Haskin's Preakness Report: A 'Walk' Through History

Then and now.

Along the drive through historic Sagamore Farm, with its idyllic pastures, gently rolling hills, and spectacular vistas, you pass a small unobtrusive barn that at first doesn’t look like a barn at all, due mainly to its garage doors that were installed years ago to replace the old existing traditional barn doors. Inside, there is little of significance, other than the remnants of five or six stalls. But this barn once was hallowed ground. The second stall from the end was the home of the legendary Native Dancer, who founded a dynasty right here in this very barn. This barn also was the home of the Discovery, one of the greatest weight carriers in the history of the sport.


Sagamore farm house and trainer's stand - Photo by Steve Haskin

Native Dancer’s stall bears little memory of the “Gray Ghost,” other than a wooden plank across the door, deformed by years of gnawing and still bearing The Dancer’s teeth marks. On the floor outside the stall is an old tack box, tarnished by the years, but still bearing farm owner Alfred G. Vanderbilt’s faded cerise and white colors and initials “AGV.”


Native Dancer's stall then  - Sagamore photo


Native Dancer's stall now - Photo by Steve Haskin


Native Dancer - Sagamore Photo

This was the then. Veering off to the left, behind the old barn, is the former yearling barn that now houses owner Kevin Plank’s horses in training. Out in the large paddock, with its lush grass and carpet of clover, trainer Ignacio Correas grazes the handsome dark bay Tiger Walk, who is just days away from vanning down to Pimlico for his engagement in Saturday’s Preakness Stakes (gr. I).


Tiger Walk and Ignacio Correas - Photo by Steve Haskin

Plank, founder of the sports apparel company Under Armour, has invested a great deal of money and effort in restoring this historic farm, located only about 20 minutes north of Pimlico. But there is still a lot of work to be done, such as renovating the large training barn adjacent to the six-furlong training track, composed mainly of Tapeta, along with pieces of colorful fabric from Under Armour shirts.

Overlooking the farm, on a hill across the road, aptly named Belmont Avenue, is the “farm” house, a sprawling estate decorated with photos and other memorabilia, mainly of Native Dancer. The house is used for guests, parties, and barbecues for the staff.

But history and restoration aside, the talk is of now and the Preakness Stakes, and the high hopes for Tiger Walk, who has to be one of unluckiest draw horses ever. In seven career starts, the son of Tale of the Cat has faced a total of 65 opponents and has drawn inside of only four of them. He has drawn either the outside post or one from the outside in every start, including post 13 of 13 in the Gotham Stakes (gr. III) and 12 of 12 and 11 of 12 in maiden races. He also was drawn in post 7 of 8 in the Wood Memorial (gr. I). Despite the bad posts and being forced wide into the first turn in almost every start, he still has managed to finish third in the Withers (gr. III) and fourth in the Gotham and Wood Memorial.

Equipped with cheater blinkers in his most recent work, he blazed a half-mile in :47 1/5 in company, and will race with the blinkers in the Preakness.

Correas, a native of Argentina and a fourth generation horseman, is no stranger to the Triple Crown trail, having accompanied Stormello to Florida on two occasions, for the Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) and Florida Derby (gr. I), as assistant to Bill Currin, and then to Churchill for the Kentucky Derby.

If Tiger Walk, whose female family is a Who’s Who top-class Darby Dan breeding, can make an impact on the Preakness, with a little help from the draw this time, it will be a historic moment for Maryland and racing in general.

A Fair Hill morning

No drive down to Baltimore is complete without a stop at idyllic Fair Hill. Unlike last year and 2006, there is no Kentucky Derby winner to visit. But that doesn’t mean there are no major attractions there or even the Preakness winner.

As periods of heavy rain fell, Graham Motion was debating whether to van Went the Day Well, a troubled fourth in the Kentucky Derby, down to Pimlico later that morning or wait until the following day. He eventually decided on the latter.

At around 7 o’clock, as Went the Day Well, who had more than his share of trouble in the Derby, was being saddled, trainer Graham Motion was discussing the bizarre incident that had just transpired on the racetrack. “Thank God I didn’t see it,” he said.


Went the Day Well - Photo by Steve Haskin

Two of Motion’s 2-year-olds were galloping alongside each other when one of them reached over a savaged the other, grabbing him by the neck. The startled victim of the attack proceeded to dump his rider, as did the transgressor. With the two exercise riders standing on the tack, both colts then reared up on their hind legs and attacked each other, striking at one another with their front legs.

Thank goodness, the scene at the Team Valor barn was more tranquil. Went the Day Well looked fantastic, and it was obvious he has had no ill-effects from the Derby. His coat looked great and he was carrying excellent flesh. He went to the track in the pouring rain and galloped a strong mile and a half. This definitely is a horse to watch on Saturday.


Went the Day Well's walk in the rain. Photo by Steve Haskin

At the opposite end of the Fair Hill training center, trainer Michael Matz was applying ointment to the leg of Union Rags, who probably had the worst trip of all in the Derby, getting eliminated right at the start and returning with cuts that still required attention 10 days after the race. Matz still was visibly upset talking about Union Rags’ trip from hell after all the work they had put in getting the colt ready for a peak performance on the first Saturday in May. The fairy tale story of Phyllis Wyeth now will have to wait until the Belmont Stakes.

But Matz still will represented in the Preakness with Jose Singer’s Teeth of the Dog, a fast-closing third in the Resorts World Casino New York City Wood Memorial (gr. I). This improving son of Bluegrass Cat made an attractive appearance in his stall, as Matz went in and fed him mints. He is a well balanced colt, and also sports a bright healthy coat. And you couldn’t ask for a colt with a kinder, more easy-going temperament.

Matz said he likely will van him down on Friday, and is just hoping for a good effort to propel him forward, possibly in the Belmont Stakes.

I’ll Have Another monster gallop


Churchill Downs or Pimlico, it doesn’t matter to Kentucky Derby winner I’ll Have Another, who tore around the track this morning with the same high-powered energy he did in Kentucky.


I'll Have Another - Photo by Steve Haskin

Like Went the Day Well, he has bounced out of the Derby in great shape and has maintained his weight in excellent fashion.

At Churchill, he hugged the rail in his two-minute licks and open gallops, whereas at Pimlico, he took the turn a bit wider, but corned brilliantly and immediately headed back to the rail once straightened out in the stretch.

This evening’s draw should be very interesting, as we’ll see where Bodemeister breaks from and how easily he’ll get the lead. As the only apparent speed in the race, it will be up to I’ll Have Another’s rider Mario Gutierrez to decide how much slack to give him before putting the pressure on.


Doug O'Neill and friend - Photo by Steve Haskin

30 Comments

Leave a Comment:

Terry M.

So were the two young colts okay after their battle? They are awfully young for a serious fight and I hope they both emerged relatively unharmed.

I loved the section of the story about Sagamore Farm and Native Dancer.

16 May 2012 3:10 PM
steve from st louis

Steve: The irony wasn't lost on me-- Native Dancer in a black and white photo doesn't miss a thing; he wouldn't look any different in a color photo. Gorgeous.

16 May 2012 3:10 PM
txhorsefan

Thank you for sharing your trip to Maryland, Steve.  Since I love the history of the sport I have a great deal of admiration for Mr. Plank for his efforts to restore Sagamore and I wish him the best with Tiger Walk.  It is great to see those photos of the past with Native Dancer and how it is still beautiful today.  Love hearing about your visit at Fair Hill also - it always sounds like such an idyllic place - well except for those two rambunctious colts this morning!  Once more - thank you for sharing your stories and your photos - you are the best!!

Thanks,

Celeste

txhorsefan

16 May 2012 3:29 PM
Freetex

Seeing Native Dancer just takes one's breath away while knowing his historic career.  Oh, what a beautiful, beautiful sight.

Thank you for the look back.  Your writing is unequaled and the awards you've won validate your talent.  What a gift, Steve, to be able to jog memories and tie them to the present is just masterful.

Each photo was wonderful.  There is something about I'll Have Another's essence that is most captivating.  You certainly have captured his strength in your photo.  Is too much to hope for a Triple Crown Winner once again?

16 May 2012 4:58 PM
Criminal Type

Steve, Thank you so much for the story. Particularly the Sagamore portion. I drive by there occationally and get chills seeing how great the place looks after so many years of abandonment. Thank's also to Kevin Plank for bringing this historic farm back from the brink. I know I told this story in one of your blogs before but My grandfather took me to Sagamore when I was 5 or 6 to see Native Dancer shortly before he (dancer)passed away. It was a thrill for a small girl head over heels for anything horse. (He also took me to see Kelso run at Laurel, I believe and to Pimlico in 1973 to see Big Red) I can clearly remember him espousing the virtues of Dr Fager, Buckpasser, Northern Dancer and Bold Ruler.

Is Shared Account back in residence at the farm or is she still in Kentucky ? I know she was booked to Bernardini. I can't imagine them not bringing her back to foal in Maryland.

I am also glad you touched base with M. Matz and Union Rag's. I did not know he was cut up in the Derby. I knew 100 yards out of the gate he was toast. I was very dissapointed. Still think he is going to be one of the BIG horses this season and perhaps next.

As for the rest of the Fair Hill contingent, I love WTDW and think he will move forward off his derby performace. I think Teeth of the Dog will also do well.

Again, Thanks Steve, especially for those old photos of the Gray Ghost of Sagamore Farm.

I will be out at Pimlico early tomorrow morning, hoping to see some of the Preakness horses galloping. I know it's a long shot with everything that's going on there but maybe I will run into you. That would be an honor.

16 May 2012 6:26 PM
Coldfacts

After evaluating the fields for the Withers the Tale of the Cat colt Tiger Walk captured my attention. The fact that he was produced from an unraced mare meant he deserved major attention. It is probably common knowledge that I a big fan of unraced mares. The fact they were unraced it is always difficult assess their abilities in spite of their pedigrees. However, their record as producers of exceptional horses continues to be intriguing. Black Caviar is the current international superstar that was produced from one such mare.

Tiger Walk’s unraced dam was sired by Kris S. While Kris S was a phenomenal sire with five Breeder Cup Winners, his record as a broodmare sire is not as stellar. Breeders Cup winners War Chant and Zenyatta were produced from Kris S broodmares. Despite Kris S’s excellence at the Breeder Cup level, none of his broodmares have produced the winner of a TC race. Tale of the Cat was the sire of the very fast Derby runner up Lion Heart.

It would be ludicrous to conclude that Kris S’s exploits are restricted to the Breeder Cup. In light of this, I have been paying keen attention to any 2YO and 3YO produced from his mares. Tiger Walk was used in all my wagers on the Withers, Gotham and Wood. Needless to say I was disappointed with his lackluster efforts in all three races. He never showed the powerful gallop that was on display in his Laurel victories. Some horses do not favor the inner track at the Big A and I am hoping this was the case with Tiger Walk. He owes me some funds and consequently I will be placing a small across the board wager on him. I am hope the addition of cheater blinkers will correct his lack of focus that was evident in his Big A races.

NB: If I was high on Tiger Walk because of the Kris S dam line, I should have switched to I’ll Have Another whose dam was sired by Kris S’s son Arch. Uncle Mo was produced from an Arch broodmare as well. Was Uncle Mo a forerunner?

16 May 2012 6:47 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Is it my imagination or has Steve Haskin gotten even better the last few years, like a fine wine improving with age? Photojournalism at its best lately. This Preakness is really going to be something with I'll Have Another and Went The Day Well both in top form running down Bodemeister. Maybe. I give Went The Day Well a big shot here at decent odds but I'll Have Another and Gutierrez are on a winning streak and on a mission to retrieve a Crown last seen long ago, when only rich people had a VCR, and if you missed a show on TV that was it, until the rerun, or forever. Have a safe race and don't come out fighting !!!

16 May 2012 7:04 PM
Tiara Terces

Thanks Steve for a wonderful walk through Sagamore Farm and racing history.  I remember Native Dancer as a gray blur not just because he was so fast, but also because TV was far from HD back then.  I couldn't believe it when he didn't catch Dark Star at the Derby wire.  Who would have guessed that one day his genes (we would have called it "blood" back then) would one day run through the veins of more living thoroughbreds than any other?  With his grandsons Northern Dancer and Mr.Prospector having reigned the breeding barns for so many years, it is no wonder.

The Preakness shapes up as another puzzler, so many having great credentials and some newcomers too. Baffert must be delighted to have what appears the lone speed.  We know now Tooth of the Dog got Post #2.  He won't know how to act being on the inside at last.  Hoping that we have a safe return for all and the excitement of a possible triple crown still in the realm of possibility.

16 May 2012 7:41 PM
fuzzbert

Only living a few miles from Sagamore, I often drive by to and from work.  Always  dreaming of what was a long time ago.  Sometimes in the early morning haze surrounding the track, I think I can still see "The Dancer" galloping around.  Godd Luck to all on Saturday.  God Speed and SAFE trips for all.

16 May 2012 8:51 PM
Racingfan

THANK YOU STEVE for the post on Sagamore Farm and Native Dancer! He was an incredible horse and what a magnificent place his home was!! I was so happy to hear a few years back that it was being restored and will be home to future racing stars (hopefully)!  Thanks also for the update on this weekends runners.  I am still hoping for a triple crown!  Now I have a dilemma though cuz Bodemeister was my number one choice in the Derby and I would love for Sagamore to get the first win under the new regime.  So I guess my choices this time will be:  I'll Have Another, then Bodemeister, Tiger Walk or Creative Cause....

16 May 2012 9:11 PM
Coldfacts

It does not appear that any of the new shooters are capable of threatening the big four i.e., I’ll Have Another, Bodemeister, Went The Way Well and Creative Cause for a place on the board. Is there anything significant about any of the new shooters? Based on their PPs, they are just not fast enough.  However, there is something significant about one of the colts that will cause me to use him in my wagers. That colt is Zetterholm. His enters the Preakness off three consecutive victories. His dam was sired by Lord At War. In the last 40 years Drone, Poker and Dixieland Band have been broodmare sires of two Derby winners. Dixieland Band was denied a third when Eight Bells was denied by Big Brown. Lord At War would have been a member of the elite group had it not been for the amazing Mine That Bird. Lord At War was the broodmare sire of 2002 Derby/Preakness winner War Emblem. He was broodmare sire of 2009 Derby runner up PioneerOf The Nile. He was also broodmare sire of E Dubai who is regarded as Mr. Prospector fastest son.

Lord At War broodmares have produced some exceptional horses. Is Zetterholm another of exceptional one? His last victory was visually impressive. He went by fellow NY breds under minimum urging and came home in hand. Based on that performance, could this colt be a monster that Mr. Dutrow has been hiding? I realize his impressive victory was against state breds and therefore its significant is questionable.  With the pace in the Preakness expected to be fast, this might create opportunities for an unknown quantity such as Zetterholm to capitalize.

16 May 2012 9:25 PM
Alex'sBigFan

Nothing better than having Steve on location with great stories and photos for us to enjoy.  IHA looks great as well as WTDWell.  I like the doggie going for a ride in the golf cart too.  The farms look lush and inviting wish I was there taking a walk.  

I'm still going with IHA, then Bodemeister, then Joe Bravo on Teeth of the Dog getting up again for third, or WTDWell.  Interesting that IHA is going to be saddled inside instead of out in the open, I like O'Neill's thinking outside of the box. I hope IHA gets the win.  I think Belmont Park with a triple on the line is more exciting than the Derby itself.  From what I am reading it is kaos at NYRA, will they have their act together by June 9th and regain public trust?

16 May 2012 10:38 PM
Johnny

Coldfacts:

You write these very nice blurbs and then they run the race and Done Talking finishes 14th.

Those are the Coldfacts..

16 May 2012 11:33 PM
taxistan

Dr. Drunkinbum.

YES MR HASKIN HAS GOTTEN BETTER!

17 May 2012 12:49 AM
Cassandra.Says

Looking at Went the Day Well's "body of work" I'm impressed at how fast this colt learns -- he's improved dramatically in each start. Now Steve says he's looking good, and we know Steve's got an Eye.

The race doesn't set up particularly well for him, but another move forward should be the ticket, as it were.

17 May 2012 12:54 AM
willie1

Nice to see some old photo's of Native Dancer he is my all time favourite racehorse brings me back to when I was a kid along time ago now. I was devastated when the Dancer lost the Kentucky Derby I still say he should have won it. You just never know in the Derby  as the best horse dosn't always win. Thanks for the memories Steve.

17 May 2012 5:50 AM
Susan W.

The story of Sagamore Farm and its restoration is wonderful. Best wishes to Mr. Plank --- horse racing lovers everywhere owe him!

By the way, Discovery was the broodmare sire of Native Dancer and the "Gray Ghost" owed much of his class & ability to Discovery (a grandson of Fair Play).

17 May 2012 6:49 AM
Coldfacts

Johnny,

Why are you fixated on Done Talking? I made several posts leading up to the Derby. Done Talking was mentioned regularly after his win in the IL Derby where he provided me with a handsome return on investment. It was suggested that the colt would only finish ahead of the emergency medical vehicle as he was ultra slow. I defended the little colt against this ridicule and cited he finished a NK behind El Padrino in the Remsen. El Padrino was ranked in the top ten.You and other have somehow ignored all the other horses I posted comments about. Let me reiterate, Alpha became my pick for the Derby after Out of Bounds on whom I also made a handsome return on investment got injured. It’s time for you to unglue yourself from the Done Talking issue. A number of colts did not run up to expectation in the Derby including my pick Alpha. Done Talking finished in 14th position. Who finished behind him? The winners of the Wood, Tama Bay Derby, FL Derby, UAE Derby and Delta Jackpot.

Even if Done Talking had finished last, your continuous reminders of my support for the colt can only be justified if you are also reminding those whose selections finished behind him. Done Talking will win his fair share of races as he is well bred and honest.  Horse have emerged from being badly beaten in the Derby to be champions. Be careful the Derby is only one race and should not be used a tool for ridicule.

One Love!

17 May 2012 7:20 AM
Coldfacts

Mr. Haskin,

It is fitting that you have provided us with a photo that reflects the majesty and class of great Native Dancer. This amazing thoroughbred like many before and after him was produce from an average race mare. It must have been a dark day when Dark Star denied him of what would have been an unbeaten racing career.  Many great thoroughbreds do not live on through their sons and daughters. However, this is certainly not the case for the one referred to as the Grey Ghost.

In addition to Native Dancer’s two Derby winners, five generations of his stallions have accounted for 18 Derby winners. I’ll Have Another’s Derby victory represented the 50th in Triple Crown races for Native Dancer line stallions. The line also has a  combined 37 second and third places finishers in TC races.

Native Dancer was the dam sire of the geat Northern Dancer whose broodmare line has provided 6 Derby and winners of 14 other Triple Crown races.

I jokingly posted once that because Native Dancer’s only loss came in the Derby, he has been haunting Churchill Downs since. He was in fact regarded as the Grey Ghost. With 18 Derbies and counting from five generations of his stallions, it appears my conclusion might just be justified.

While Sagamore Farms the place that was once home to the great Native Dancer went into decline, its most recognizable legacy has become stronger with each passing year.  Sagamore Farms is now being restored and it is hoped that it will be preserved in the honor of the foundation member of the GREATEST FORCE IN TRIPLE CROWN HISTORY.

17 May 2012 9:19 AM
opsherr

Thank you, Mr. Haskin. Your story about Sagamore and it  weaving into a story of Native Dancer made me smile. I've already written my story about the 1953 Derby but you brought so many memories back and I thank you again. There really aren't words to describe what he was or if there are, they are not sufficent. Then again, greatness is not be described, it is felt.

17 May 2012 10:54 AM
Carol Schwankl

I'd so love to see Sagamore Farm because Native Dancer was the horse that got me to be a racing fan. He and his owner had so much charisma I grew to love them both. Now I continue to see ND in the bloodlines of many really good horses. And, I can often track the gray color back to ND.

17 May 2012 10:57 AM
It aint easy being good!

Coldfacts triple crown analyis= zzzzzzzzzzzz. Hey Coldfacts your boy Done talking is running on the undercard at Pimilco are you going to burn more money when he takes his show on the turf?? Does Done talking have a turf pedigree he owes you!

17 May 2012 11:31 AM
jackpotsteve

Thanks for the peek back in time at Sagamore and "The Grey Ghost" of that fabled Alfred Vanderbilt property!  Native Dancer was one of my favorite horses of all time.

17 May 2012 12:07 PM
Fran Loszynski

I love the way you write Steve. The segment of Native Dancer, gosh this was when racehorses were tested wasn't it! The good ole days when the muscles on racehorses resembled the pack horses. Great pic of Native Dancer. I miss him and I didn't even know him! I have a feeling you have been reincarnated from a reporter in Saratoga that covered Seabiscuit. I can just see your trench coat waving in the breeze as you fly down the rail trying to get a story. I truly believe the spirits of these great horses are there on these farms as they chomp down on the bluegrass in the early morning dew. Yes, they are there. My picks for the Preakness:

Cozzetti, Bodemeister, and I'll Have Another, although look who is riding Well Went The Day, it could for Johnny V. Good Luck everyone.

17 May 2012 12:58 PM
deb

I remember going to Sagamore on a farm tour and was sadden to not see Native Dance but Northern Dancer.  Little did I know as a little kid how great this horse would become! I have always had a soft spot for the grey horses, just something about them.

Thank you for the photos of the farm and Native Dancer, so glad someone wants to save this beautiful place.

17 May 2012 2:54 PM
monica

It's a small world in  horse racing..... Matz will saddle a son of Bluegrass Cat- the horse who finished 6.5 lengths behind Barbaro in the Derby.

Sad that Union Rags got so beat up in the Derby. Has it been announced who will be in the irons if UR goes to the Belmont?

17 May 2012 3:39 PM
Giddyup

Always appreciate how you educate us with some historical information Steve. As far as the Preakness goes I think it's a shame Lava Man can't draw in as an also eligible because I'd be willing to bet he could outrace all of the new shooters.

17 May 2012 7:34 PM
Coldfacts

It isn’t easy being good!

Done Talking does not owe me.  The Derby chest provided from his $27 first place dividend in the IL Derby has not been exhausted. I placed a token wager on the colt because he was good to me. He was not my primary pick for the Derby. I have advised you of this repeatedly. Clearly you are not familiar with the language use in my post regarding this issue. Who was your pick in the Derby?  Did it finish ahead of Done Talking?

Many thank for the alert that he will be running on the Preakness under card. His connection had indicated prior to the Derby that they would try him on turf going forwards. His pedigree reflects a lot of turf influence and he should be competitive on the surface. You clearly have little regards for Done Talking. I wonder in what regard do you hold the G1 & Gll winners that he finished behind him in the Derby.

Be careful the Derby is only one race and should not be used as a means to ridicule. All the participants were 3YO and if they say healthy, those that were the vanquished will have opportunities to redeem themselves in some form. Jackson Bend, Discretely Mind, Court Vision to name a few were badly beaten in their respective Derbies and emerged to be good Gl performers. One race does not always equate to a career.

18 May 2012 6:13 AM
EquiSight

Ever wonder what it's like to ride Preakness Stakes contender Tiger Walk? youtu.be/6mAjTKCQlhA

18 May 2012 5:55 PM
Racingfan

Coldfacs - so glad to hear your praise of the amazing Native Dancer.  Maybe from now on it could be called the Native Dancer sire line instead of the RAN line - give the credit where it's due....  He is my all time favorite horse!  Thanks again Steve for recognizing him!  I have never seen you write about him before so THANK YOU!

18 May 2012 9:49 PM

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