia Handicap, the Santa Anita Handicap and the San Juan Capistrano.  As usual in these races, Gay Dalton trailed the fields early and closed late with furious charges. Sadly, he fell short in all of them. His best performance occurred on June 30 in the Santa Anita Handicap, when he finished in third place, beaten about a ½-length by the winner, Louis B. Mayer’s Thumbs Up. Part of this race can be viewed at the following link, towards the end of the newsreel at the six-minute mark:

In October 23, 1945 while at Hollywood Park, Gay Dalton died from colic, roughly a year and six days since the passing of Captain O’ Hay. According a news clip in The Blood Horse, Hollywood Park management had set aside a plot at the track’s infield for him to be buried.

Manyunk (1945 gelding)

William du Pont bred this son of Unbreakable from Golden Manda, by Man o’ War.  The classy gelding started his career on the East Coast circuit, and afterwards was sold to compete on the West Coast. His trainer was the Washington Racing Hall of Fame inductee, Allen Drumheller Sr.

Some of the more memorable performances of Manyunk included the San Carlos Handicap of 1949 (where Noor was 5th) and the St. Patrick’s Day Handicap of 1951 at Bay Meadows where he beat Calumet Farm’s Bewitch by a nose. He placed in 10 in stakes races, amongst them a second-place in the San Pasqual Handicap of 1951 (where Your Host broke down), a third-place in the Premiere Handicap of 1951 ahead of Citation (who finished 5th) and another third that same year in Sysonby Mile behind Capot and Coaltown.   Manyunk’s race record: 72 starts with 12 wins (5 of them stakes), 13 seconds and 13 thirds.

Probably not too far from Manyunk’s grave can be found the remains of his unfailing pal, Brownie. The story of the canine-equine friendship is described in Biff Lowry’s book, “Hollywood Park, from Seabiscuit to Pincay.” According to the book the old dog was the gelding’s companion and when the horse died (1951), he kept waiting for Manyunk to return to his box stall, reaching the point of refusing to eat. Eventually, Brownie ended up finding his buddy’s burial site, in the infield of the Hollywood Park training track, and every so often he would visit the grave of Manyunk

Brownie Biff Lowrys book photo

Brownie and Manyunk (Photo-“Hollywood Park, from Seabiscuit to Pincay” by Biff Lowry)

Mr. America (1958 colt)

Mr. America Argonaut Stakes

Mr. America pulls an upset win over Ballpoint in the 1961 Argonaut Stakes at Hollywood Park in the photo below. (Photo-The Thoroughbred of California, August 1961)

Verne H. Winchell Jr. owned this son of Free America out of Chinese Doll.  Mr. America won four races from 10 starts, including a victory in the Argonaut Stakes, second-places in the Del Mar Futurity and Cinema Handicap, and a third-place in the Haggin Stakes. His trainer was Keith L. Stucki Sr., who would later train California Horse of the Year Ancient Title, a top older horse in the 1970s. While competing in the Hollywood Derby of 1961, Mr. America suffered injuries that required him to be euthanized. According to The Blood Horse of July 15, 1961, he would be buried in a plot near the training track “where a number of other fine Thoroughbreds, including Gay Dalton, also are at rest.”

Ronnie’s Ace** (1958, gelding)

This stout gelding was a son of Free America and the Khaled mare Mad’n Glad. His owners were Wilbur Clark and William “Bill” Radkovich. Mr. Radkovich, who built the grass course at Hollywood Park, was also the father of Linda Pincay (late wife of Laffit Pincay Jr.). Ronnie’s Ace’s trainer was Carlton A. Roles, who would later train notables Terrang and Desert Trial.

Ronnie’s Ace won the Los Feliz Stakes and the C.B. Afflerbaugh Memorial Handicap as well as 15 other races in 107 starts (including a run in Carry Back’s Kentucky Derby). He was second in the Santa Anita Derby Graduation Stakes, El Dorado Handicap, San Francisco Handicap, San Miguel Stakes, and in the Childrens Hospital Handicap. He was also third in the California Breeders Champion Stakes and in the Tanforan Handicap. As a testimony to the toughness of Ronnie’s Ace, it should be noted that he tripped and fell after Mr. America broke down but survived that fateful Hollywood Derby spill.

A video of this race (quite graphic) is available at the Critical Past Website found at this link:

http://www.criticalpast.com/video/65675034168_race-horse-Mr-America_horse-race_Hollywood-Derby_Hollywood-Park

The hallowed ground of Hollywood Park is now quiet, the exciting cheers of the racing fans silenced forever. Perhaps late at night this silence is broken by the distant throbbing hoofbeats of Gay Dalton, Manyunk, Mr. America, Ronnie’s Ace and other ghosts in the ground there as they charge down the lane, along with the happy barking of a dog that was finally reunited with his friend.

Afterword

It is worth noting that these thoroughbreds were long forgotten by the racing establishment. Their sepulchers were lost to time and their gravemarks (if any) were the victims of multiple upgrades and construction activities. The main track infield was worked on several times while the training track was also moved around within the vicinity of the current stable area. 

But not all is lost; perhaps a careful review of the existing track aerials along with the engineering plans and historical documentation of Hollywood Park will reveal an approximate location of the final resting place of some of these horses.  

It would be fitting if a memorial could be erected to honor these athletes and to remind future generations about times past. They simply do not deserve to be forgotten all over again. 

Note from Author: 

My sincere thanks to Charlotte Farmer, Karen Gogue, Vivian Montoya (CTBA Library), and Cathy Schenck (Keeneland Library) for their valuable assistance in obtaining material for this work.

** Note on Ronnie’s Ace- although we were not able to find newspaper clips indicating his burial at Hollywood Park, according to comments in a post from the Paulick Report (“Dust to Dust: Exhuming Narive Diver from Hollywood Park”), Ronnie’s Ace, as well as other stakes horses from the 1960’s, was buried at said track.

‘Honey, I Shrunk the Racing Distances!’ #HorseMovies

It all started with a Daily Racing Form piece by Mark Simon the other day.  It ended with some humor, but there’s really nothing to laugh about. Follow the story as it unfolded on Twitter Friday. Here goes:

To read Simon’s article, click the link in the tweet below:

To which I got the following response:

Note the trend of declining race distances.

@o_crunk’s answer confirms this:

But….distances are shrinking more:

Let’s have a round of applause for crunk, please:

And, do you blame me?!

Usha Stud leaves its mark on invitation races

majsnBy Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.)

[Race videos below] The Indian Turf Invitation Cup weekend is one of the high points of the Indian racing year and is held in rotation at different centres. There are four Gr. 1 contests with the Sprinters’ Cup and the Stayers’ Cup being held on Saturday, March 1, and the Super Mile Cup as well the Invitation Cup taking place on Sunday, March 2. It was the turn of Hyderabad to host the weekend this year. Saturday’s racing went off without a hitch as did half the card on Sunday. Then, an unseasonal hail storm caused the rest of the day’s racing, which included the showpieces, to be abandoned and postponed to Saturday, March 8. Hyderabad Race Club cobbled up events to ensure an eight-race fare and decided to shift races to the Monsoon Track as it continued to rain on and off during the week.

On the first Saturday, the Poonawalla Farms-bred Astapi (Placerville – Blurr) won the Stayers’ Cup, Gr.1 from Wind Stream and last year’s winner, the eight-year-old favourite Native Knight (by Placerville). Wind Stream is an Usha Stud-bred by Steinbeck, so the first three finishers were sired by sons of Mr. Prospector. Astapi hit the front early in the straight and was soon challenged by Wind Stream, who drew level but could not forge ahead while the old-stager Native Knight warmed up late to finish just half a length behind the front pair who were separated by a head. Young Altamash Ahmed saddled the 20/1 winner for the Rattonseys — they won back to back Indian Derbies with Hotstepper and Antonios a few years ago — who was ridden by J.H. Christopher. The winner’s dam Blurr won the Poonawalla Breeders’ Multi-Million, Gr.1 in her time and traces to Aurelie, which would have pleased Tegbir Brar for his Dashmesh Stud once had a virtual monopoly on the best mares from this family. Aurelie, a daughter of Anne de Bretagne (ancestress of Ile de Bourbon, Quest For Fame, Astarabad and that tribe), was bred by Mr. R.B. Strasburger in France and imported to India by his good friend the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir in the 1950s.

The Sprinters’ Cup, Gr.1 saw another close finish — hd, shd, 1 length — with the eight-year-old gelding Nefyn (Senure – Machrihanish) prevailing over Dancing Prances, Speed Six, and the favourite Mariinsky, a winner of the Deltin Casinos Indian 1000 Guineas, Gr.1 in December. Nefyn, bred at the Manjri Stud, thus repeated his last year’s victory in the same race. The Nureyev horse Senure, a United Nations Handicap, Gr.1 winner in Juddmonte colours, had earlier sired Oasis Star, who had also won back-to-back Sprinters’ Cups. While Oasis Star liked racing upfront, Nefyn prefers coming with powerful late dash. Veteran trainer Bezan Chenoy has raced Mr. Dilip Thomas’s horse very sparingly and this was his eleventh win from 20 starts. Nefyn was piloted by Jimmy Fortune just like last year. Mr. Dilip Thomas, a keen golfer, is wont to name his horses after famous golf courses. Interestingly, the Rattonseys owned Blurr during her racing days while Machrihanish, who once held the mile track record at Mumbai, raced in Mr. Dilip Thomas’s colours.

The three Graded races run on the second Saturday — Suresh Mahindra Multi-Million, Gr.2 is the feature of the under card — all resulted in new track records being established. It started with Amelia (Multidimensional – Adamile) winning the Major P.K. Mehra Memorial Super Mile, Gr.1. The filly sported the colours of Ms. Ameeta Mehra, current owner and daughter of the Usha Stud founder,  Major P.K. Mehra, so it was an appropriate victory, and the filly did so without being touched with a whip. In fact, the saddle on Amelia had slipped rounding the final bend and jockey S. Zervan was more concerned about that so he rode her just hands and heels. Amelia’s dam had won this very race in 2001. The favourite here was Dr. Mallya’s filly Mariinsky who had run in the Sprinters’ Cup the previous Saturday. Amelia had been a faller in Mariinsky’s Indian 1000 Guineas, Gr.1. She has since come out and won three races in space of five weeks so her trainer Pesi Shroff deserves all the plaudits.

The trainer of the meeting, however, was Altamash Ahmed as Alaindair (Multidimensional – God’s Grace) confirmed his Indian Derby superiority without any alarms in the Indian Turf Invitation Cup. Surprisingly, Murioi was installed as the favourite but the son Dubawi had a horrific fall around the mile marker, broke his forelegs and had to be put down. Jockey Y.S. Srinath, who had won the race on Autonomy when it was last run in Hyderabad, stuck to the Indian Derby script and rode a similar race. Agostini, midfield in the Derby, improved to be second here ahead of last year’s winner Tintinnabulation and Starry Eyes. The verdict was 1 1/2,, 2 1/4 and 1 1/2 and the clock stopped at 2.29.87.

(Courtesy Hyderabad Race Club)

Ameeta Mehra
Ameeta Mehra

With two wins, a second and a third, Usha Stud took the honours comfortably. Alaindair became just the seventh horse to bag the grand treble of Bangalore Summer Derby, Indian Derby and the Invitation Cup. Four of those seven winners are Usha-bred. Three of the first four finishers in the Invitation Cup were out of Razeen mares while the fourth placed Tintinnabulation is a ‘got-abroad’. Winners of the three of the four Gr.1 events — Alaindair, Amelia and Nefyn — are also from daughters of Razeen as is Wind Stream who was beaten just a head in the Stayers’ Cup. Razeen looks assured of the Champion Broodmare Sire at the end of the year.

Winchell’s first horse and her degrees of separation to Presidents

For the second consecutive weekend, Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC and Tapit were in the limelight with stakes winners descending from female families developed by Verne H. Winchell. Yesterday, the filly Untapable won the G3 Rachel Alexandra at Fair Grounds; the weekend before, Tapiture had won the G3 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn. See the last few posts on here for information on their pedigrees and some background on owner/breeder Verne H. Winchell, a Californian who got into racing in 1958 with the purchase of the mare Ronnie’s Baby. Winchell would go on to win the Champagne Stakes in 1961 with Donut King, and among the 60 or so stakes winners he campaigned until his death in 2002 were champions Mira Femme and Tight Spot. Winchell owned Mira Loma Thoroughbred Farm in California until 1977 and then phased his operation to Kentucky at Oakwind Farm in 1978. The farm has since been renamed and the stable is now run by Winchell’s widow, Joan, and son Ron as Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC.  Major winners for the them include Tapit, now one of the two or three best stallions in North America.

Last night I took to Twitter to reflect on Winchell’s first mare and the people associated with her—and their associations with history.

Risen Star starter Gold Hawk’s Winchell links

Here’s some background on G2 Risen Star Stakes entrant Gold Hawk’s pedigree. He’s from the last US crop of Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker, who was sold to Japan for the 2011 breeding season. Empire Maker is a son of Derby winner Unbridled and is the sire of 45 black type winners to date, including 11 G1 winners. One of them is the outstanding champion Royal Delta. Another is Pioneerof the Nile, who ran second in the Derby and now is represented by his first crop of 3-year-olds, which includes G2 Holy Bull Stakes winner Cairo Prince and G3 Sam F. Davis winner Vinceremos.

Gold Hawk‘s dam is champion juvenile filly Caressing (Honour and Glory—Lovin Touch, by Majestic Prince). In 2000, Caressing won the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Churchill Downs for Carl Pollard, the former chairman of the board of Churchill Downs who’d owned historic Hermitage Farm in Goshen, Kentucky, until recently. Gold Hawk was bred in the name of Hermitage Farm, LLC and is owned by Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC, the racing entity of mother and son Joan and Ron Winchell, who have restructured and carried on the  racing and breeding operation of patriarch Verne H. Winchell since his death in 2002 at age 87. Ron Winchell purchased Gold Hawk for $450,000 from Hermitage Farm at the 2012 Keeneland September sale, where at the same venue Winchell Thoroughbreds sold the Tapit colt Harpoon for $500,000 to Todd Pletcher. Owned by Let’s Go Stable, Harpoon was beaten a nose by Pioneerof the Nile’s Vinceremos (also trained by Pletcher) in the Sam F Davis.

See the last few posts on this blog for more information on Tapit, Harpoon, and others by the ascendant Gainesway sire, who was purchased by the Winchells for $625,000 at the 2002 Keeneland September sale. Tapit’s Winchell homebred Untapable races on the Risen Star undercard at Fair Grounds in the G3 Rachel Alexandra Stakes. From the same female family as Harpoon, Untapable is a G2 winner and G1 placed from four starts and is trained, like Gold Hawk, by Steve Asmussen, who trained some horses for Verne H. Winchell as far back as at least 1992 and more recently has had such as G2 Louisiana Derby winner Pyro and the recent G3 Southwest Stakes winner Tapiture for Winchell Thoroughbreds.

Like Pyro, Untapable and Harpoon, who descend from the same Carols Christmas family of Olympio developed over generations by Verne H. Winchell, Gold Hawk is also from another old Winchell family, this one descending from Donut Queen and responsible for multiple G1 winner and Derby starter Sea Cadet in addition to Caressing. This must have appealed to the Winchells in purchasing Gold Hawk, who has won two of three starts and last out was the beaten favorite when third in the G3 LeComte Stakes at Fair Grounds Jan. 18.

Verne H. Winchell made his money as a donut maker from California in the late 1940s—Winchell’s Donut Houses, later sold to Denny’s Inc., where Winchell became CEO. He got into racing in the late 1950s, and in 1961 he owned two purchased 2-year-olds named Donut King and the aforementioned Donut Queen, presumably named for his wife. Donut Queen was winless from three starts and was bred at 2 but Donut King won the Champagne Stakes at 2 in New York and was trained by Ron McAnally, who would train most of Winchell’s major winners over the years, including Sea Cadet.

Donut Queen is the 5th dam of Gold Hawk.  From her, Winchell bred Gold Hawk’s 4th dam Queen Hostess (1962); 3rd dam Forest Princess (1973); and the 2nd dam Lovin Touch (1980). Winchell sold Lovin Touch for $40,000 to Brereton Jones in 1991 after breeding her first five foals. Jones bred Caressing, who was Lovin Touch’s 10th foal, and he sold the future champion for $180,000 at the 1999 Keeneland September sale.

Tapit’s Winchell cross with Carols Christmas

Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC’s recent Southwest Stakes winner Tapiture was the subject of this post three days ago. By Tapit from Free Spin, by Olympio, Tapiture’s pedigree has the Winchell imprimatur on it from many angles: Tapit was raced by Winchell, as were Free Spin (and much of her tail-female family from 3rd dam Debs Angel down) and Olympio—both homebreds.

Olympio (a 1988 colt) was sired by Naskra from Carols Christmas (1977), by Whitesburg. He was by far the best racer produced by his dam, who was acquired by the late Verne H. Winchell, owner of Oakwind Farm in Lexington, Kentucky. Olympio was a versatile colt who won the G1 Hollywood Derby on turf and the G2 Arkansas Derby on dirt and was effective to 10F on class. At stud, he wasn’t a particularly noteworthy stallion but did sire speedy horses. As a sire of broodmares, he’s had classier results, particularly  with G1 winners Lion Tamer and Carlotamix to his credit. With Tapit, Olympio’s daughter Free Spin has produced stakes winners Remit and Retap in addition to Tapiture, who looks like her best foal.

The daughters (and their daughters) of Carols Christmas from the Winchell broodmare band are also showing a distinct affinity for Tapit, just as they had for Tapit’s late sire, Pulpit. This nick between Tapit (and Pulpit) and the Carols Christmas female line is remarkable and may bear more fruit in the future.

I’ve drawn a family tree of Carols Christmas by hand, below. Foals by Tapit and Pulpit are circled in red. Next to the chart are the names of these Tapit and Pulpit horses, and clicking on their highlighted names will open a window with their extended pedigree.

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Pyro (Pulpit) G1 winner

War Echo (Tapit) G3 winner

Farrier (Tapit) Black-type placed

Longview Drive (Pulpit) Black-type winner; G3 placed

Harpoon (Tapit) Highly regarded G3-placed colt on TC trail

Untapable (Tapit) G2 winner; G1 placed

Tapatia (Tapit) Black-type placed

Tapizar (Tapit) G1 winner

In addition to the family nick, Pulpit and Tapit cross well with Wild Again, the sire of several Winchell broodmares. So far, this cross has yielded three G1 winners:

Pyro (Pulpit)

Joyful Victory (Tapit)

Power Broker (Pulpit)

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