The Unbreakable, Indestructible Jim French

You may have noticed the two brief mentions of Jim French in the last blog in regard to His Majesty’s exploits early in his 3-year-old campaign. Remaining on the subject of Graustark, it is only appropriate to give his son equal billing. I can’t think of any horse who deserves to have his accomplishments chronicled and hammered into our psyche more than Jim French, especially in this era of pampered horses.

Jim French’s story has long faded into history, taking with it the colt’s remarkable feats of durability on the racetrack and the notorious final chapter of his career, in which he was actually impounded by the Saratoga County sheriff's office and not permitted to run in the Travers Stakes. But more on that later.

What you are about to read is not meant as praise or indictment of Jim French’s trainer John Campo, who admitted years later he “hadn’t been training very long and didn’t know any better.”   

Jim French was a plucky little brown colt, as average-looking and unassuming as any horse you’ll ever see. It is mind-boggling still to think that he was a son of Graustark, a grand-looking dark liver chestnut who was as spectacular a horse as you’ll ever see. Campo’s handling of Jim French would have brought about an outpouring of criticism and indignation from today's Internet-driven racing fans. But the colt not only stood up to Campo’s unprecedented racing regimen, he actually seemed to thrive on it.

As excessive as his methods were, Campo's ability to keep Jim French in top form for so long actually was a remarkable achievement, and he at least deserves for that. But then again, maybe it had nothing to do with Campo’s training. Maybe it was strictly the horse, who never once backed down to his trainer’s demands.

By the time Jim French arrived in Florida in December 1970 to begin preparing for the Triple Crown races, he had already crammed 11 races into a four-month period, racing four times in November alone, including a victory in the Remsen Stakes. With so much racing behind him, and no time off, here is what he went on to accomplish:

-- On Dec. 26, he engaged in a thrilling stretch duel with Sir Dagonet to win the 1 1/16-mile Miami Beach Handicap at Tropical Park.

-- Two weeks later, he just got up to win the 1 1/16-mile Dade Metropolitan Handicap at Tropical by a nose, carrying top weight of 125 pounds and conceding 10 pounds to the runner-up.

-- Eleven days later, now at Hialeah, he dropped back to six furlongs and finished a fast-closing fourth in the Hibiscus Stakes, beaten only 1 1/4 lengths by the brilliant Executioner.

-- He was back two weeks later, coming from 10th at the top of the stretch to win the seven-furlong Bahamas Stakes by a head, with His Majesty third.

-- Two weeks later, he was beaten a head by His Majesty in the 1 1/8-mile Everglades Stakes, but was disqualified to fifth for bearing in down the stretch.

-- Like clockwork, he was back in the gate two weeks later, coming from 19 lengths back to finish third behind Executioner in the 1 1/8-mile Flamingo Stakes.

-- Instead of waiting for the Florida Derby, Jim French not only ran 17 days later, he shipped up to New York, where he finished third to the early Kentucky Derby favorite Hoist the Flag in the seven-furlong Bay Shore Stakes, run in a scorching 1:21.

-- Just one week later (that’s right, one week), he was back in Florida, where he closed fast to finish third to Calumet Farm’s Eastern Fleet in the Florida Derby, run in 1:47 2/5, just a fifth off the stakes record.

-- Not content to wait for one final Derby prep, Campo put Jim French on a plane to California and ran him one week later (yes, one week) in the Santa Anita Derby, which he won by 1 3/4 lengths in 1:48 1/5.

-- Two weeks later, he was back in New York, where he finished a solid fourth to stablemate Good Behaving in the Wood Memorial.

So, Jim French entered the grueling Triple Crown series having competed in 10 stakes in a little over four months, traveling from New York to Florida to New York to Florida to California, back to New York, and finally to Kentucky. That’s 9,000 miles of traveling leading up to the Kentucky Derby. Although most horses would have been totally wiped out by now, Jim French went on to finish a fast-closing second to Canonero II in the Kentucky Derby, third in Canonero's track record-breaking Preakness, and a fast-closing second in the Belmont Stakes, in which he made up more than five lengths in the final furlong to be beaten three-quarters of a length.

Instead of being given a well-earned vacation following without a doubt the most ambitious and exhausting Triple Crown campaign ever, Jim French amazingly was back in the starting gate two weeks after the Belmont, finishing a fast-closing fourth in the one-mile Arlington Classic (run as the Pontiac Grand Prix that year). Following his first three-week "vacation" since the previous November, he shipped back to California, where he finished second in the 1 1/4-mile Hollywood Derby, giving the winner, Bold Reason, 13 pounds. One week later, he was back in New York, winning the 1 1/4-mile Dwyer Handicap, conceding 12-15 pounds to the rest of the field.

In less than seven months, Jim French had run in 16 stakes from six furlongs to 1 1/2 miles, never finishing worse than fourth (except for his disqualification). During that time he competed at 10 different racetracks in six different states, made two round trip cross-country flights at a time when Eastern horses rarely flew to California for one race, and logged around 18,000 miles of traveling.

Jim French resurfaced four weeks after the Dwyer and ran an uncharacteristic ninth as the 2-1 favorite in the Monmouth Invitational Handicap. It was discovered after the race that the colt had a spur in his right knee that had broken off. Several people around the horse, however, were convinced that he had been ‘gotten to.’ His owner, whom we’ll get to shortly, actually put a full-page ad in a racing trade journal claiming it was a nefarious act that got the horse beat.

Campo then sent Jim French to Saratoga for the Travers, and that's when all hell broke loose. Prior to the Travers, it was announced that the colt had been impounded by the Saratoga County sheriff's office. His entry for the Travers was refused by the stewards. State steward Francis P. Dunne called it “the most complex racing situation I've ever encountered.”

That brings up to Part Two of the Jim French story. It had been discovered through a loan made by Jim French’s co-owner Frank Caldwell, who had purchased the colt from the colt’s breeder Ralph Wilson during his 2-year-old campaign, that there was a hidden ownership issue surrounding the horse.

Caldwell, a Long Island furniture executive, had sold 70% of Jim French to Etta Sarant, and then taken out a loan from the Citizens National Bank and Trust Co. of Lexington, Ky., receiving a $130,000 advance after stating on his affidavit that he was the sole owner of Jim French. Leslie Combs II, a director of the bank, also assured that Jim French would stand at his Spendthrift Farm in Lexington.

It was discovered, however, that Mrs. Sarant, in whose name Jim French raced in the Monmouth Invitational, had no owner’s license in New York, and had no interest in applying for one. After the Monmouth Invitational, Jim French was resold to construction executive Fred Cole, but he had been suspended by the New York Racing Commission for failure to appear to give testimony in the hidden ownership case. That left Jim French without an owner.

Dunne said at the time, “We have a real can of worms on our hands, and it’s beginning to appear that not all of the worms have been pulled out of the can.”

He was right. Officers of the Saratoga Country sheriff's office then filed a writ of attachment on behalf of the Citizens Bank. The New York Racing Commission, sensing a possible cover-up, began an investigation into the ownership of Jim French and several other horses owned by Caldwell.

According to the commission’s findings, the true owner or part-owner of Jim French and the other horses was R. Robert LiButti, doing business as Robert Presti. The commission also concluded that the horse's ownership had been concealed from racing authorities, and stated that LiButti/Presti had been barred from racing in 1968. He maintained it was only a misunderstanding and that he had been exonerated of any wrongdoing.

LiButti said that undisclosed ownership was a common occurrence in racing, and his ownership of Jim French was not done to defraud the public, claiming that no crime had been committed.

On Oct. 13, 1971, the New York Racing Commission suspended Campo and Jim French’s breeder and original owner Ralph Wilson for 30 days for their role in the concealed ownership. Caldwell was ordered to appear before the commission to "show cause why his license should not be revoked."

As for Jim French, he was not allowed to run in the Travers. Because of the complexity of the case, and the danger of his knee eventually splitting due to the spur that had broken off, he was retired and sold (it was never officially reported by whom) to art dealer Daniel Wildenstein for $1 million and retired to Haras de la Verrerie in France, where he proved unsuccessful, siring only five stakes winners. He was then sent to Japan in 1977. His name did show up in America as the broodmare sire of Breeders' Cup Mile winner and grass champion Steinlen.

The name of Jim French has long since disappeared. The vast majority of today’s racing fans have never even heard of him, which is a shame.

This was a true Thoroughbred in every sense of the word – a road warrior if ever there was one who gave 100% every time he ran, despite being subjected to one of the most grueling racing schedules of any horse in the history of the sport.

There are no shrines or memorials to this gallant horse, who deserved to go out fighting and be remembered for his amazing toughness and durability rather than the ignominious series of events that befell him.

More than three decades have passed, and now, at a time when it is so difficult to keep horses sound, and when many champions race only four or five times a year, it is important that we remember a horse like Jim French to remind us just how resilient Thoroughbreds can be, or at least used to be.





46 Comments

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David Fayad

Thanks for the great article about Jim French.  I certainly, remember him, mainly because of my continued interest in Graustark.

By the way, you sent me an email last year telling me about your start in racing because of Graustark.  You said you would tell me about it, sometime.  Well, it doesn't look like I will ever meet or see you.  Maybe you could write about it, soon.

17 Nov 2008 11:38 AM
David Fayad

In my previous comment I asked you to recount the story of how you were so influenced by Graustark.  Because I have not been reading your blogs recently, I missed the previous one which told the story in addition to a wonderful recount of the relationship of His Majesty and Good Council.  You are, without a doubt, a wonderful writer.  I certainly hope to meet you one day.  If you play golf, come see me in Pinehurst, NC.

17 Nov 2008 11:56 AM
The Deacon

Wow Steve, what a iron horse. We sure could use his bloodline in this very fragile sport where horses break down so too often. I remember Jim French, but Canonero II got most of the pub. Ironic isn't it, the son of Graustark was a iron horse and his brilliant daddy was so fragile. Thanks as always Steve for another trip down memory lane.............

17 Nov 2008 12:11 PM
Alex

Once again Steve, another fantastic, well researched story that entertains as well as educates me. Thanks again!

17 Nov 2008 12:56 PM
Bill

Steve,

This is a great story and one that needed to be retold.  You are, however, being kind to the late Mr. Campo, whose judgement was questionable insofar as the schedule he chose for Jim French.  The horse deserved better....far better.  I once saw big John bring a horse {who had been racing at Belmont} into Timonium for a small stakes race.  Having had no experience running at a bull ring, the horse had more than a little  difficulty in negotiating the sharp turns and was lucky to get a piece of the purse. Campo was there that day and I imagine he figured to head back to NY with winner's share.  It amazed me that he would even think of entering a horse {which had done most of its' racing at Belmont and those wide sweeping turns} in a race at Timonium. Crazy. That incident led me to believe that Campo wasn't quite the trainer I thought he was. Jim French definitely deserved better.

17 Nov 2008 1:06 PM
Dave

Thanks for another wonderful story. I remember Jim French well, though I had no idea how much racing he'd done.

Remember when Hirsch Jacobs ran Personality, the Preakness winner, in the Jersey Derby on Memorial Day before the Belmont, saying that if there was a $100,000 race and he had a fit horse, he would enter it? Jacobs' other top horse, High Echelon, went on to win the Belmont that year. High Echelon had also run in the Jersey Derby as well as the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. A number of horses in that era ran in either the Jersey Derby or the Met Mile between the Preakness and Belmont: Jaipur and Key to the Mint come to mind.

17 Nov 2008 1:18 PM
Alfred K

Great story about Jim French.  I don't understand why North American horses require such long layoff between each race.  As for the rest of the world, 2 weeks between races are plenty.  Look at this year's Melbourne cup, Viewed won the 2 miles race after running in a 1 1/4 miles prep just 2 days earlier.

17 Nov 2008 1:25 PM
da3hoss

I remember him. I'm glad you told his story. I did not know he ended up in Japan and don't want to dwell on that fact too much.

He was raced in the old style of racing.

17 Nov 2008 1:27 PM
Cleone

I remember him, too!  I was very new to racing - the first Thoroughbred horse race I ever saw (on TV) was the 1968 Kentucky Derby - and his name sticks in my memory even today.

I was still in junior high school then, and our local newspaper didn't cover much racing, so I wasn't aware of just how much running he did!  But I do remember his Triple Crown races.

Thanks for the memories, Steve!  Feel free to keep 'em coming.  :)

17 Nov 2008 2:35 PM
da3hoss

I just read this tidbit:

"When they ran the Melbourne Cup earlier this month, five of the 22 horses in the field were coming back on three days' rest. That includes the winner, Viewed. Another six horses in the race had raced 10 days earlier.

There was nothing unusual about this year's field or the way trainers brought their horses up to the race. That's just the way they do things down there. Viewed, who is trained by Bart Cummings, raced four times, including the Melbourne Cup, over a period of 45 days."

17 Nov 2008 3:27 PM
NEVERKICKYOURDOG

STEVE,

GOOD STUFF!  A FEW ANCILLARY ITEMS:

-FOR WHOM WAS "JIM FRENCH" NAMED?;

-RALPH WILSON HAD A STERLING REPUTATION BUT COULDN'T AVOID COINCIDENTAL CONTROVERSY ON THE PERIPHERY(JIM FRENCH/O.J. SIMPSON);

-JOHN CAMPO WAS LOUD, OPPINIONATED AND OUTSPOKEN.  THE LATE EDDIE NELOY SIMULTANEOUSLY EMPLOYED ANOTHER LOUD, OPPINIONATED AND OUTSPOKEN GROOM.  WHO?;

-YEARS LATER, RALPH WILSON WAS THE BREEDER OF ARAZI; &

-THE "ELIZABEH LIBUTTI" FOLLOW-UP IS ALSO A GREAT STORY.

LEARNING THE HISTORY OF RACING, BREEDING, RACING'S CHARACTERS, ETC., IS WHAT CREATES AN INFORMED AND PASSIONATE FAN BASE.  THE FACT THAT "A HORSE RAN A 2 ON THE SHEETS" DOESN'T.  KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK.

-P

17 Nov 2008 3:55 PM
Steve Haskin

Bill, I dont think I was being too kind to Campo, and I agree with you that Jim French deserved better. Even Campo admitted that. He could train but he certainly had his faults. If people dont like Dutrow now they sure wouldnt have liked Campo.

Dave, dont forget Arts and Letters, Quadrangle, and Sword Dancer all using the Met Mile as a Belmont prep after the Derby and Preakness and all winning the Belmont for Elliott Burch.

Dog, I dont know who Jim French was named for, maybe the famous photogapher who photographed men's bodies (Thats not someone I knew about offhand, I Googled the name :)

Neloy's groom who you speak of was and isnt as loud and outspoken as Campo, for whom he worked for several years.

Yes, Wilson did get involved with some nefarious characters, didnt he? As far as I know he was well liked.

17 Nov 2008 4:42 PM
Matt M.

Steve,

Keep up the great work. Your stories and memories of our great sport are fantastic. Thank-you.

17 Nov 2008 5:05 PM
Mark

Maybe Ralph Wilson should have used the "Iron Horse" as the Bills' placekicker.

17 Nov 2008 5:17 PM
John Kostin

Wow,  what a story.  Jim French was before my time.  The story and legacy of Jim French needed to be told.  People now would think that Campo was a total crackpot for doing that.  I could see if he was a nickle claimer that someone was trying to pick up purses with,  but a stakes horse on the Triple Crown trail??  I feel bad for the horse who tried his heart out every 168 hours.               Thanks Steve, I will get together with you for tomato pie after Thanksgiving.  Have a great holiday.

17 Nov 2008 6:19 PM
Meghan

Fantastic horse. Too bad there's not more like him today..

17 Nov 2008 7:34 PM
Cris McHenka

I recall Jim French. I do not know anything about how he prepared horses, but could he have been the type that runs rather than trains in the morning? Some old timers did that. If so, it would not have been as rough as it reads today.

I saw some of his stakes horses at the track and they looked bad, but ran well. I thought he was named for Sonny Jim Fitsimmons, I though I read it in the Telegraph a hundred years ago when he was still racing.

17 Nov 2008 9:40 PM
John T.

 Your story on Jim French brought back a lot of memories as I had come from Ireland to Canada in July

1970 and the 71 Derby was my first.

I remember him finishing a good closing second to Cannero 11 and that horse also brought back a lot of memories as his sire Pretendre had finished second in the 1966 Epsom Derby to Charlottown.

17 Nov 2008 10:05 PM
AnneM

Another great story  - thanks so much. What a gallant horse he was.

Jim French is the broodmare sire of

Mauralakana's dam.

17 Nov 2008 10:37 PM
Racingfan

What a great account of a wonderful horse! He was certainly tough and deserving of much credit for his accomplishments!  Reminds me of another horse I have read a ton about - the great Native Dancer!  He has never gotten the credit he deserved due to his one career loss but his schedule was heavy as well and to me quite remarkable.  

 As a 2 year old:  

- 1st start April 19, 1952

- 2nd start the Youthful Stakes just 4 DAYS later April 23rd, 1952.

- Raced 4 TIMES in August 1952,

  8-4, 8-16, 8-23, 8-27.

- Three weeks later ran Sept. 22

- Raced again 5 DAYS later Sept 27th, 1952.

- Raced again 3 1/2 weeks later on Oct 22nd 1952.  

** That was 9 races in 4 months of racing - 9 wins - 8 stakes!

- His 1953 triple crown quest started with the Gotham Stakes on April 18th, 1953 - just 2 WEEKS before the Kentucky Derby.

- The Wood Memorial was the very NEXT week - April 25th, 1953.

- The Kentucky Derby was the NEXT week - May 2nd 1953. That's 3 consecutive weeks of racing at the beginning of the triple crown!

- 2 weeks later he ran in the Withers - May 16th, 1953.

- The Preakness was 1 WEEK later

on May 23rd, 1953.

- He then had a 3 week "break" before the Belmont on June 13th, 1953.

- 3 weeks later on July 4th, 1953 he ran in the Dwyer

- Then 2 weeks later on July 18th the Arlington Classic.

- He then had 4 weeks to the Travers on August 15th, 1953.

- 1 week later it was the American Derby on Aug 22nd, 1953.

**That's 10 stakes races over a 5 month period and he won 9 of them, only losing the derby by a head after being interfered with.

That totals 19 races during 9 months of racing with 18 wins!

At 4 he he debuted May 7th, 1954

- then ran again in the Met Mile

8 DAYS later - May 15th, 1954.

Of course the last race was in Aug 1954.  Career total 22 starts 21 wins in 11 racing months!

And before anything comes up about him being unsound - in his trainer Bill Winfrey's own words - he was stopped by foot bruises on a couple occasions but he did not have ankle problems as many have written and assumed. Truly I think if he had soundness problems he could never have accomplished what he did and with better management may not have had even the problems that he did.  Pretty impressive, don't you think?  I really wish that his accomplishments were more well known today rather than just that he lost the derby.  Sorry I know this is way off topic (I usually try not to stray) but I really wanted to point this out for any who might be interested.

18 Nov 2008 12:37 AM
Bellwether

another great HORSE but what happened to the GREAT WARRIOR after J-PAN???...where is he laid to rest???...they should have run campo in the ground too...Long Live The Jim French's of the world!!!...

18 Nov 2008 12:48 AM
Will W

I well remember Jim French (though I'd forgotten he was by the ill-fated Graustark) and, of course, Johnny Campo, who makes Dutrow look like a choirboy. Now here's a horse who really proved himself. It's a shame that Jess Jackson could not have had a chance to digest and ponder this story of Steve Haskin's before he announced Curlin's retirement to stud. Comments from Jackson like "one of the ten best horses since 1900" and proven "across two continents in 16 races" seem a little overstated after reflecting on the iron horse regimen and accomplishments of the Campo-abused Jim French. Proven = sixteen paltry races from a horse who only first went to the track as a three year old. The word is in bad need of redefinition when considered in light of the record of a horse who raced so consistently eleven times in four months and four times in one month while being vanned and planed from coast to coast. If you're going to laud a horse as one of the greatest of all times and fully proven, an owner has got to keep him on the track to justify speaking of him in comparable terms to the highly-raced great handicap horses of the 60s, 70s, and 80s or in the same breath with the Citations of the racing world, who could run every two weeks and win consistently to the tune of 16 in a row, and the likes of this thoroughly- tested offspring of Graustark. Curlin may well be a horse of that caliber, but we'll never know as he was rushed off to stud in the prime of his career. Here's hoping he shoots blanks in the breeding stall a la Cigar and his interests are forced to return him to the track to make a dollar off him. Then maybe the racing public can again enjoy a great race horse like Curlin proving himself in the manner of the truly great handicap horses of the past - the iron horses the racing public longs to see again before "industry" and greed soured the Sport of Kings.

18 Nov 2008 1:44 AM
barb

I was born in Nov. 1969 so I do not remember Jim French, although I did recognize his name from reading about Cannonero II (who also has a great story). I would love to see Steve write a book highlighting the unsung heroes of the track.

Racingfan...I am obsessed with Native Dancer's Derby. It happened many years before I was born and yet I can't let it go. He was so special! I always think of the quote that the jock took him "everywhere except the ladies room". He should have won. And he doesn't get the recognition he deserves...he's in like 90% of all pedigrees(in North America,I don't know about overseas but I bet he shows up alot). They sure don't make em like him anymore.

Will W...I totally agree with you about JJ's comments about Curlin. I did a double take when I read his quote, one of the top ten since 1900?? I'm not sure that he makes the top 100. Frankly I would add Jim French to the list ahead of Curlin. I do like Curlin and have watched all of his races with excitement(so nobody come at me for dissing Curlin please), and I think he is one of the top ten of this century for sure. I would say Invasor is the #1 and I would have to think about the rest but I think Curlin would be in there. And I would say he ran in the best race so far of this century, the 2007 Belmont. Doesn't get better than that.

18 Nov 2008 2:55 AM
rick

Bill,

Jim French "deserved better"? Better than what, going 4-2-4 in 13 stakes races from Dec 26 1970 until Belmont Day in June of the same year?...With more than a  couple of those performances in some of the country's premier races? Ever stop to think that the horse wouldn't have performed nearly as well if he had been coddled like today's animals. I've always been told to go with method that works the best, and Mr. Campo surely did that. You can't question results my friend, and if the horse had done those things in today's era of inflated purses, we'd be talking about one of the richest thoroughbreds in history. Sounds like he was treated pretty well to me!

18 Nov 2008 10:24 AM
TBarrach

I was nine years old in 1968, and Jim French was the first Derby hopeful I was aware of and followed.  I've now been a race fan for 41 years and seen many exciting race horses come and go, but I'll never forget my "first kiss" Jim French!

18 Nov 2008 10:59 AM
rick

Mr. Haskin,

a name comes to mind when thinking about Jim French, and a recent runner at that. TEUFLESBERG!!!! okay, so his schedule wasn't quite as hectic and grueling, and his races were not always the classy affairs that French's were. Even still, he was a warrior in his own right, a true throwback. I couldn't believe the number of races this horse had as a two year old, but I rode the Teuflesberg train until Belmont Day 2007 when he won the Woody Stephens. Unfortunately, I DIDN'T cash a ticket on the horse at all........I played a pick four and threw out Rags to Riches. If it wasn't for bad luck.......

18 Nov 2008 11:44 AM
Bill

Rick,

In better hands I think Jim French would have won some of those races he lost.  Had his trainer been more judicious in using the amazing amount of energy Jim had and spacing his races a little better there's no telling what this horse could have accomplished. I don't know of too many horses who would have been standing after the schedule Campo held him to.  Citation, maybe, is the only other horse to have accomplished greatness following this kind of 3 yr. old schedule and I don't think even he travelled as much as Jim.  The fact alone that Jim flew out to the coast and won the SA Derby after all the racing he had already done that year was very unusual.  Horses didn't travel much in those days and there are very few if any that I can remember who did what he was able to do.  Can you imagine what Charley Whittingham would have been able to do with him?

18 Nov 2008 1:36 PM
Ron Turcotte

Regarding Native Dancer his pedigre is all over Europe through his grandson Northern Dancer the son of Natalma his Dam.

18 Nov 2008 2:48 PM
Runfast159

Thanks again for a great story that was deserving of being re-told.  Years before Jim French, it seems that many great horses ran through grueling schedules that today would turn more than a few heads.  Horses were more durable then and training wasn't as refined as it is now.  Certainly the thoroughbred of yesteryear was not near so pampered growing up as it is now. I don't think what Campo did was criminal.  Patching up horses and sending broken ones to the track is.  By all accounts, Jim French was running good and sound until his bone spur.  I agree that it is a shame his name has faded from the books as a truly great racehorse.

18 Nov 2008 3:21 PM
rick

Bill,

You may be right, and hey, what do I know?...I did just tell you guys that I threw Rags to Riches out in the Belmont. Anyway, maybe the horse would have won more of those close ones, but maybe he was just acting like a horse who NEEDED to race. I've heard of that as well. Thirteen races in four months sounds like a hell of alot of races, but for each horse comes a different training technique. Just a guess.

18 Nov 2008 5:03 PM
Richie

I must have started in racing about the same time as you Steve as you seem to pick out so many of my early favs that I've always felt deserved more credit than they got- Jim French was certainly one of them. Sorry so say that nowadays horses like him will not be remembered at all since no one goes to the track anymore.  What a courageous little horse he was. Thanks for the great memories. RIP Little Jim-you have not been forgotten by some of us old timers.  

18 Nov 2008 6:23 PM
NEVERKICKYOURDOG

RON TURCOTTE...WE FIRST MET IN '68 WHEN YOU WERE KIND ENOUGH TO DELIVER A BOX OF TOOSIE ROOLS TO FRANK WHITILEY'S EX. BOY--WILLIE--WHEN YOU WENT TO RIDE DAMASCUS AT SANTA ANITA...THIS IS A L. LAURIN QUESTION...I HEARD MR. LAURIN SWEAR THAT A COLT THAT HE TRAINED -- "DRONE" --WAS CUT OUT TO BE AS GOOD or better THAN SECRETARIAT.  AND, THIS WAS SAID IN FRONT OF KNOWLEDGEABLE HORSEMEN WHO TOOK HIM AT HIS WORD.  ANY COMMENT??

HOPE THAT YOU ARE DOING GOOD!

18 Nov 2008 7:06 PM
Steve Haskin

Rick, funny you should compare him to Teuflesberg, who was trained by Jamie Sanders, who was an assistant to Nick Zito, who was an assistant to John Campo. Six degress as they say.

Great to see Ron Turcotte comment. Between Ron and Riva Ridge's hotwalker, I'm sort of getting inspired to do an intimate look back at Riva Ridge, who spent most of his career in Secretariat's shadow. But he was such a sweetheart and accomplished a lot more than people realize. He actually resented all the attention to Big Red and would often stand in the back of his stall. Peb did a great series of sketches about their "friendship." If Riva could only handle the slop he'd be considered one of the all-time greats. To be honest, he really wasn't handled very well at times and ran in some races he never should have.

18 Nov 2008 7:28 PM
Bill

Rick,

Don't feel bad about missing Rags in the Belmont; you weren't alone.  I was waiting for Casino Drive this year with baited breath because of his dam.  That's one race pedigree really means a lot. You do have a good point about how some horses respond to tough training.  Who am I to question a guy who trained the winner of the Derby- Pleasant Colony -and many other big races?  Still, I don't think he was managed as well as he could have been.  I will say no more.

18 Nov 2008 8:00 PM
The Deacon

I remember Drone, great looking horse but he seldom ran like Secretariat, but who did. Nice to hear from Ron Turcotte, what a brilliant rider. Hey Steve any chance of doing a piece on the legendary John Nerud? What a story that would be, isn't he around 90 years old or so?

18 Nov 2008 11:19 PM
Racingfan

Mr Haskin,  sorry about getting off on my Native Dancer fan club tangient in my last post.  That story just brought him to mind and I guess that isn't too hard to do since he's my all time favorite. LOL!  I love your articles and your accounts of the horses of the past (have your recent book Tales From the Triple Crown - it's awesome)!  I read everything I can find about the famous horses of the olden days! I guess I'm stuck in the past of racing's glory days - even though I wasn't here for most of it (born in the 60's).

Mr Turcotte, you rode Northern Dancer as a two year old! How exciting! Probably not nearly as exciting as Secretariat but he was a pretty great little horse too! Deserved the triple crown just like his granddaddy did!

Barb, so glad that Native Dancer still has other fans!  I think I'm the biggest fan that never got to see him! LOL!  His derby loss was heartbreaking.  Imagine if he'd won-he'd have retired as the only undefeated triple crown winner.

On the subject of training, I do think that some trainers of the past definitely over raced the horses.  However, today's trainers of the top horses may be a bit too cautious.  That leads everyone to assume that the present horses are not as durable since they only race maybe 5-6 times per year. What we don't know is IF they in fact could race more often if they were given the opportunity. I notice that a lot of the "lower level" horses run more frequently and seem to handle it just fine. If they can do it - I believe the others can too.  

18 Nov 2008 11:34 PM
Bellwether

Steve...you have reintroduced a fantastic RACE HORSE to all...he had a HEART of STEEL!!!...g

19 Nov 2008 1:38 AM
barb

Ron Turcotte(!?), Thanks for responding to my post about Native Dancer. Today is my birthday and I can't tell you how exciting it was to wake up this morning and read this blog. It is like a birthday present from the racing gods. I hope you have a great day too!

19 Nov 2008 8:52 AM
DONNA

   Steve, I would very much enjoy a story on Riva Ridge. I also believe he never got his just due living in the shadow of Big Red. I do know he also was a rather small horse and could have benefited from a better trainer. I also remember reading a story where Penney Chenery said that as much as she loved Secretariat,  Riva Ridge held a special place in her heart.

19 Nov 2008 1:28 PM
rick

Ron,

just one question........you're riding the stretch in the Belmont on Big Red, you got the lead of leads.......what was that feeling like? When I win a big bet, it's unlike any other feeling in the world. But, 31 lengths, the Belmont, the Triple Crown! After 30+ years, any new thoughts or reflections?

19 Nov 2008 8:18 PM
Charlie

Jim French's racing schedule reads a lot like that of Carry Back - another story that is worthy of retelling.

19 Nov 2008 8:37 PM
Valerie

I have a Stallion named TARQUIN SILK whom I bred, his Dam Eureka Girl was by Loving Jim,by Jim French/Graustark,Ribot. Her Dam was National Maid,/Coronation Boy/Never Say Die bloodlines.etc.

Tarquin Silk was born in 1999 and is a Steel Grey His Sire is Steady Eddy/by Go Dancer. I bred a foal by Tarquin Silk out of my Mare Octickle,by Eagling/Nureyev/Northern Dancer.

My friend own Crown Classic by Regal Classic she has a Daughter by Tarquin Silk who is a 2 yr old now.(unamed) I am in Adelaide,South Australia.

19 Dec 2009 10:32 AM
Valerie

Thank you

19 Dec 2009 10:34 AM
JM

As per Charlie's comment I want to note that Tarquin Silk's represent the last "gray-tail-male" lineage from the great Native Dancer. Thanks for the opportunity to inform it. Good luck with him.

19 Nov 2010 10:41 AM
Debra Kinder

My brpther in law name is Dr. Jim French and he once saw a painting at Churchhill Downs of the horse, Jim French, do you know the artist or where a copy can be obtained

29 Dec 2010 3:16 PM
LINDA MARIE

I JUST FOUND THIS AFTER ALL THESE YEARS ...I WAS REFERRED BY A FRIEND DURING A DISCUSSION OF CURRENT DAY HORSES THAT ARE OVER RACED ...THEY JUST DON'T MAKE THEM LIKE THEY USED TO ...JIM FRENCH IS A GREAT STORY ENHANCED BY THE HUMAN SHENANIGANS ...THANKS STEVE!

13 Oct 2013 12:09 AM

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