new stakes winners are promising stars in the sky for the next crop of young racers


From Frank Mitchell

Originally posted on bloodstock in the bluegrass:

With the 2014 Triple Crown in the record books, the participants are largely resting and planning to resume the fray in the heat of the summer for prizes like the Grade 1 Haskell and Travers Stakes. And now it is time to cast an eye upon the next generation of racers, those young prospects who are showing their trainers speed and early maturity.

There were good stakes in three countries over the past week that featured the younger set, with trainer Wesley Ward’s big lick at Royal Ascot coming with the 2-year-old Hootenanny, who blazed away from his competition in the Windsor Castle Stakes to win by 3 ½ lengths from 23 competitors, racing the five furlongs in :59.05.

The lanky-looking colt proved plentifully progressive and rewarded his owners, John Magnier, Michael Tabor, and Derrick Smith, with the first stakes of the Royal Ascot meeting.

Hootenanny is the first stakes…

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pedigree follows performance, just as form follows function


From Frank Mitchell

Originally posted on bloodstock in the bluegrass:

Despite the general perception that “pedigree” is a fixed thing, it truly is not. Racing, particularly high class shown in top races, makes pedigree; not the other way around.

Pedigree researcher and writer Joe Estes developed his life’s work into exploring and shining light through the interwoven fabric of pedigrees and performance. As he saw it, first, there is the racecourse test. If a horse passes that test with some merit, it has a place as a breeding animal. The most recent example of this revelation through performance is last month’s Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner California Chrome.

Had someone suggested a year ago they would pay $6 million for California Chrome and all his relations, such a comment would have been greeted with convulsions of mirth, then offers of trailer-loads of horses. Those horses had no extraordinary value until California Chrome proved his value on the racetrack.


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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)


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:

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.


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.

On Racing + Breeding + Youth Baseball


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