The Speed Limit at One Mile- Series II, Daily Racing Form, 1935-04-23


view raw text

THE SPEED LIMIT AT ONE MILE SERIES II. t By SALVATOB. In a previous article in Daily Racing Form the number of fast miles that have bVen run in America was considered rather as a. whole than item by item. The basis of the article was the table which for many years past has been an annual feature of the American Racing Manual, in which are. listed the fastest miles that have ever been recorded. It was pointed out that when this table originated, nearly thirty years ago, as a mile in 1:40 or better was then considered a brilliant performance, and no horse, with the exception of Salvators 1:35. over a straightaway, against time, had ever yet run a mile as fast as 1:37, all miles in 1:39 or better were included. But inside of ten years the table had grown so big and miles in 1:39 were becoming so frequent, that a new standard had to be set. So in 1916 it was placed at 1:38; and, even with a second cut off the limit, there were still 162 different miles to be listed. Constant growth then proceeded to make 1:38 too low a standard, and so in 1923 another second was deducted, and 1:37 adopted. This left but seventy-one miles, in the table; but history Jcept on repeating itself, so that by the end of 1934 came still another cut, this time to 1:36. The new issue of the Manual for 1935 presents the revised table on that basis, and it includes a total of fifty-four different miles run in from 1:34, by the present record holder, Equipoise, down to the twenty-six different ones that have been run in 1:36, flat. In discussing the evolution of this table, which in a way provides the most interesting series of speed charts in thoroughbred records, the first inference which might be deducted from it could very well be that it illustrates a most amazing improvement in speed on the part of the American race horse in the past thirty years. In the current table there are no less than fifty-four different miles listed, which have been run by fifty-one different horss, there being three horses credited with two each. All but two of these miles have been run since 1918, and up to 1918 there had been only one that alluded to above by Salvator, while the mile in 1918, lowering Salvators record from 1:35 to 1:34 was, like his, made against time, by Roamer. In a "regular race" no horse ever succeeded in running a mile as fast as 1:38 even, until the year 1900, when both Voter Brighton Beach and Orimar Washington Park did so. The first horse to shade 1:38 was Brigadier, he scoring 1:37 at Sheepshead Bay in 1901, but it took over a dozen years to "take off the fraction," the first mile as good as 1:37, flat, not coming until 1914, when Bonne Chance ran it in just 1:37 at Juarez. That mark lasted but two months, and was then cut to 1:36, at the same place, by Christophine; but this also was short lived, as in September of that season Amalfi ran it in 1:36 at Syracuse, N. Y. This mile of Amalfis in 1:36 was the first near approach in turf records to the present standard of 1:36, which the American Racing Manual has just set as the one that officially marks a very fast mile. It was discounted at that time because the Syracuse track was a track built and conditioned for harness racing, which had been, temporarily converted into a running course. On that account it was alleged that it really "didnt count" by the hypercritical and the professional sniffers and scoffers. But in doing so it was apparently and conveniently forgotten that many of the most noted running tracks in the country Tiad been used turn-and-turn-about for harness racing, and nobody had ever before suggested that on that account records made over them should be discounted. The old Washington Park, Chicago, track was one of the most noted ones for record-breaking throughout its entire existence. It was there in 1889 that Maori ran the first mile below 1:40 ever recorded in a race 1:39. It was there in 1890 that Racine for the first time in history lowered the mark of Ten Broeck, 1:39, which had stood since 1877, to 1:39. It was there in 1900 that Orimar ran in 1:38, then the record. And during that entire period harness racing was going on regularly at Washington Park, and the world-marks for both trotters and pacers were beaten over it by such horses as Nancy Hanks, Hal Pointer and numerous others. Brighton Beach was for many years used only for thoroughbred racing. But around the turn of 1900 it became the stage of numerous Grand Circuit harness race meetings, and there in 1901, the season after Voter circled it in 1:38 in the memorable match between Cresceus and The Abbot for the trotting championship, the former in the first heat lowered the race record for that gait to 2:03. Also at Brighton Beach in 1903 the famous stallion Dan Patch paced a mile in 1:59 at that time the worlds record for a harness horse. Many Grand Circuit harness meetings have been held over .the Fort Erie track; over the Kenilworth running track at Buffalo; over the .tracks at Windsor and Toronto, Ont., and numerous others unnecessary to specify, in many different states, during the same seasons that the thoroughbreds were racing over them. All that was necessary for the change of venue was to put a little more cushion on the surface for the thoroughbreds, and to pack it down a bit for the trotters. And the idea that Amalfis mile in 1:36 at Syracuse didnt deserve to count was altogether a quaint one. Harking back, however, let us repeat that no mile was ever run in a race as fast as 1:37 until 1914, and that in recent years they had multiplied so fast that a year ago, when the Manual for 1934 was issued, it showed a total of some 252 up to January 1 of that year. Now, anything that has been done in the speed line oyer 250 times cannot be called exceptional. So, as aforesaid, everythng was cut out for the Manual for 1935 except the miles in 1:36 or better, of which we now have a lump sum of fifty-four, run by fifty-one different horses. As aforesaid, these figures give rise, at first blush, to the idea that we certainly have been improving the breed of horses during the last twenty years, despite the jibes of the censors. Just think of it! Not a single mile ever run in a race as fast - - ....,4 as 1:37 up to 1924 and over 250 of them on the list by the end of 1933. While on January 1, 1935, there was a new list of fifty-four in 1:36 or better to make a new start from. Verily, might riot Mr. Verdant Greene believe that up to a few years back 1914 at the earliest with an occasional rara avis like Salvator and he ran against time and not over an oval track for exception proving the rule, our horses were a mighty slow lot and, as the modernists assert, not to be mentioned with the heroes of the past two decades. But not so fast! We are now rushing in where we ought to tread with the utmost discretion. Because while the modernists are loud in their vaunts of the latter-day racer, they are only one wing of the turfs body corpora, there is another one, just as large and just as decided in their views. And, according to its members, the great gain in speed which such figures as those quoted seem to establish, is seeming only and as fallacious as the time test, in toto, has been denounced for being. In the first place, declare the defenders of the steed of former days, while horses of different eras, according to the old turf axiom, "cannot be compared" why, courses can! And, to utter a paradox in the same breath they add that there was no comparison between the courses of former days and the modern ones. The latter-day course, they contend, favors extreme speed at a mile or any greater distance far more than the older ones for numerous reasons. One of them is that up to about the year 1900 there were only one or two tracks in America that were larger than the old-style standard one-mile oval. These were Sheepshead Bay and Morris Park for old Monmouth Park, originally a mile course, when replaced by the mam-mouth one built in 1889, over whose straightaway Salvator ran his mile in 1:35 1-2 in 1890, only lasted two or three seasons and then faded from the map. So, aside from the other two named, there was nothing but the regular mile ovals in commission. Moreover the modern rage for chutes had not then as yet set in. There were hardly any of the regular mile ovals equipped with them if, in fact, there were any. Except at Sheepshead and Morris Park, practically all mile races at other tracks, all over the United States and Canada, were run "from wire to wire," starting and finishing in front of the grandstand. Reference to the file of American Racing Manuals shows that it introduced its now famous series of diagrams of the leading American tracks in 1920. By that time tracks exceeding one mile in size, and chutes of various kinds were become almost common. While Morris Park had passed, the still more imposing Belmont Park had succeeded it; Saratoga hadrebuilt from a mile to nine furlongs with special chute for mile races; Aqueduct had expanded to an oval of a mile and a quarter. Even Canada had two nine furlongs ovals. But most conspicuously there was the famous or notorious, as you please course at Juarez! Juarez boasted an oval on nine furlongs not only it had also a special chute for races of one mile, leaving only one turn to be traversed. Soil, structure and atmospheric conditions singularly perf ectx did the rest. Consulting the Manual for 1916, we discover that between 1910 and 1915, inclusive, the astounding number of forty-seven different miles had been run there in from 1:36 to 1:38! And this despite the fact that its racing contingent was almost exclusively composed of selling platers. Just to measure what that means, consider that Belmont Park, with a monopoly of the countrys best stake and handicap horses, and a history stretching back to 1905, could show but eighteen similar miles, with the top one but a fifth of a second faster, 1:36, by the great gelding Strom-boli. But, if we will take the trouble to confine ourselves strictly to the plain one-mile ovals without chutes, etc., we will find that the advance in speed in the period under discussion was very much less marked and was, moreover, largely accounted for by the great efforts made to increase the speed of those tracks over their old-fashioned status. It is not, however, until we come "down 1 to date" that the most instructive facts o all begin to obtrude. Turn to the new Manual, for 1935, pages 472 and 473, and refer to the list of fifty-four miles that have been run in from 1:34 to 1:36, as there tabulated. You will find that riot a single one of them was run over a regular mile oval, "from wire to wire." Only one track with a mile oval is represented, that being Churchill Downs. It has two credits, but both miles were, run out of its mile chute, which wholly eliminates the lower, or first clubhouse turn. Now, turn again, in the Manual, to pages 466-467, where under the caption, "Comparative Mile Speed," is given a list of seventy-seven different American tracks arranged according to the best time made over them at one mile. Scanning it carefully we find that the fastest mile ever run in America over an oval track of one mile, starting and finishing at the same place, is still the 1:36, of Amalfi, made at Syracuse in 1914 twenty-one years ago! Is that progress? Hardly! Take another look. It shows that the next fastest mile ever run over a mile oval, without a special chute eliminating the first turn, was one at Latonia in 1:36, run by Zev, in 1924. That was eleven years ago. There is only one other "regulation" riiile course in America over which 1:37 has been beaten. That is the Coney Island course, at Cincinnati, where, in 1925, two different horses, Sir Peter and Superfrank, each recorded 1:36. The Coney Island course lies across the Ohio river from the Latonia course. Both are in the valley of that river and it is said that, protected as they are, the atmospheric conditions for fast time are often singularly perfect. However, one in 1:36 was run in 1918 at Louisville over the Douglas Park, course, now out of commission; that was then a plain mile oval. Now, as far back as 1903, two horses had run in 1:37 over regular mile ovals Alan-a-Dale old Washington Park and Dick Welles Harlem. v Also, in 1907, Acrobat had dotte 1:37 over the original Santa Anita track, the predecessor of the one now so famous. Its career was short only three seasons but its speed was something wonderful Nas during those three seasons no less than twenty-nine riiiles were recorded there in 1:38, or better. There, on December 22, 190S, the fleet mare Centre Shot ran a mile in 1:37,. a new American record for an oval track Owing to the many sensational miles run at Saiita Anita from the very beginning, there were loud cries especially from the eastern contingent of "short track." But it was remeasured to satisfy them several times and always stood the test. It was at Santa Anita on December 19 1908 that the great Fitz Herbert, then but two years old, and with 124r pounds up, ran a rhile,.iri 1:37. This stood for fifteen years,! not being lowered until in 1923 when Wise Counsellor ran a mile in 1:37 at Churchill! Downs, being then two and starting out of a chute. Note: This is the second of a series of, articles upon the subject chosen, discussing it from various angles, by Salvator.

Persistent Link:
Local Identifier: drf1935042301_10_1
Library of Congress Record: