Posts Tagged ‘Hambletonian’

There are many horses in modern day pedigrees that have become familiar names to us, and yet we’ve lost a connection with them as real racehorses who were stars in their day and who you could see perform live at your local racetrack.

In past blogs I’ve dug up newspaper reports from the 1920s and 1930s on the amazing mother and daughter trotters Nedda and Nedda Guy, who appear in the maternal line of many great sires.

I’d like to do the same with two great racetrack colts who were rivals in that the same era – Scotland and Spencer, who both went on to be very good sires and superb broodmare sires – a pivotal part of many maternal lines of top horses and sires of the modern era.

Scotland over Spencer mares became a popular cross, so these two horses turn up in many of the best trotting and pacing pedigrees including Direct Scooter, Albatross and Cambest (see footnote to this blog).

But hang on, I’m making them into “names in the pedigree” again!

Let’s find them as “heroes on the racetrack”. And to do that I want to take you back to the Hambletonian trot of 1928 as reported by Tom Gahagan in The Trotter and Pacer magazine 6 September 1928. Remember that this is time in pacing and trotting where horses raced in heats on the same day – usually two but often three and sometimes even four to find an overall winner.

In the first heat of the Hambletonian for 3yo trotters (described below), Spencer wins, Scotland is second. In the second heat, Spencer wins again, and Scotland seventh, tiring after a slow start and an amazing recovery. This was only the third Hambletonian raced, and it endures today as one of the highest staked prestigious races for 3yo trotters in America. (I strongly recommend the website of the Hambletonian Society, particularly the wonderful collection of photos in their gallery: http://www.hambletonian.org/gallery.php).

“Another Hambletonian stake, the third to be raced, has passed into history and the honors go to Spencer, owned and bred at Castleton by David M. Look and driven by the eastern reinsman William H. Leese. In a spectacular battle, the son of Lee Tide and Petrex vanquished a field of nine of the very best three year olds in the classic event at the New York State Fairgrounds track today (27 August) where nearly 30,000 people had assembled to witness the battle for a fortune and the racing honors of the season…..

“They fussed a lot in the scoring for the first heat…When the word was finally given Billy Leese shot Spencer across and took the pole in the turn, right in front of Scotland, while Otzinachson placed alongside the black, Gaylworthy and Guy Abbe next, Coburn with them while Red Aubrey had been shuffled well back. The clip was terrific, the quarter in 291/2 seconds, Scotland right in behind the leader for the first time in his race career, the black having heretofore refused to stand the flying dirt. The order was maintained up the back stretch, the half passed in 1:001/2 with Spencer leading, Scotland trailing him and Otzinachson pounding along on the outside. Around the upper turn they went and at the three-quarters the timers flashed 1:313/4. Otzinachson was by this time flying distress signals while Gaylworthy and Guy Abbe were moving up. Leese gave Spencer his head and he moved away, followed by Scotland. Midway of the homestretch it was seen that Spencer was trotting strong with a two-length lead and the question was only who would finish second. Spencer came breezing to the wire in 2:021/2 with Scotland under a drive beating Gaylworthy for the place, Coburn fourth, while Guy Abbe, breaking at the distance stand when trotting very fast, was fifth.”

Spencer after winning Hambletonian in 1928

Spencer after winning Hambletonian in 1928

For his efforts over the two heats, Spencer’s share of the stake was $40,549.71. Not a bad pay day.

Tom Gahagan describes Spencer as “..at least one of the greatest three-year-olds of which the turf has ever boasted.”

Although Scotland didn’t win the Hambletonian, in future five of his progeny would achieve that prize – including the wonderful Rosalind.

Two years later (1930) the same writer in the same magazine reported on Scotland’s attempt on the Syracause track record when he went under 2 minutes for the first time in his career, going on his own against the clock. It was a perfect day weather-wise and the course in record-breaking condition.

“Scotland, driven by Ben White, and paced by a runner with Gibson White as the pilot, trotted a beautiful mile. He was away from the wire fast, the quarter in 291/2 seconds, the half in :59, both quarters alike, then trotted the third in :293/4, making the three quarters in 1:283/4. The Pittsburgh stallion then had steam enough to come home in 301/2 seconds. The mile in 1:591/4 and he had joined his brother and sister, Highland Scott 1:591/4 and Rose Scott 1:593/4, in the two-minute list.”

The dam of all three was Roya McKinney (one of three wonderful sisters, but more on them another time). On the pedigree side, because I can’t resist, it’s also of interest to see Spencer’s dam is Petrex, who was a grand-daughter of Ethelwyn and so traces back to the x factor heart gene of Eclipse. See my blog on Nedda, who also traced back to this great Ethelwyn/Kathleen family).

Scotland as a 2yo

Scotland as a 2 year old in Tom Murphy’s stable. He took his 1:591/4 mark in Septemeber 1930 as a 5 year old, driven by Ben White. He was bred and owned by Henry Oliver.

Three of the runners in that 1928 Hambletonian (Spencer, Scotland and Guy Abbey) became highly regarded sires, and they can often be found combined as sires and damsires and grandsires in the pedigrees of  many top pedigrees. Hoot Mon, for example, has Scotland as his sire, and is from a Guy Abbey mare who has Spencer as her grandsire! Which goes to show the extended and successful siring careers these talented three year olds went on to achieve.

Footnote:  Just to jog your memory, Spencer was the sire of Spinster and therefore the damsire of half-sisters Lady Scotland (by Scotland) and The Old Maid (by Guy Abbey).  Lady Scotland was the dam of Harold J (damsire of Cambest) and Breath Of Spring (dam of Race Time and many subsequent credits). And Old Maid was the dam of Dancer Hanover, Thorpe Hanover and Bachelor Hanover (who stars in so many New Zealand pedigrees) – and what wonderful broodmare sires they all turned out to be!  Another excellent Scotland over a Spencer mare cross produced Emily Scott (dam of the very good trotting mare Emily’s Pride and grandam of the great trotting sire Noble Victory) and her full brother Spencer Scott (sire of Hoot Mon and Rodney) .
In New Zealand of course we had U Scott (with Scotland as his sire) and Light Brigade (with Spencer as his damsire) and what a contribution they made.

Photos in this blog are from the front covers of The Trotter and Pacer magazine of September 1928 and September 1930.


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Nedda Guy was one of Nedda’s five foals and by far the most significant. She inherited her mother’s speed and toughness – and her ability to win public admiration as well as races. She was the star of the 1931 trotting season until a career and life-threatening injury occured – but even that didn’t stop her.

Henry McLemore, writing a column in The Huntingon Daily News on August 18 1932 sums up her public affection nicely:

“The roar goes up when Nedda Guy won the first heat of the Shepherd Stake… “A game little filly,” someone explains. “She’d a won the Hambletonian last year but for injuries in the opening heat.”

There are several accounts of that 1931 Hambletonian, but The Milwaukee Journal of August 16, printed this report from Goshen, NY where the heats were held at W H Cane’s farm on a three-corned one-mile track:

“Nedda Guy, 3-year-old filly owned by W H Cane, which went lame during the running of the second heat of the Hambletonian Friday, probably never will start in another race. The little bay filly, which was pre-race favourite, is thought to have suffered a fractured pelvis bone during a warming up mile prior to the first heat….If Nedda Guy was injured before the start of the Hambletonian, her performance was remarkable. She finished fifth in the first heat and then staged a great stretch drive to land second place in the second heat back of Calumet Butler, which stepped the mile in 2.031/4.”

Nedda Guy was assisted off the track, but first had to be paraded in front of disbelieving favourite punters to show how lame she was.

The story has a happy ending, as reported in The Evening Independent the following year:

“When examination disclosed the fracture she was to suffer the usual fate of seriously injured racing horses, but Walter Cox gave her such excellent care that she is now in sound condition and an outstanding contender for honors in the four-year-old division.”

It’s as a broodmare that Nedda Guy is now remembered – one of her five foals was On Time (by Volomite) born in 1938 who was developed as a pacer. She went on to be the dam of fantastic race horse, sire and damsire Good Time, and thus appears in the pedigree of many top racehorses of both sexes and in many leading sires and broodmares. On Time produced not only Good Time, but a younger full sister Our Time who set a world record for 2yo fillies in 1948 and won over $50,000 that year. Our Time was ranked by Frank Irvin alongside Adios, Bret Hanover, Good Time and Good Counsel as the five best horses he had trained, and she pops up in some pedigrees as grandam of Whata Baron (himself a world champion racehorse).

Another of Nedda Guy’s daughters, Olympia (by Volomite), led to a less illustrious line but one that finishes with a flourish – as the bottom line of Big Towner’s pedigree – notice my old favourite Shadow Wave as the damsire, adding his contribution! Big Towner was a horse with tremendous speed who hardly ever raced on the big tracks where he could use it to full advantage.

Yet another of Nedda Guy’s foals by Volomite was Mighty Ned, born 1942, who appears to have been exported to Italy as a trotter where he won the Prix d’Amerique at 6 and 9 years old and was also second in that race at 7 years old (before having a career at stud).

At its best, this  line appears to really stamp progeny – small in stature (Nedda the “little mare”, Nedda Guy the “game little filly”, Good Time who notoriously started racing at 13.1 hands and ended it as a 14 hand sire) but with a big motor (heart), real speed and excellent gait. As a sire, Good Time often passed on those attributes, and the big heart (through his x line to his female foals) has helped him be such a positive factor in many modern bloodlines.

John Bradley’s book Modern Pacing Sire Lines has an excellent chapter on Good Time

Where did that big heart come from?

This is where Volomite comes in.

And Atlantic Express.

That’s what I’ll look at in the next blog – which is also about a thoroughbred mare called Esther.

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