LIFE AT THE QUARTER POLE is an ongoing blog dedicated to the awe-inspiring world of horse racing. This site is comprised primarily of articles and feature stories, and our main objective is to showcase the Sport of Kings in the most uncommon of ways.
Quote of the Month
"Immortality has been realized once the roar of the crowd has been united."
Tuesday, November 10, 2015
Legends of the Fall
winds apply an exquisite luster to the dazzling oranges and rich brown hues beginning
to gleam from the fall foliage. Autumn is the season distinguished by its harvest,
a season of persistence and change, a season of transcendent growth. Children are
climbing aboard yellow buses, while families prepare to gather and give thanks
for the blessings all around them. It is the time of year that is glorified by
poets and celebrated with pumpkins, a time when our moon is laced with wonder,
and the clouds overhead in the sky appear to hover with infinite promise.
horse racing, the fall season unfolds with an identity all its own. The swelter
of summer has given way, and the clamor of the Triple Crown campaign has calmed
to a muffled roar. Dreams are often realized during the spring, but autumn is the time when thoroughbreds walk the threshold of immortality. The life of a race
horse does not begin on the track, nor does it end there. Many horses go on to enjoy
acclaim in the breeding shed or success in a second career, but it is only a
select few who will go on to become legends.
was born at Claiborne Farm in 1957 and was owned by Allaire du Pont, an
American sportswoman who was revered for her prowess as an aviatrix. Du Pont chose
to geld Kelso early on due to both an unruly temperament and his modest
pedigree. The first start of his three-year-old season would not occur until after
the Triple Crown races were already run.
Pont had transferred training duties at her Bohemia Stable over to Carl Hanford
in the spring of 1960, and it was under Hanford that Kelso began to fully
blossom as a race horse. “He was an extremely determined horse,” Hanford
explained. “If he saw a horse in front, he wanted to get him. You could take
him back or send him to the front.” Kelso’s versatility, as described by his
trainer, began to pay dividends in the second half of 1960. He won eight of nine
starts that year, and his victory against older horses in the Jockey Club Gold
Cup put the finishing touches on a nearly flawless seven months.
Kelso with Jockey Eddie Arcaro
before a Breeders Cup, the Jockey Club Gold Cup was considered the featured offering
in horse racing’s fall line-up. Established in 1919, the race was run at the
two-mile distance from 1921-1975. The distance has since been amended, and it is
now contested over a mile and one-quarter. Following Kelso’s string of stakes victories
in 1960, his dominant showing in the Gold Cup helped to earn him Horse of the
Year honors. It was his first triumph in the autumn classic, but it was not to
be his last. Kelly, as the horse was affectionately known, went on to win the
Jockey Club Gold Cup an unprecedented five consecutive years.
In 1961, Kelso capped an eleven race winning
streak by sweeping the New York Handicap Triple, a series that consists of the
Metropolitan, the Suburban, and the Brooklyn. Jockeys Eddie Arcaro and Ismael
Valenzuela were blessed to have been in the saddle for many of Kelso’s highlight
reel runs. The dark bay gelding was victorious in thirty-nine of sixty-three
lifetime starts, and he was voted Horse of the Year five years in a row from
1960-1964. Kelso competed for eight
seasons, but was finally sent into retirement at the age of nine after
sustaining a non-life-threatening injury.
His induction into racing’s Hall of Fame came
in 1967, but as a gelding, Kelso could not be retired to stud. Instead, Allaire
du Pont opted to turn her esteemed champion into both a competitive show jumper,
and her fox hunting partner. He would realize only moderate success as a show
jumper, but his value as du Pont’s fox hunting partner would resonate with his loving
owner for many years to come.
Kelso was applauded one final time at the
race track as he was paraded before a crowd of 32,000 at Belmont Park, just prior
to the 1983 Jockey Club Gold Cup. He died the following day at the age of
twenty-six, and was subsequently buried at du Pont’s Woodstock Farm in Chesapeake
He first rose to prominence in the fall, but the
legacy he left behind has been embraced in each and every season. Kelso was
sent forth from this life into the next with an inscription on his granite marker
that fittingly read, “Where he gallops, the earth sings.” And to this day, his
name continues to be sung.
Shuvee in the Winner's Circle
racing is a sport riddled with bias, yet every so often, a filly comes along
and silences cynics who believe that the ultimate bias must be based on gender.
Shuvee was the product of impeccable breeding. She was foaled in 1966 at
Whitney Stone’s Morven Stud in Virginia, descending from a bloodline that
included such greats as Nashua, Nearco, and Hill Prince. Ownership duties were assumed
by Whitney’s wife, Anne Stone, and soon thereafter, the racing moguls brought
in trainer Willard “Mike” Freeman to condition the promising filly.
took an immediate liking to the race track, scoring resounding wins in both the
Frizette Stakes and the Selima Stakes as a juvenile. The chestnut filly quickly
grew into her majestic frame, and as a three-year-old, she would become just
the second filly ever to win racing’s Triple Tiara. In 1969, the set of races that
comprised the Triple Tiara were the Acorn Stakes, the Mother Goose Stakes, and
the Coaching Club American Oaks.
padding her resume further with victories in the Alabama Stakes and the Cotillion
Handicap, it appeared certain that Shuvee would lock up end of the year honors
for three-year-old fillies. Much to the dismay of many, however, a Max and
Buddy Hirsch trained filly named Gallant Bloom altered the course of destiny by
defeating Shuvee in three memorable stakes contests. 1969 resulted in more than
just a productive year, but Anne Stone and Mike Freeman knew that their star
pupil’s best days might still be lying in wait.
the fall of 1970, Gallant Bloom had been retired due to injury. Shuvee was in
the midst of a busy four-year-old campaign that was about to reach a climax on
the last day in October. Jockey Ron Turcotte was up in the saddle as Shuvee attempted
to become the first female in history to upstage the boys in the Jockey Club
Gold Cup. This was one Halloween devoid of any tricks. Turcotte sent Shuvee straight
to the lead, hugging the rail from start to finish and never looking back.
Aqueduct Race Track erupted into cheers as Shuvee set a new precedent for the
more elegant gender in racing.
returned to the Aqueduct oval to defend her Gold Cup crown the following year,
only this time she would claim victory in the prestigious race by an emphatic
seven lengths. She retired at the age of five, and would soon be back in Virginia to live
out her retirement on more familiar soil. She was twice named Champion Older
Mare, and was ultimately inducted into racing’s Hall of Fame in 1975. The former
chairman of the New York Racing Association, Alfred G. Vanderbilt, once toasted
Shuvee, proclaiming that she was “one hell of a mare.” Paraphrasing these
timeless words ever so slightly, Shuvee was one hell of a horse.
is the season of fulfillment, the season of thanksgiving. Brilliantly colored
leaves cover the ground where newfound heroes will be foaled. We are hopeful
for the stars of tomorrow, but forever grateful to the legends of the fall.