The Story of the Sprinter--XXIII, Daily Racing Form, 1936-05-26


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THE STORY OF THE SPRINTER XXIII. I By SALVATOR. L J Those readers who have been following the successive chapters of this narrative will recall that in a previous one was related the introduction of the first stake for sprinters ever regularly given in America as an established, annual event. This was the Congress Hall Stakes, founded at Saratoga in 1879 and run there every season up to and including that of 1891, when it was transformed into something totally different and then, after but one running in its new phase, permanently discontinued. However, this first stake for sprinters was not one that really "went all the way." While the distance was but six furlongs, it was not a dash, but a race of heats. Thus it was in effect a test of endurance as well as of pure speed; not a full realization of the absolute sprinting event. It was a sort of compromiseand as such was first won by Bramble as already related, the great "cup horse" over long distances In addition to his staying power, Bramble had a rare turn of speed. Hence such a contest as the Congress Hall, suited him "to a T." The same thing was further illustrated when, during its last three runnings in 1889, 1890 and 1891 it was won each of those seasons by the great mare Los Angeles, owned by "Lucky" Baldwin and a real stayer, which she proved on many occasions; perhaps most notably when, as a three-year-old filly, she first ran a dead heat with White in the Latonia Derby, and then beat him in the runoff, which was equivalent to racing heats of a mile and a half. While, when six years of age, she won the Saratoga Cup, at two miles. Having intense speed as well as the ability to go cup courses, Los Angeles found such a race as the Congress Hall mere play for her. Another mare also won the Congress Hall Stakes three times in succession. That was Bonnie Lizzie, whose years were 1881, 1882 and 1883. In 1881, she being then three, she beat Milton Youngs famous gelding Bootjack, the stout favorite, and four others, and ran her heats in 1:15 and 1:14, which was a new record of its kind. At that time the record for a six furlongs dash was but 1:14, flat, first made by Barrett, at Monmouth Park in 1880, and equalled there later the same season by Knight Templar the Knight, incidentally, ran third to Bonnie Lizzie and Bootjack in the Congress Hall of 1881. It had taken fifteen years after the introduction of sprinting events for horses of all ages, in 1864, to produce the first stake for sprinters, in 1879; but it required four more before the turf saw the first fixture which was an out-and-out, three-ply, dyed-in-the-wool event of that kind, "and nothing else but." In 1883 there seems to have been a countrywide realization that there was a demand for something of the kind, and moves toward it were made simultaneously all over the racing map East, West and South, The previous season, in 1882, Kentucky had begun getting into the band wagon by giving at Louisville an event modelled upon the Congress Hall Stakes, which was called the Magnolia Stakes, and was also at six furlongs heats. The first running was won by Bootjack. In 1883 it was repeated and won by Fatinitza, on which occasion it required no less than four heats to decide the winner, Fatinitza and Saunterer each taking one, then running a dead head, and the mare then taking the final; but after one more running, in 1884, when it was won by Force, it was dropped from the program. It had been run at the spring May meetings. In 1883, however, the Louisville management, then headed by M. Lewis Clark, long dead but still affectionately remembered by the veterans, at the fall meeting, gave a stake for sprinters which was a six-furlong dash and not a heat race. Perhaps because they were afraid they were losing caste by so doing, they did not give the event a formal name, but simply designated it as a "sweepstakes." However, it was a stake in the full sense of the term, as it was opened and closed for entries along with all the regular stake fixtures: conditions, 5 play or pay, with 00 added, of which 00 went to the second horse. There were fourteen subscribers and the winner was the four-year-old Gleaner. But it was purely sporadic, never being repeated. In 1879 Chicago saw the inauguration of thoroughbred racing on a big scale, something hitherto unknown there. The scene was the then newly built Chicago Driving , Park on the West Side, an ambitious plant which was intended to appeal to both the thoroughbreds and the trotters. The president of the association was Washington Hesing, one of the leading democrats of the city, later its postmaster and a nominee for mayor. Its inaugural program was pretentious, as it included six valuable stakes. Each succeeding season saw a rapid growth and finally, in 1883, there were no less than seventeen! This despite the fact that the meeting opened on June 23 and closed July G, running but nine days. Among these seventeen stakes of 1883 was, so far as we have been able to find, the first out-and-out all-aged sprinting event dignified with a name and all other things pertaining to races of that class. It was called the Rapid Stakes, was a six-furlong dash, entrance 5 play or pay, with 00 added, of which 00 to second; closing with ten nominations. It was run on the third day of the meeting, June 26, on a track that was a sea of deep, holding mud and under stormy skies. Six started, and the winner was Gleaner the same gelding that in the fall won the unnamed six-furlong dash stake given at Louisville. The state of the going may be inferred from the time, which was 1:23JL The ambitions of the association, however, had outrun its possibilities, the 1883 meeting lost money, more than one winner never was paid and the organization went up in smoke from its ashes some years later another one re-arising, which made a still more dramatic quietus about ten years later when, amid the smoke of a revolver battle between men in uniform and the desperate Jim Brown, of Texas, who "died with his boots on," the curtain fell forever on the old West Side course. In consequence, that Rapid Stakes of 1883 was, like the similar i event given the same fall at Louisville, an, "accidental." i Meanwhile, the "big moguls" of the Metro- politan turf had at last come to the conclusion that the time was ripe for the sponsoring of a stake for sprinters that would not have any heat provisions but be a simple six furlongs dash. At that time racing in! this sector was provided by four courses. First, old Jerome Park, the aristocrats cita-t del,- where originally the revival of racing in Manhattan proper had taken place just after the Civil War. Next in rank of seniority was Monmouth Park, across in New Jersey, at Long Branch, where racing had begun in 1871, the association being headed by, "Prince George" Lorillard and of the highest class. Next to come on the scene was Americas first "merry-go-round", Brighton Beach, founded by Bill Engeman, where the curtain had risen in 1879. Finally, there was Sheepshead Bay, the lovely course at Coney Island, which gave its first formal, meeting in 1880 and soon became New Yorks favorite racing plant, remaining so for thirty years until untoward fate sent it into history. One would have supposed that Bill ErigeJ man, the man behind the guns at Brighton Beach, would have been the first to rush forward with stakes for sprinters, for it was precisely horses of that, rather than the clas- sic, caste that were the reason for existence of his enterprise.; However, he didnt. And! when the move was made, it was Monmouth Park that made it. In 1833, the same season that saw the short lived and abortive efforts at Chicago and Louisville to establish on the calendar a pure six furlongs stake event, a dash and not a heat race, Monmouth Park not only, broke the ice surrounding Manhattan it founded a stake that endured for over a decade and that stands in American turf history as the first thing of its kind. Owing to its truly historic character it will be apropos to quote the original conditions, so here they are: THE PASSAIC STAKES. A sweepstakes for three-year-olds and upwards, at 0 each, 5 forfeit, with ,500 added, the second to receive 00; winners in 1883 when carrying weight for age or more, of ,000, to carry five pounds extra; maidens allowed ten pounds; six furlongs. Closed with thirty-six nominations. These conditions continued to prevail, with minor modifications, throughout the existence of the event. The following table shows the course of its history: WINNERS OF THE PASSAIC STAKES. Year. Horse and Age. Wt. Time. Value. 1883 Breeze 3 106 1:15 ,000 1884 Aranza 6 112 1:19 1450 1885 Pontiac 4 lis 1:17 1825 1886 Little Minch 6.... 118 1:16V- 1,680 " 1887 Little Minch 7.... 112.114 2100 1888 Little Minch 8.... 113 "l:15 Z395 1S89 Tenny 3 106 1:14 2,310 1890 Volunteer II. 6... 117 1:14 1,920 1891 Raceland 6 117 1:12 " 1725 1892 Kingston 8 124 1:13 1,590 1893 Arab 7 91 1-1314 lj580 It will be observed that this, Americas first real sprinting stake, was worthy of the position it holds in our turf history. Its roster is a sort of Hall of Fame in its own department. There isnt an ordinary animal in it. The inaugural winner, Breeze, was another member of the line from imported Eclipse that had blazed the way when first the sprinter began to emerge into the foreground. She was a daughter of Alarm, the king sprinter of his day and the first one we ever had, he being also the grandsire of Domino. Breeze was truly a flying filly and as a two-year-old ran a mile in 1:42, that being the fastest one ever up to that time run by a thoroughbred of that age. . It had been in existence only a season or two when the Passaic Stakes became recognized as the acid test for the metropolitan sprinters of championship pretensions, and I its popularity was remarkable. Beginning -r with only thirty-six nominations, it worked up to ninety-two in 1888, the year of its richest value, ,395. That was also the year which saw that wonderful pony Little Minch win it for the third successive season he being the only horse that won it more than once, though a host of them tried to do so. In 1887, the year of his second victory, he first ran a dead heat with Burch, and then defeated him in the run-off. Up to 1890 the race was run around a turn, over the old Monmouth Park track, but then the great new course was built and it was run over the last six furlongs of the mile and three-eighths straight course. The record over the circular course, 1:14, was made in the dead heat between Little Minch and Burch. Over the straightaway, Race-land ran in 1:12 in 1891. The renowned Kingston, winner in 1S92 carried the heaviest weight, 121 pounds. The lightest was carried by the last winner, Arab 1893, with but ninety-one pounds. That year, for the first time, the stake was made a selling race, and this enabled the wily George Forbes to execute one of his biggest coups. He entered his shifty old gelding Arab, always a horse of great speed, to be sold for but ,000; obtained 6 to 1 against him, and he won easily by half a length. The history of the Passaic ended abruptly with this episode, as repressive legislation in New Jersey, coupled with the death of its creator, D. D. Withers, caused the closing of its gates forever. v

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