Steeplechasing: A Complete History of the Sport in North America
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Steeplechase (horse racing) - Wikipedia
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Soon after Belmont Park opened in , American horse racing entered a troubled era when antigambling sentiment cast a shadow over the sport and, indeed, all of American life.
They had a timber course and every kind of fence imaginable. And there was jump racing every day. Today, steeplechasing is one of the most popular features of the Saratoga Race Course meet in July and August, and at least one steeplechase race is staged at Belmont in the fall. Steeplechasing had its first Hall of Fame rivalry in the s, when Jolly Roger and Fairmount dueled on the racecourse. Fairmount was the leading steeplechase earner in , but he ran into a formidable opponent the following year. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in , and Fairmount followed him two decades later.
The jockey was inducted into the Hall of Fame in On several occasions, Fairmount was ridden by J. For Mrs. He also was part of a long succession of leading steeplechase jockeys who have successfully made the transition to training careers. An American-owned horse won the Grand National at Aintree for the first time in when Sergeant Murphy, owned by Cambridge University student Stephen Sandford, won in an excellent Another American-owned horse, Jack Horner, won in In many ways, the Depression years of the s constituted a Golden Age of American steeplechasing.
Bassett — emerged during the decade.
Other prominent horsemen who practiced their trade in those years were Morris H. Cocks fondly recalled those times. Pete Bostwick was tremendous. Laing and Bassett were bigger guys, but Pete was built more like a jockey. Following mid-morning races on his Broadhollow estate in Old Westbury, Clark would be host to more than a hundred guests for a luncheon at which fine food and champagne filled the tables. Brose Clark had bought him as a yearling in and sold him to his wife for one pound on the suggestion, made in jest by trainer Ivor Anthony, that a new owner might change their luck.
Also in the mids, duPont built the Fair Hill steeplechase course in northern Maryland to duplicate the look and feel of an English country steeplechase course. Battleship thus became the first American-bred and American-owned horse to win at Aintree. At stud in Virginia, Battleship sired two steeplechase champions, War Battle and Shipboard She also held steeplechase races at her Virginia home, Montpelier, and was honored in as the first recipient of the F. Ambrose Clark Award for her many contributions to the sport.
For many years, Carroll K. Bassett was her principal trainer and jockey. Widener bred and raced Bushranger, one of the best steeplechase horses of the s. Late in the year, he sustained a fatal injury while schooling at Belmont Park. The s were transitional years for many of the horsemen who had made their marks as amateur steeplechase jockeys in the s. By the end of the s, professional jockeys had eclipsed their amateur counterparts. But many of the professionals also went on to successful careers as trainers. With much of flat racing, steeplechasing was curtailed during World War II.
When the war ended, Sid Watters resumed his training career, and riders such as D. Michael Smithwick, A. Morris Dixon also broadened his operation to include Preakness Stakes winner Polynesian, the sire of Native Dancer.
Flatterer: The Story Of A Steeplechase Champion
Richard King Mellon, a leader of the banking family, developed a steeplechase string at Rolling Rock near Ligonier, Pennsylvania, with Sidney Watters as his trainer. Also entering the sport was Paul Mellon, a Virginia resident who is best known for his art collections, his philanthropy, and his flat horses.
But his first champion was American Way, a steeplechase horse who won the title in Elkridge was the horse who spanned the decade. He was cut on the pattern of his great sire: he did things in a grand way. His only mistake in this race was at the seventeenth fence…Blockade failed [to judge its breadth] by a foot and took out the top rail completely… [after which] Blockade drove on to a brilliant victory.
Blockade and his jockey covered the 4 miles in a record — a time that stood for 22 years. Fred Colwill clearing one of the rail fences. Finally, a horse who had failed at everything he had tried came up a winner. In and , he won the Maryland Hunt Cup again. To win it once was outstanding. To win it three times was unprecedented.
It's thoroughbred horse racing with a twist
Mountain Dew and the great Jay Trump ran against one another in the Cup, placing first and second in alternate years. As the Miami News of April 29, reported it:. By now, Mrs. In , the 12 year-old Blockade took the year off to recover from a tendon injury. The decision was made to start Blockade in the prestigious Virginia Gold Cup a week later. Blockade went down at the seventeenth fence. The great Blockade had jumped his last fence and run his last race.
This is rather long 19 minutes but even watching part of it gives a sense of what it took — and takes — to win the Maryland Hunt Cup three times in a row. And perhaps, as you watch, you will take a moment to remember a great little horse whose heart was as deep as the 4-mile course and whose courage dwarfed its 22 fences.
NOTE: I have watched the footage before posting it. One horse goes down and there are two refusals but no-one is hurt. Winants, Peter. McCausland, Christianna.