Dr. Fager, Where Are You?

After looking the past two years for a viable Horse of the Year candidate who ran on dirt and being unable to find one, I realize just how sad that is. The thought of not being able to find a single dirt horse in two years worthy of a Horse of the Year title is staggering to someone who goes back to the ‘60s and has seen that crown worn by so many Hall of Famers and truly great horses.

Yes, the old fogey is harkening back to the good old days again. You may join me on my journey back in time if you wish. But it is understandable if you are immersed in the present and have no desire to rehash the exploits of horses past. I look at it this way; if Scrooge can find his true self by going back to Christmases past, that’s good enough for me.

I have no problem with Wise Dan getting another Horse of the Year award for pretty much duplicating his 2012 campaign, but it is the lack of competition for the award and lack of drama at the announcement that is disturbing.

So, in order to help alleviate these feelings of apathy toward the Horse of the Year title, I decided to light a fire in the old memory vault. Readers of this column have read ad nauseam how Damascus provided my escape into the world of Thoroughbred racing, so I will not rehash that again. Anyone wishing to, can look under Damascus in this blog’s archives. But that doesn’t mean you are safe from hearing again about Dr. Fager, who actually has remained closer to me over the years, due in good part to my friendship with John Nerud, who is two months away from his 101st birthday, and writing my first book on the good doctor. But to me, these two titans of the Turf remain closest to my heart.

So, if you’re game, and wish to read about a horse like no other (before or since), then step into the time portal and head back to a blustery November afternoon in 1968.

It was 45 years ago that Dr. Fager boarded a van for his 30-hour trip to Tartan Farm in Ocala, leaving behind one of the great legacies of the Turf. As he walked out of his barn at Belmont Park on that chilly November morning, a gust of wind blew his long mane on end, giving it a plume-like effect, as if atop the head of a Spartan warrior. Dr. Fager arched his neck and flared his nostrils just as he had done so many times before a race, and even preparing for a workout.

It was an appropriate final image for a horse whose like has never been seen before and hasn’t been seen since. People will always argue who was the greatest horse ever, but few can argue that Dr. Fager was and still is his own measuring stick. With his fiery spirit in battle and the reckless abandon with which he ran, it was as if someone had captured a wild mustang dashing across the Great Plains and let him loose on the racetrack. Once the gates opened, Dr. Fager wanted nothing in front of him but the wind.

If you’re wondering why the subject of Dr. Fager has come up out of the blue as a remedy to this year’s Horse of the Year scenario, the answer is simple: I have no idea other than the fact that the tumultuous 1960s has been in the news and on TV recently on the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

Every so often, racing fans today should be reminded of the extraordinary accomplishments of the great horses of the ‘60s. As I mentioned earlier, having written several columns in recent years on the horse who paved my path in racing, Damascus, I thought it was time to re-introduce fans to Dr. Fager, who remains the most unique Thoroughbred I have ever seen.

Dr. Fager’s amazing season in 1968 could not have come at a better time for Americans, who, back then, would jam Aqueduct Racetrack and the newly opened Belmont Park every Saturday with anywhere from 50,000 to 60,000 fans.

By the end of April that year, we had already endured the Tet Offensive in Vietnam in January, the My Lai massacre in March, and the student takeover at Columbia University and the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy in April.

In fitting with the times, that May, Kentucky Derby winner Dancer’s Image failed a drug test, becoming the only Derby winner ever to be disqualified.

In other sports, the New Yankees dynasty had already begun to crumble, and the superstars of the ‘50s and early ‘60s, such as legends Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, and Roger Maris, were in decline or nearing the end of their careers. The dynasty in professional football came from the tiny town of Green Bay, Wisconsin, with names like Starr, Dowler, Dale, and McGee, hardly household names at the time.

Back in the ‘50s and early ’60s, the three most popular sports in America were baseball, boxing, and horse racing, as difficult to believe as that may seem today. Professional football only started to reach public consciousness on a major scale after the classic 1958 championship game between the New York Giants and Baltimore Colts and the emergence of stars such as Johnny Unitas, Sam Huff, and Jim Brown. Basketball and hockey also were just starting to become popular.

As the innocence of the early ‘60s gave way to the anti-war and drug culture of the late ‘60s, Americans desperately needed a sports hero and an outlet to escape from these turbulent times, and racing fans found both in Dr. Fager in 1968. There was a certain beauty and poetry in the simple joy of watching this magnificent Thoroughbred run, setting track and world records despite being burdened with staggering weights.  

Racing secretaries tried to break him, putting as much as 139 pounds on his back, but all that broke were the teletimers, as this force of unharnessed energy merely laughed in their faces.

Horses have had more productive careers than Dr. Fager, winning Triple Crown races and retiring unbeaten, and horses have broken more track records. But that was because Dr. Fager started only 22 times, No horse, however, ever achieved what Dr. Fager achieved in one year. In 1968, he was the ultimate athlete, displaying every attribute of greatness at its highest level.

In the last 10 starts of his career, he won nine, and actually missed the track record by a fifth of a second in his only defeat to Hall of Famer Damascus, while carrying 135 pounds and conceding five pounds to his arch rival.

In those 10 races, Dr. Fager broke two track records and a world record, carrying 139 and 134 pounds, and equaled another track record, carrying 132 pounds. He also missed two track records and a world record by a fifth of a second and another track record by two-fifths of a second. In 1968, he carried 130 pounds or more in all eight of his starts, winning seven, from seven furlongs to 1 1/4 miles on dirt and grass. He became the only horse ever to win four championships in a single year – Horse of the Year, Handicap Horse, Grass Horse, and Sprinter.

Even the year before when he was still a work in progress, he set track records at 1 1/8 miles and 1 1/4 miles and ran the fastest mile ever in New York by a 3-year-old, missing the track record by a fifth of a second. In his last start of the year, he came off three consecutive 1 1/4-mile races and missed the track record for seven furlongs at Aqueduct by two-fifths of a second, winning his first Vosburgh Handicap eased up in 1:21 3/5.

Only three horses ever finished in front of him and all three were champions, two of whom (Damascus and Buckpasser) were Hall of Famers.

It is safe to say that in his victory in the 1968 Washington Park Handicap, setting a world record mile of 1:32 1/5 under 134 pounds and winning by 10 lengths, no horse has ever run that fast, that easily and won by that far, as jockey Braulio Baeza never moved a muscle on him the entire length of the stretch. The sight of Baeza sitting motionless, with Dr. Fager’s long mane blowing in his face, truly was a sight to behold. Many horsemen watching the race firmly believed that had Baeza even asked him slightly, Dr. Fager would have easily run the mile in 1:31 and change, maybe even faster; that’s how easily he won. And he did it giving the runner-up, the classy Racing Room, 18 pounds.

In that race, in which he went the half in :44 flat and six furlongs in 1:07 3/5, he ran his second quarter in an unheard of :20 3/5, which was believed to be the fastest quarter-mile fraction ever run in a non-sprint race and the fastest quarter within the body of a race at any distance.

Before his final start, the seven-furlong Vosburgh Handicap, trainer John Nerud went in to see racing secretary Tommy Trotter and told him that this was Dr. Fager’s farewell and he wanted Trotter to assign him 145 pounds. Trotter couldn’t justify that, so he gave him a “mere” 139 pounds.

The day before the race, Nerud noticed the track had changed dramatically and was playing much slower. Hirsch Jacobs, one of the great trainers, owners, and breeders of all time, walked the track with his son John that morning and commented, “It’s pretty deep today.” The surface had been winterized with a deeper cushion, making the track considerably slower.

Despite the deepness of the track and the staggering 139 pounds, Dr. Fager ran the brilliant Kissin George into the ground with a scorching half in :43 4/5 and three-quarters in 1:07 4/5, which shattered Near Man’s six-furlong track record, set under 112 pounds in 1963.

Once again, Baeza, just sat motionless on Dr. Fager, who easily put Kissin George away and cruised to a six-length victory in 1:20 1/5, breaking Rose Net’s track record by a full second and missing the world record by a fifth of a second. Once again, it left everyone pondering how fast Dr. Fager would have run if asked even slightly or if the track had not been winterized.

Earlier in the year, he won the United Nations Handicap in his grass debut under 134 pounds, defeating a star-studded field of grass horses that included future Horse of the Year Fort Marcy, Australian wonder horse Tobin Bronze, and Advocator, who would come back and set a course record over that same course in the Sunrise Handicap. It was the U.N. where Dr. Fager showed his courage and will to win, losing the lead three times to Advocator, who was in receipt of 22 pounds, and coming back each time, while slipping and sliding over a slick course that he never was able to grab hold of. Baeza said he knew he was in trouble right from the start when he saw how much difficulty Dr. Fager was having over the wet course. Fort Marcy’s trainer, Elliott Burch, felt confident his horse was going to win considering it was Dr. Fager’s first try on grass and he was giving Fort Marcy 16 pounds.  

After the race, Graham Heagney, trainer of “wonder horse” Tobin Bronze, who had won the prestigious Caulfield Cup under 136 pounds and who was in the U.N. with 118, said of his horse’s defeat, “If anyone had told  me a horse could give Tobin Bronze that much weight and beat him I would have laughed in his face. But Dr. Fager is truly a great horse.”

Clyde Troutt, trainer of the gutsy Advocator, said after his horse went eyeball-to-eyeball with Dr. Fager for over a half-mile, “I wonder if my horse has any heart left.”

Dr. Fager displayed that same tenacity and courage under fire in the Suburban Handicap when he turned back three challenges from Damascus, blazing the third quarter in :22 3/5. He refused to let Damascus get by him and drew off to a two-length victory over Bold Hour, equaling Gun Bow’s 1 1/4-mile track record of 1:59 3/5, carrying 132 pounds and giving 16 pounds to the runner-up. And this came just a little over a month after he nearly died from a severe case of colic.

When Nerud sent him to Hollywood Park for the Californian Stakes in May, it was with the understanding that Dr. Fager would carry 124 pounds under the allowance conditions. But after the colt had departed from New York, Nerud was informed that there had been a miscalculation and Dr. Fager would have to carry 130 pounds. Nerud’s response: “If he’s got thirty, he’s got thirty. It won’t matter.”

And it didn’t, as Dr. Fager overcame the 11-post in the 14-horse field and cruised to a three-length victory.

With Dr. Fager, it is easy to throw mind-boggling statistics and times at you. But they only tell part of the story. You had to see him do it. You had to see that burnished copper coat that would turn blood bay depending how the sun hit him. You had to see him appear to actually expand his body like a blow fish when he got on the muscle, seeming much taller than his 16 hands frame. You had to see that long mane blowing wildly in the breeze or the fire raging in his eyes when staring down an opponent.

Dr. Fager died much too young at age 12, one year before he would be the leading sire in America. Tartan Farm is long gone, but there is one section of hallowed ground that has remained untouched. Atop a hill, overlooking the serenity of Lake Ta Wee, named after the Doctor’s sister, is the farm’s old cemetery. There, behind a cedar tree and shaded by two oak trees are the headstones of the horses that helped build the Tartan empire. Among them is the grave of Dr. Fager, whose spirit still touches all those who were privileged to witness his greatness.

As I concluded in my book, perhaps the late racing writer, David Alexander, described Dr. Fager best when he wrote: “The memory of him is the memory of the wind. I shall remember the brilliant Dr. Fager like a sudden shaft of sunlight on a darkening day.”



99 Comments

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The Deacon

If Sandy Koufax was the left arm of God as Jane Peavy so eloquently wrote, and Jim Brown was the standard for NFL greatness and Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player ever then in MY humble, as I have said many times before Dr. Fager was indeed the greatest race horse ever. I had the privilege of being at Hollywood Park that 1968 May late spring day.

Still the greatest thrill in horse I have ever had.

Like you Steve, I too loved Damascus. He was also one of the best ever.

This story is one can wrap his mind around it is much more then amazing. To carry that much weight, not once, nor twice but pretty much every time he stepped on a race track is truly remarkable.

Robin Williams said in an interview once that if you remember the 60's then you weren't there. He was laughing when he said it.

I think Successor was the 3rd horse to finish in front of the Doc. Dr. Fager was 2 at the time and very green.

Just a brilliant read Steve. I have your book on him, read it 4 times. I just marvel at his accomplishments.

Not to swell your head (ha ha) but you are to writing what the Doc was to horse racing.

If only Nerud could have trained Damascus, Spectacular Bid and Seattle Slew. Truly a great horseman.

Thank you for sharing these feelings Steve, it brings back so many memories and feelings. I am proud to say that I was there and saw it.........

04 Dec 2013 8:01 PM
annes

Extraordinary, brilliant, and a bit sad....  Was that quote from "A Sound Of Horses"? A wonderful book.

04 Dec 2013 8:27 PM
Paddy

Steve, I love going into the time capsule with you and reliving the days of the great racehorses. Dr Fager is one of my all time favorites. I loved your book about him. I can still see the long, flying mane, the breathless speed. Any time you travel back in history, I'll be there with you.

04 Dec 2013 8:38 PM
carol in utah

Great read.   Love The Doctor.   But.....the sixties and horse racing....got to mention Kelso

04 Dec 2013 8:56 PM
Paula Higgins

Steve, another wonderful post about Dr. Fager. On a recent blog, I stated that I put him right behind Secretariat and Man O'War. I really shouldn't have. He should be co-equal to them. I have read several articles where the writers placed Dr. Fager alone as #1 in the pantheon of legendary horses. I think his record, high weights, brilliance, incredible toughness and versatility place him on equal footing with Secretariat and Man O'War. He was very, very special even among other great horses. Many people feel he had the greatest one year of any horse in the history of racing. I agree. I loved your book on him. You brought Dr. Fager and Mr. Nerud to life as only you can. Speaking of which, he is pretty amazing himself at 101.

04 Dec 2013 9:03 PM
Laudie

Steve - another wonderful column.  You truly capture the magic that is horse racing.  I was born in 1959 and all the coverage reminded me that I don't remember the Kennedy assassination first hand, but your column reminded me that I do remember the disqualification of Dancer's Image.  Unfortunately, I don't remember Dr. Fager first hand, but I remember the stories.  How do we get the younger generations to understand this is what racing is really about?

P.S. Do you have any ability to suggest to the powers that be that they include the blog section on the home page of the website.  I want to be able to immediately see when you've posted a new column.

04 Dec 2013 9:32 PM
ThoroGreats

Steve, great story on the great Dr. Fager! Didn't Easy Goer(in only his 2nd start as a 3YO, conceding 9lbs, on a 14 variant track, under a hand ride) run the fastest mile of all time by any 3 year old in 1:32 2/5? Pretty amazing when you add that he ran the 2nd fastest Belmont of all time(13 variant track, 4 wide the whole race), and among the fastest all time runnings of the Whitney(9f), Travers(10f), Champagne(8f),Suburban(at 10f when run at Bel), Gotham(8f),Belmont(12f). In Charles Justice's book "Greatest Horse of All", Easy Goer was ranked(based on times, avg times at all distances, separated by age) the #2 Best 3 year old of all time behind only Secretariat. Coincidentally, Bid & Fager were the #1 & #2 best 4yo's.

04 Dec 2013 9:38 PM
Bob C

Thanks Steve for sharing your memories of Dr. Fager.  Secretariat still holds the world record for a mile and a half on dirt and Dr. Fager holds the world record for a mile. Both have withstood the test of time, but of the two Dr. Fager's mark is more impressive because it's at a more frequently contested distance.  I have always felt sorry for In Reality because he was in the same foal crop as Dr. Fager and Damascus.  In any other year In Reality would have been a champion and I believe he would have beaten any Thoroughbred from the last 10-12 years.  One final thought--prior to the 1967 Woodward John Nerud told Frank Whiteley who trained Damascus and Eddie Neloy who trained Buckpasser to withdraw their "rabbits" from the race and run the three of them head-on.  Whiteley and Neloy refused.  

04 Dec 2013 9:51 PM
Steel Dragon

Did Baeza or Nerud ever express regret about not pushing the horse harder in those races in which he was never asked? Or did setting untouchable records have no particular meaning to them?

04 Dec 2013 10:16 PM
txhorsefan

This is so beautiful, Steve, and very timely as we are closing out this year's racing season and people are talking about the end of year awards.  Dr. Fager's story reminds us of what race horses really are all about - the beauty, the heart, the true horsemen of days gone by as the trainers of these legends.  Even though I wasn't paying attention to racing at the time, I've learned about Dr. Fager and so many other greats from your wealth of informational stories, so much that I really do miss seeing horses like those weight carrying warriors of those old days.  Sure I could look up the statistics and see who won the races, but your stories give us the depth of information and awaken the feelings of deep admiration for those horses.  Thank you so much for sharing with us.

04 Dec 2013 10:36 PM
Kelso1966

Once again, anther well told story of a horse who should never be forgotten.  I knew his story, but to hear you tell it again, made me miss him all the more. I can see him running in my mind's eye.  

I have posted your story on Facebook- I have a lot of "friends" who have just come into the love of horse racing.  They need to know the history behind this sport we love and to know why we love it so.  It is the these remembrances that need to be told and so horse like the great "Dr." live once more.

05 Dec 2013 6:58 AM
Pedigree Ann

Yes, once upon a time, racing secretaries gave the top racehorses real weights, making them concede significant amounts to the lesser lights. Trainers have cowed them these days into coddling the 'top' horses; sometimes, they have even turned handicaps into wfa races so that the 'big horse' won't have to carry 'too much' weight (looking at you Santa Anita, who changed the Santa Margarita for Zenyatta, who should never have carried less than 130 in handicaps against mares during her final season.)

The size of fields in handicaps depends largely on the perception of the lower weights' connections as to whether they think they have a shot to upset the top weighted horses. When the top horses are under-weighted, fewer competitors will show up. You want big fields in handicap stakes? Give the best horses 130 - then there is room to allow them to give away enough weight to matter. We don't have jocks who can tack 100 lbs anymore, so we have to move the ceiling upward to allow for more range, as they have done in Europe.

05 Dec 2013 8:24 AM
lunar spook

STEVE- I just learned much more about a horse with a cool name I never knew much about , I may have to go back and re evaluate my top ten list of all time greats ,he was not on the list but he will be now , thanks for a great story !

05 Dec 2013 8:38 AM
texaszippeee

Wonderful story...so sad we lost Dr. Fager so young.

05 Dec 2013 9:31 AM
lunar spook

PAULA HIGGINS- On the recent blog u mentioned u had dr. fager third and I responded that I disagreed with u and had AFFIRMED third , well much as I hate to swallow a lotta humble pie I think u may have been right , remember this moment cuz im not wrong very often !  LOL !!!

05 Dec 2013 9:35 AM
Steve Haskin

Carol, my reference to Dr. Fager and the '60s was the late '60s when he ran amidst all the turmoil in the country at the time. The '60s of Kelso was a far different era.

Bob C, when mentioning records, whether, track or world or anything, it always refers to the time it was set, not for what would happen years later. When you say Dr. Fager or any horse broke the track or world record, it means at the time. If a horse broke that record subsequently, it has no bearing on the record in question. Otherwise you would always have to explain "a then-track record,"

Laudie, the blog reference is always posted on the main web page under Latest Features. That is the link to the blog itself. you can also access all the  blog at the top of the page.

05 Dec 2013 9:52 AM
Jackie WV

Steve, Thank you so much for educating me on this amazing horse!  Damascus has always been one of my favorites and I knew all about his rivalry with Dr. Fager, but now I want to know more about "the Dr."  Very sad that he passed at such a young age....what took him so soon?  I guess I will have to read his biography now. I LOVE your stories about the great ones from years ago......Please keep them coming!!!

05 Dec 2013 10:14 AM
Will

Having been born in the same year as Steve - 1947 - I enjoy when he waxes retro for he makes me yearn for the days when the Sport of Kings was not a misnomer for horse racing, and we took for granted the iron horses in the mold of Citation -  Kelso, Buckpasser, Damascus, Dr. Fager, and Forego and their like - who ran often, did not duck competition, routinely carried high weights never seen today, and spotted their rivals unheard of weight differentials. Steve's retro stories turn me nostalgic, but they also frustrate me because I know - as does Steve - that racing will never see days like that again. We are locked in to different days now - those of a "business" with horses brittled by drugs and seemingly endless litanies of stories about early retirements of horses who raced infrequently and often ducked their rivals in an era where the breeding shed took prominence over the track. What will we do when Steve gives this up, and there's no one to relive for us those days when horse racing was constantly exhilarating entertainment and not a dismal tale of young broken down and/or retired race horses and repeated allegations of illegal drug use. Under these conditions it's not surprising that Steve is now starting to have real difficulty in finding viable Horse of the Year candidates. I would expect his task is only going to get more taxing. Thanks though for a stirring tale about Dr. Fager and his versatility on dirt and grass from 7 furlongs to a 1 1/4. I remember well the high weights he routinely carried, the weight differentials between the Dr. and his rivals, the unbelievable times he ran, but I did not know that Nerud once asked him to be assigned 145 lbs. Thanks to Steve for the behind the scene details I'd never heard.  I cannot ever remember a horse carrying over 139 lbs. in what amounts to today's Grade 1 competition. Winning the Vosburgh over a deep winterized track at an impost of 139 lbs. with Baeza sitting chilly, never asking him, and the Dr. still besting the track record by a full second while just missing the world record - maybe only Spectacular Bid since then ever had an iota of a chance of equaling that performance. Even more stirring was Steve's fleshing out of the story surrounding the United Nations Handicap victory of the Dr. at 134 lbs. in his first start on grass on a turf course he did not handle against a star-studded field of grass stars, giving away 22 lbs. to a horse who would return to set a course record. I'm still pinching myself over that one. Did that really happen ? I say that having lived through and been well-versed with Dr. Fager's career, having seen on all his races. In light of what we see in contrast today I guess it's made me even more incredulous that something like that ever occurred. Yes, Steve, is right he can dazzle you with Dr. Fager's stats and times and that I'm sure he did in the book that needed to be written about Dr. Fager whom he rightly described as "a sudden shaft of sunlight on a darkening day" quoting another great turf writer and putting into definitive perspective the way the Dr. should be remembered in light of what goes on and what racing has become today. As today is my birthday and I have again caught up with Steve in age, it was a pleasure to find such a memorable column in the Bloodhorse about a horse and an era in racing I'd long to see again though I know I never will. Many thanks, Steve. The column was a great birthday present ! I'm going to Amazon right now to see if I can get a copy of your book about the Dr.

05 Dec 2013 10:36 AM
derbylin

Wonderful story, Steve.  I always love reading about the greats of the past.  Remember well, sitting in front of my TV and watching "The Race of the Week".

I now live in Florida only a short distance from a farm

called Winding Oaks Farm.  I have heard this used to be

Tartan Farm.  It would be wonderful if I could find that

cemetery.  Is it possible to get directions?

05 Dec 2013 11:12 AM
anita b

Thanks Steve,

 Dr. Fager has long been one of my "heart" horses. And sister,Ta Wee too. I would have liked to own one of his foals. He ia in my top 3 of all time special horses. Thanks again

05 Dec 2013 11:17 AM
Horsemaven

Great article Steve. We both became enamored with racing at about the same time. I remember your column about your first Travers..it was mine also. My friend and I went to see Forward Pass win and he was beaten by C V Whitney's in and outer(bum) Chompion. About this column. If I recall correctly, Damascus was only able to beat Dr Fager when they ran an entry mate with Damascus, the rabbit Hedevar to soften Dr Fager up. Those were great days, sadly, racing isn't the same anymore.

05 Dec 2013 11:39 AM
captainsmistress

Thank You for a wonderful story! I was very young, but I have vague memories of my father watching these greats of the 60's on our little black and white TV. So sad we will never see greats like this again. None of today's hot house flowers could compete with the likes of the Dr. I love the imagery of the long, flowing mane, really adds to the mental picture.

05 Dec 2013 11:45 AM
Warlaine

Your story and just the thought of Dr. Fager takes my breath away much like what the wind must have felt like in his presence.Thank you Steve.

05 Dec 2013 12:25 PM
derbylin

With a little computer savvy, I was able to find the farm online and have a phone number.  Many times I have driven by this farm not knowing what hidden treasures there were.  I realize you don't have time to spend helping me find the place.  But please know, I love all

of your stories and appreciate your expertise.

05 Dec 2013 1:39 PM
Secretariat

Fager was absolutely brilliant, but there was no one better than "The Bid".

I'll yell you one thing. Secretariat wouldn't have won the triple crown if "The Bid" had looked him in the eye.

Bid's 10 furlong world record: 22 - 44 3/5 - 1:08 2/5 - 1:32 4/5 - 1:57 4/5.

05 Dec 2013 2:23 PM
The Deacon

Secretariat:

           I concur with your assessment. The only horse in racing history that compares with Dr. Fager is Spectacular Bid. I have been preaching that case as long as I can remember.

Those 2 rank first and second on the all time list in my book. I been around this business since 1955 when I was very young.  I have all the great ones race and my assessment is based on fact, eye test and on track performance. A horse must be versatile, have the ability to carry weight, race on different surfaces and tracks and run brilliantly fast times. That is the mark of greatness.

Secretariat won the TC, yes those races were amazing. But folks please remember, he was beaten several times and never carried more then 126 lbs in any race.

The 1973 Belmont Stakes was arguably the single greatest performance ever, I won't argue that but if we look at a body of work for a career then The Bid and Doc stand alone.

Remember to that Secretariat back in 1973 saved horse racing. He was the 1st TC winner since 1948 (Citation), the media coverage also was a big factor.

Very little TV or media coverage back in the 1950's or 1960's.

Secretariat stirred a passion in folks, he brought racing back to prominence.

Folks, if you want to really be fair and judge greatness in addition to Dr. Fager, Spectacular Bid and Man O War go back and look at the record of Swaps, Kelso, Native Dancer, and Seattle Slew.

05 Dec 2013 3:27 PM
mz

Thank you Steve also for the reference to Ta Wee. Two years later (1970), she carried 140 lbs in the Fall Highweight (when it WAS a highweighted race) and 142 in the Interborough, both to victory.  What a gutsy family altogether from a claiming mare (Aspidistra).

p.s.  I remember the 60's too and didn't know enough about the future to think that Damascus, Buckpasser and Dr. Fager in a race would be a rare thing.  Who knew that I would start singing along with Edith and Archie: "...those were the days"?  At the time, I thought I was Gloria or Meathead.

05 Dec 2013 3:50 PM
lunar spook

SECRETARIAT- "THE BID" did not even WIN the triple crown and was also beaten by AFFIRMED who I think was a better horse and faced better competition , I don't think secretariat would have had much trouble with "THE BID"

05 Dec 2013 4:40 PM
lunar spook

THE DEACON- I must respectfully disagree with you on "THE BID" I would rank both AFFIRMED & COUNT FLEET ahead of him as well as a few others ,on the biggest stage for all the marbles at the Belmont he failed , im aware of the safety pin issue but just like quarterbacks must win the super bowl to be elite , horses have to prove it in the triple crown !

05 Dec 2013 5:08 PM
livewire

I agree with everyone that Dr. Fager was a great horse.  I also believe he was the better horse of the two between Damascus and Dr. Fager.  However when comparing hime to some of the other greats mentioned, let be fare as these feats of Spectacular Bid and Dr. Fager were accomplished as 4 year olds at full maturity.  Secretariat was not allowed to race at 4, his syndication requiring retirement.

Secretariat

Spectacular Bid would have been running for 3rd money at best had he competed in the 1973 Kentucky Derby.  Spectacular Bid simply wasn't fast enough at 3 to best Secretariat or Sham.  Secretariat does not hold all 3 stakes and track records for nothing.  You must be naming yourself Secretariat as a joke.

That 10 furlong record you refer to happened as a 4 year old.

The Deacon

Secretariat was beaten 4 times, hardly "several" and all were explainable. I wholeheartedly agree with you on remembering others, Swaps was also a brilliant horse, capable of sensational performances.

Secretariat to my knowledge was the only 3 year old who ran these track and world record breaking times.  The others required another year of maturity just to get within hailing distance of those times.  These horses probably carried similar weights as 3 year olds also.  Remember, a handicap horse is usually 4 years and older.  

05 Dec 2013 8:17 PM
Paula Higgins

Will, Happy Birthday!

Lunar Spook, it is nice to see you reappraise Dr. Fager :). Thank you for taking a second look. I really think he was one of the immortals. I have a huge soft spot for him.  Affirmed was pretty spectacular too. No argument.

Horsemaven, I am glad you brought up that bit with the rabbit. To me, it is a very declasse (accent over the e) thing to do. I know it happens, but I don't like it. I think a horse should be able to win it straight up without using tactics like that. But I am not blaming Hedevar LOL.

The Deacon, I really enjoyed reading your post too. Good discussion of why you rank horses where you do. I cannot pick between Man O'War, Secretariat and Dr. Fager for #1. There are good reasons to put each one in the first spot. So, I am taking the easy way out and making all 3 co-equals at #1. I know many people feel that Specatcular Bid had the most talent of any horse to hit the dirt, but I still haven't put him with the top 3. Steve, we need you to do a post on Spectacular Bid and give us your perspective.

Pedigree Ann, I think I agree with you about the weight issue. Having said that, I am not sure if the horses today could carry those weights since breeding for stamina isn't what it used to be. But I sure do get your point.

If you don't have Steve's Dr. Fager book, get it.

05 Dec 2013 8:59 PM
sysonby

Steve, can you dig up some of the race times for the rest of the card on the day the Dr. won his 2nd Vosburgh....The Keeneland Library collection has hit a snag and the 1960's aren't available

05 Dec 2013 10:18 PM
car

Great article.  When I get in to debates about great horses (I feel Man O' War is the greatest) Dr. Fager's name comes up a lot and now I see why.  What a great horse, and fast.  It is SO nice to read about the great horses of the past.  I feel that they are sort of the forgotten heroes (except for the fans of Secretariat) and it's nice to remember the truly great horses.  Horses like Citation who won 21 races in ONE season, horses that really raced, carried weight, set records, etc.  Racing just isn't like back in those days and they are sorely missed.  I have read other comments here and I am truly surprised (actually I might even be able to sleep tonight LOL) over the rationale of Secretariat and what he did.  And how "Secretariat" the person who uses the name thinks Spectacular Bid is the best?  Surprisingly but I agree he is definately in the top 5 and needs to be recognized more for what HE did.  Also for the person who talked about Affirmed beating Bid so he must be better, remember Secretariat never beat Prove Out.  If people could just remember and respect great horses of the past and not as I read somewhere (worship at the house of Secretariat) and be fair to all great horses, that would make horse racing so much easier to remember, at least for me.  Great horses like Count Fleet need to also be remembered for his 25 length romp while "galloping" in the Belmont and running the last quarter faster than Secretariat, Citation who ran 21 races, Native Dancer, and others, it's so nice to read articles where a writer just writes about the particular horse and praises him and him alone, and fans like the ones who made comments below are "FAIR" and see greats the way they should be.  Great article and thanks for this forum to share our opinions and give thanks (with Thanksgiving behind us no pun was intended)!!!  Oh, the good ol days of racing, it's so sad they appear to be gone.

05 Dec 2013 10:56 PM
Steve Haskin

For those who didn't read them here are two links to columns on Damascus to give him equal time

cs.bloodhorse.com/.../if-damascus-raced-today.aspx

06 Dec 2013 12:01 AM
Steve Haskin
06 Dec 2013 12:03 AM
The Deacon

Lunar Spook:  Horse racing among fans is about opinions and discussions, we can agree to disagree. Just because a horse hit maturity at age 3 and others at age 4 doesn't take away a horse's greatness.

A Lucian Laurenmerica is in love with the TC, everyone knows that. As I stated Secretariat instilled passion back in the sport. He came along when we needed a hero. He deserves all the credit one can bestow on a horse. Remember what Lucian Lauren (Secretariat's trainer) said Ruffian was the best horse he ever saw run.

My assessment, and I say it again is based on body of work. You don't allow for weights to make a difference. One can't assume Secretariat would have carried the weight Dr. Fager did.  3 year olds,

Great 4 year olds usually beat good or great 3 year olds.

Thus in the case of Affirmed beating The Bid. Bid's world record at 10 furlongs was set as a 4 year old.

Obviously the passion you feel for Secretariat explains my case in point. I respect the fact you adore him, and you should he was a great horse.

What's the saying "numbers never lie"........

06 Dec 2013 1:36 AM
The Deacon

Livewire: Lets say your a great track star and you are trying to win an Olympic 1500 meters. Now stick a 3 inch pin in the bottom of your foot and see how you do, just saying.

In my humble opinion The Bid was a better race horse then Secretariat. Yes Affirmed beat The Bid. Affirmed was 4 and The Bid was 3. A year prior if you remember

Seattle Slew then 4,  beat Affirmed then 3.

I go back to race times, weight a horse carries and the ability to run on different surfaces and tracks.

Affirmed, The Bid and the Doc all came west to race as did Damascus and Kelso . Secretariat never did !!  

This is only my opinion...........I highly respect everyone's opinion, it's what racing is about.

Maybe we should just love and enjoy all of them because they are only with us a short time.....

06 Dec 2013 1:45 AM
Coldfacts

Holy Bull was a flop in his Kentucky Derby with his 12th place effort and took no further part in the Triple Crown series. Subsequent to the 1994 TC series, The Bull made 5 starts wining all including four G1s. At the end of his 3YO season he had contested 10 races, winning 8 including five G1s.

Is there a 3YO in 2013 whose performance mirrors that of The Bull?

Will Take Charge might just be that 3YO. He was stopped dead when making a challenging more in the Derby and finished a respectable 8th. He was unplaced in the remaining two legs of the TC somewhat similar to Holy Bull’s non-participation in the remaining two legs.

Like The Bull, WTC has made 5 starts after the 2013 TC series. He won 3 including two G1 and was inches away from victory in his two heart breaking losses in the G1 Jim Dandy and BCC. At the end of 2013, 3YO season, he would have made 11 starts winning 5 including two GI.  

He already has the Eclipse for male 3YO Champion. Is he also a legitimate candidate for HOY?

In many quarters Game On Dude would have secured HOY honors if he had won the BCC. He finished off the board. WTC finished heart breaking 2nd. It was still the opinion of many that if GOD was successful in the Clarke he would be voted HOY. He was again defeated by WTC.

WTC loss to MMM in the BCC is more like victory as MMM had the advantage of two previous starts on the speed favoring surface at SA. The fact that he was able to close against a speed bias is in itself amazing. He returned to Churchill Downs where in his two previous starts he finished 12th and 8th and defeated the top raced old male.

WTC was burnt in the grueling Triple Crown flames and like phoenix, the mythological bird, he arose from the TC ashes and has produced the type of performances that are worthy of HOY honors.

I find it surprising that difficulty is being expressed in identifying a viable HOY candidate on dirt in 2013. If WTC's body of work and achievements are viewed in proper context, the search would have ended.

06 Dec 2013 7:24 AM
AngelaInAbilene

Wow!  Thank you Mr. Haskin for this.  In my eyes, Dr. Fager is, was and always will be the greatest.  There's not been a horse since that could wear his shoes.  

06 Dec 2013 8:52 AM
steve from st louis

Reminded me of Forego, who could sprint with the best of them, win at a mile and a quarter and give weight to any man's horse. Wasn't the turf horse Dr. Fager was and hated the slop although one of his greatest races, beating Honest Pleasure was run in the slop.

I was in Chicago when Dr. Fager ran his record mile. Although it was only around one turn, couldn't believe the teletimer because he did it so effortlessly.

06 Dec 2013 11:26 AM
smarie

Wow. Dr. Fager raced a few years before "my time," as they say, so I wasn't really up to speed on his incredible career and achievements. Thank you, Mr. Haskin, for taking us back and reminding us of just how amazing this horse was. Horse racing has seen some big changes since Dr. Fager ran and a lot of these aren't positive. It is good to be reminded of how things used to be.

BTW, was this horse named after an actual Dr. Fager? Just wondering.

06 Dec 2013 1:16 PM
livewire

The Deacon

You are entitled to your opinion. I have never put much stock in the safety pin made that much of a difference, knowing the structures of the hoof.  It is very different from a human foot, however, track stars run with issues in their feet all the time.  Prefontaine ran and won many races with bloody feet.  Lets remember that Spectacular Bid required more than 2:02 to complete his Kentucky Derby and many lesser horses have completed the Preakness in better time than their Derby's.  He just simply was not good enough in the Belmont.  He is just another of the great horses who for one reason or another, could not complete the triple crown.  That does not mean he was not a great horse, as far as I am concerned he was the last great entire male horse.

Don't get me started on the east coast bias.  Thank God for the Breeders Cup which has evened the playing field as far as year end honors.  Many, many times a west coast horse was ignored because they did not venture to the east coast to prove their worth.  Most of the time the division had to be weak for a decidedly West Coast horse to receive an Eclipse Award.  Back then, it was unusual for an east coast horse to venture west. Look what happened to Seattle Slew when he did.  A very bad move by his owners as the horse should have been rested and ran into J O Tobin, who many appear to have forgotten. Many east coast stars came west towards the end of their careers as did Dr. Fager.  Affirmed came west as part of his campaign at 2, 3, and 4.  Because he did so, this allowed that east coast bias to creep up again prior to the triple crown, as Alydar was once again considered the better of the two by opinion only because once it was settled on the track, Affirmed was the best. Look at how Zenyatta was practically villified for her lack of ventures east.

Also, back then and not so much now, Santa Anita and Hollywood Park produced much faster times frequently which explains Spectacular Bid's world record.  Secretariat did not have to venture west and there was no reason to.  Had he stayed in training at 4, there is a possibility he might have but unfortunately we will never know.  Has anyone ever dared to imagine what Secretariat might have been at 4 using Seattle Slew, Affirmed, and Spectacular Bid at 4 as guidance?  

As far as Prove Out, that race was a race Secretariat was thrown into because it was not in Riva Ridge's best interest and ownership wanted to be represented just like the Whitney when he was ill and compromised (just like Seattle Slew in the Swaps).  Never mind that it wasn't in Secretariat's best interest.  See the article regarding Riva Ridge and his mismanagement, noone ever really delves into the mismanagement of Secretariat.

One thing we can all agree in, great horses have been few since the 70s, John Henry is really the only one.  We have had many great fillies and mares since then, which is mystifying as to why.  I miss the great horses.  I miss the supporting cast of good horses that were unfortunate like Sham(maybe great), Believe It, J O Tobin, General Assembly and Sensitive Prince that pushed Secretariat, Affirmed/Alydar, Seattle Slew and Spectacular Bid in their 3 year old years. It really is too bad for fans of the sport entering since that period.  

06 Dec 2013 2:17 PM
The Deacon

Smarlie:  The race horse Dr. Fager was named after a Boston brain surgeon Dr. Charles Fager.  Trainer John Nerud fell off his horse and suffered a brain injury. Dr. Charles Fager saved Nerud's life. I believe 2 operations were needed. Steve may have more information on this then I.

06 Dec 2013 2:47 PM
Bill Rinker

Hi Steve, Thanks for another great blog, I always enjoy your work, as it stimulates inter action among the horse community, and all our interpertive thoughts, much much fun. Perhaps the great Dr. Fager was capable of evoking so much racing prowess that to encourage him by means of the whip would have been an insult. I admire Braulio Baeza for his ability to sit chilly in such a highly competitive race and rivalry. The challenge of the hightening moments of racing, when world class Jockeys become so immersed in the over all excitement that they loose awareness of the previous events when asked to recall a winning ride, reminds us of our humanity. I find it a little hard to believe that "staying in the moment" can be so easily achieved with the option of the whip at hand. It is a given that all races are different, the chemistry ever changing, the all important connection, victory easily in peril or resolute by temperance. A moment of definitive greatness that may be represented by an immortal number in history. What is it that shapes a horses mind, and will to win? A personality trait, a herd dynamic, a learned behavior grasping for our approval, or perhaps the horse that innately understands and some how excepts the world that it is apart of. Just how much love and understanding that we can muster may determine the path of continued improvement that we are mutually seeking. Can a sixteen and a half hand horse that weighs 1100lbs. and caries 25lbs. and a fifteen hand horse that weighs 975lbs. and carries 35lbs. be considered equal; at a mile and a quarter, at a mile, at six furlongs, or even one panel? I have a personal memory that influences my perception of the last moments in a race when the Jockeys are desperately urging their horses towards the finish line. I my youth I was a long distance runner. One day while walking across campus I began to chase a friend, and we ran for quite a little distance up and over hills and such. I was wearing a small back pack at the time with some of my books in tow. The faster I ran the more the books began to bounce and flop around on my back. It was great fun at the time but the further I ran it became apparent that those books were hurting more and more with each stride. When I stoped running and laughing I realized that a game of chase is much more enjoyable with out the battering of those text books flailing around on my back. I wonder...

06 Dec 2013 2:48 PM
Racingfan

Livewire:  The safety pin you never gave much credence to was in fact a very big problem.  The day after the race he was very lame. In early July he was still unable to put much pressure on the foot and in a quote from his owner at that time, he said they were concerned he may not even race again due to the portion of his hoof that had to be cut away.  He finally returned to the races in late August.  Would he have won the Belmont or not?  Nobody can say but I highly doubt that extra quarter mile would have been too much for him, especially since he just missed to Affirmed in his only other try at the distance and he won all his starts at 1 1/4 miles.....including one in 1:57 4/5 which is faster than Secretariat ran the distance.  And the horse that won the Belmont, finished behind him in the JCGC a few months later....

06 Dec 2013 4:27 PM
Racingfan

Car - what a fantastic post!  Yes we all have our favorites (mine is Native Dancer) but I agree it is great to remember and appreciate ALL the great horses of the past.  I love it when Steve and others write about them so we can all remember!

06 Dec 2013 4:33 PM
Paula Higgins

I think the idea that we have plenty of reason to respect all the great horses of yesteryear is a good one i.e. Citation, Kelso, Seattle Slew, Swaps, John Henry, Forego, Ruffian, Sham etc. What a great century that was for horse racing. I am hoping Will Take Charge is something special too. I think he could be. The Triple Crown is important, but there are many routes to greatness as we have seen. BTW, The real Dr. Fager (Charles)was not only a great neurosurgeon, but also a very nice man. I was a graduate R.N. back then and he was always very kind to us. He never made us feel insignificant, which some M.D.'s elevated to an art form.

06 Dec 2013 5:45 PM
Davids

Steve, you ponder 'Dr. Fager, Where are You?' well, if you are reflecting on, and comparing the prosaic champions of today to a horse of Dr. Fager's stature then you may be searching for a very, very long time.

I have read many times John Nerud's appraisal of the great horses of the 1960s and 1970s and it is hard not to agree with his assessment. If Dr. Fager isn't the best, then there are none better either.

The Deacon makes the valid point that a great 4 year old will more often than not beat a great 3 year old - draw the line. In 1968 Dr. Fager achieved something that has never been equalled - sublime.

Seattle Slew is the only undefeated Triple Crown winner - sublime.  

06 Dec 2013 6:25 PM
Freetex

Wow, what a read.  I enjoyed it immensely.  I went to YouTube and viewed just about every race or video I could find on Dr. Fager.  He sure seemed to love racing just as you described, Steve.  There was one video where Dr. Fager was waiting to be saddled and he was just so intently pawing the ground with his nostrils snorting.  It reminded me of Zenyata before her win in the Breeders Cup Classic.  What a horse.  Thank you so much for bringing such a grand champion to light for those of us who were not into racing during those fabulous times when it was the sports of kings.

06 Dec 2013 7:05 PM
smarie

The Deacon,

Thank you for the information on who Dr. Fager was named after. I appreciate it.

06 Dec 2013 10:06 PM
sceptre

Speaking of (Dr. Fager's) "tenacity and fire", read up on his Jersey Derby (I was there)...Yes, Dr. Fager was one of the greats for the ages; breathtaking in motion.

06 Dec 2013 11:02 PM
Will

Thanks to Paula Higgins for the birthday greetings. I'm a little ambivalent about drawing even with Steve again age-wise, but reading one of his retro columns - which are my favorites of his - sure made the day enjoyable. And it got better when I found a new copy of his book on Dr. Fager at Amazon for only $3.98 !

06 Dec 2013 11:29 PM
mz

Hey guys, remember the distaff side too in the olden days: Shuvee, Gamely, Dark Mirage, Affectionately, Princessnesian, all of whom contributed mightily to the fun years of racing.  

I also have to mention Flaming Page, who was the first Queens Plate winner I ever watched on TV.  Unfortunate that she only had three foals.  Fortunate they happened to be Nijinsky, Minsky and Fleur.

06 Dec 2013 11:45 PM
mz

Shoot!  How could I have forgotten Gallant Bloom!

06 Dec 2013 11:59 PM
Bellwether

It's Horse's like the immortal Dr. Fager That make "The Game" the National Treasure that it is..."Long Live The King"!!!...ty...

07 Dec 2013 3:45 AM
Pedigree Ann

Hey, Chompion wasn't a bum, he was a mud-lark and an out-and-out stayer. On fast-track days he was okay - third in the JC Gold Cup (2 miles), Gallant Fox (11f), and Lawrence Realization (14f on dirt), 2nd in the Monmouth Invitational at 3. On mud or turf, he was much better. His best wins as an older horse, the Pan Am Hcp and the Dixie H, were both 12f turf (and G1-type races at that time), also beat some top foreigners when 3rd in a boggy DC International. 88 starts, 14 wins, 14 second, 16 thirds, and retired sound. His earnings of a tad over $600K look better if you remember that the Travers purse was only $75K-added and the JC Gold Cup $100K-added. We could use a few more Chompions in the game these days.

07 Dec 2013 12:00 PM
helvetian

Old Fogey,

I'm very happy you are keeping the memory of the good doctor alive.

As a 51 year old racing fan, My only vague memory of Dr. Fager was my father speaking of him when I was a child.

Over the years seeing his name well up the list of all time greats spurred my interest which led to reading your excellent biography of Dr. Fager.

Within the pages of "Dr. Fager- Racing,s top record setter" which remains on the corner of my desk, there are several paragraphs including the closing lines which I repeatedly reread when I need inspiration to carry on.

Thank you for an excellent read,

07 Dec 2013 1:36 PM
Ted from LA

Happy birthday mz.  I love you no matter how wrinkled you get.

07 Dec 2013 1:53 PM
duchess

From what I have heard about the Bid and the safety pin - the pin introduced pathogens right through his hoof and into his foot, which resulted in a life threatening infection. It might sound like a minor injury, but it could have killed him.

Steve, I love your stories about old time champions. I have read your book on Dr. Fager and it is a wonderful read - I cannot recommend it enough to your column readers who have not yet read it.

I love how you described his fire on the track (including the way he shot his tail straight up in the air whenever he felt the whip!!) yet off the track he was a sweetie pie.

He sounds like he was quite simply a wonderful character as well as a race horse.

We lost him at far too young an age.

07 Dec 2013 3:41 PM
Old Timer

Steve, as one old fogey to another, you have done it again. What wonderful prose! The good Doctor was indeed amazing. I always get hot under the collar when I think of Whiteley sticking the "rabbit" Hedevar in some of his races. While Damascus was also one of the greats, I do not believe that Damascus would have ever beaten Dr. Fager without the rabbit to soften him up. I always regretted that the two of them never ran a match race.

You are 100% on the money in saying that those were heady days for thoroughbred racing. I was there when they ran the "Race of the Century" with Damascus; the Doctor; and Buckpasser. The feeling was electric.

Your books on both Dr. Fager and Kelso grace my shelves. Keep up the good work.

Lastly, how many championships did Dr. Fager garner that one year? He was sprint; turf; older horse; and horse of the year all at once. Now that will very likely never be seen ever again!

07 Dec 2013 3:45 PM
Steve Haskin

Glad to see so much response to the Good Doctor. It's reassuring to see the old-time greats being talked about. And thanks to all who read the book and enjoyed it. It was pretty special to me.

Duchess is right about The Bid's foot. Doc Harthill came up from Kentucky to work on it right after the Belmont, and he stuck some instrument up into the hoof and said it was like striking oil. A thick black fluid came shooting out of the hoof. Left untreated, he could easily have lost the foot. If anyone thinks Bid lost that race without a major excuse, then they either never saw him run or ever really studied his PPs.

07 Dec 2013 6:31 PM
The Deacon

Sceptre:  The disqualification of Dr. Fager in the 1967 Jersey Derby is in my mind the biggest travesty in horse racing history. The stewards that day must have all eaten the same peyote or was on some other 1960's drug. He wins the race by open lengths, and the funny is that the so called interference occurred on the clubhouse turn.

I have never seen a sport shoot itself in the foot anymore then horse racing does.

07 Dec 2013 6:47 PM
The Deacon

Well said Steve about The Bid........one of the greatest ever..........

08 Dec 2013 12:55 AM
tanzkd

Thanks for the great work Steve - made me go pull out the articles I have on the Doctor & reread them again - A Super Horse Goes Out To Pasture ( readers Digest 4/19/70 ) & How To Retire Successfully After a 28 Month Career in the N.Y. Times Magazine from 3/69 & last but not least Dr. Fager ( Thoroughbred Record 1964 - 1976). Keep doing what you do best - keep these horses alive for more generations to come.

08 Dec 2013 10:38 AM
sceptre

The Deacon,

It's my recollection that his Jersey Derby DQ was indeed earned. Dr. Fager broke from the outside post in the field of four,  and in Ycaza's attempt to move toward the rail "herded" the others-I don't think there was any contact, but the other jock/jocks had to take back to protect their mount(s). Ycaza was a great jockey, one of the most talented ever, but he had a reputation for being too aggressive-recall also the 1962 Preakness/his ride on the great Ridan. Perhaps Steve can locate a film of the 1967 Jersey Derby-in those days (I think) Memorial Day always fell on May 31.

08 Dec 2013 11:46 AM
Steel Dragon

I'm sure the safety pin was legit, but Ronnie Franklin blew the Belmont (much like Elliot did for Smarty Jones) and never rode the horse again. Safety pin and all the Bid was good enough with a half decent ride. And I was not a fan of the horse or his connections.

08 Dec 2013 4:43 PM
Obmar

“Was Dr. Fager just so naturally fast that he would have done well in any barn?” I asked.

  Nerud shook his head slowly. “He had two clubbed feet, and we packed them every day with either cotton or mud. Otherwise he was a very intelligent and easy-going horse who learned his lessons quickly. I think it’s fair to say that a great horse usually overcomes his trainer...He was a good eater and sleeper, and liked to sleep lying down. He also liked to show off, and he knew he was special.

  “He was kind of multi-colored, depending on the light. Sometimes light bay, sometimes brown, sometimes almost gold. He was a chameleon. And he was a throw-back to Spur--five generations back on the topline of his pedigree. I once met an old hot-walker who told me he’d walked Spur and that Dr. Fager was the perfect image of Spur. You just never know what ancestor a horse will take after, and sometimes it won’t be any one, but a blend of them all.

  “Do you know the story of how Dr. Fager got his name?” Nerud asked.

  “I think I do, but refresh my memory.”

  “It must have been back in 1965. I took a fall chasing a runaway horse and for the next couple of weeks I kept having fainting spells. My wife, Charlotte, took me to the Lahey Clinic in Boston that specialized in brain injuries. Doctor Charles Fager did an emergency surgery to remove a blood clot from my brain, and he later told Charlotte that I had about a half hour to live when we arrived...

08 Dec 2013 6:22 PM
Gene Of Ballston Lake

Unfortunately, the only time I saw Dr. Fager compete was the 1967 Woodward Stakes when he lost to Damascus.  I always get a thrill watching tapes of Dr. Fager's races.  There's no doubt he is among the four or five greatest of all time.  

08 Dec 2013 8:24 PM
Ranagulzion

Coldfacts,

I share your sentiments regarding Will Take Charge in your elaborate post 06 Dec 2013 7:24 AM. His victory in the Clarke has elevated his HOTY claims immensely against the background of his breathtaking loss to Mucho Macho Man in the Breeder's Cup Classic. I was thiking that had he won the Jim Dandy he might have had a realistic shot of successfully challenging Wise Dan for HOTY but alas he's fallen a trifle short. If indeed he'd won both the Jim Dandy and the BCC to run up a post-triple crown five-race winning streak, Steve would not be reminiscing about the great Dr Fager at this time.

08 Dec 2013 9:57 PM
Windolin

Thanks Steve for another great story. Love it when you go back in the time vault for the story. Dr Fager was before my time of following racing so I really enjoy hearing about him. On another note I do not think the horse has ever been born that could have beaten Secretariat in the Belmont. As to the "safety" pin injury as a horse owner I can tell you that sole of the hoof is vulnerable  to a puncture that could quickly be infected. I hope Wise Dan wins HOY and WTC the 3

year old. But I voted for MMM for Vox Populi. Weird but guess it is a "

chick" thing. There is always next year, but for this year WTC and Wise Dan top my list. I am thankful Rachel and Partner survived in a year in which we lost so many good horses. One final thought the Slew/

Secretariat cross progeny continue to give us good horses

.

09 Dec 2013 1:59 PM
The Equestrian Vagabond

Your book on this fabulous horse was just that: fabulous. I miss the good ol' days of racing with those incredible hard knocking, long-lasting horses!

09 Dec 2013 3:03 PM
The Deacon

Steel Dragon:   Ronny Franklin was a very young and inexperienced jockey. The Bid usually made up for any mistake made by being brilliant and the best of his era.

Flying Paster was a very nice horse out west here and The Bid just dominated him in every race they faced each other. I was at Santa Anita the day The Bid set the 10 furlong world record of 1:57 4/5.

Hard to fathom any horse ever coming close to that record. I was a huge "Bid" fan but a fan of Buddy Delp, his trainer.

If The Bid would have Bobby Frankel, John Nerud, or any of a few other trainers handle him who knows what he would have accomplished. I saw an interview once with Bill Shoemaker and he said The Bid was the best horse he ever rode. Shoemaker rode many of the all time greats including Swaps, and Gallant Man (infamous Derby blunder).

If you really think about it, great horses usually have a shelf life of about 2 years of racing. Everything has to go just right for them. Some of these greats have to overcome their connections who all too often are eager to race them when the conditions aren't ideal, track conditions, weight, and post positions.

This is why the immortals stand alone, because most of the time they are able to do.

The safety pin issue with The Bid was a very big deal.

No doubt in my mind he would have easily won the Belmont Stakes if he were healthy.

I've said before that I believe Secretariat's historice Belmont victory is probably the single greatest performance ever. That record will also never be touched.

Mostly because that distance is rarely run anymore and horses today are not bred to go 12 furlongs. A few can but is rare.

The fun part is discussing these all time greats and sharing opinions..........

09 Dec 2013 4:38 PM
mz

OK, and now for something completely different: Sea Bird.  Talk about another horse who simply destroyed his competition!

09 Dec 2013 7:32 PM
livewire

Great discussion everyone.  It just goes to show you how much the lack of a truly great horse since 1980 makes us long for the good old days and those great horses of the 70s and before.

Not much was written up regarding the safety pin immediately after the Belmont here on the West Coast but I can certainly see it must have been a big issue for the Bid.  I never cared much for his connections and their boastful ways, let the horse do the talking on the track.  Just glad we did not lose him or the 1:57 4/5 never happens those here arguing for the Bid are hanging their hat on.  Laminitis must have been a concern given the horses ability to use all 4 legs was compromised. Nor would we have witnessed the greatest campaign by a 4 year old ever completed.  It is unfortunate the Bid was hampered by nagging leg issues at 4 requiring breaks in his campaign and eventually unable to compete in the Jockey Club Gold Cup as a 4 year old. Certainly he did enough anyway.

Just as Spectacular Bid's two records at Santa Anita of 1:20 for 7 furlongs and 1:57 4/5 for 10 furlongs at 4 have withstood the test of time, so has Secretariat's multiple records of 1:59 2/5 at Churchill Downs in May for 10 furlongs, 1:53 for 9 1/2 furlongs at Pimlico, 2:24 for 12 furlongs at Belmont with splits of 1:09 1/5 1:34 1/5 1:59, 9 furlongs in September in 1:45 2/5 timed in 1:58 for 10 furlongs in the gallop out and that is just his dirt times.  It is evident that Secretariat was more than capable of running a sub 1:58 10 furlong time in the fall of his 3 year old year on the East Coast and the spring of his 3 year old year on the West Coast which is why I believe the 3 year old Secretariat would have defeated the 4 year old Spectacular Bid. Ron Turcotte said that Secretariat was just beginning to figure out the game when he was retired.  His accomplishments at two and three were accomplished on his sheer ability and talent.  William Nack wrote had Secretariat competed at 4 he would have been an unstoppable monster.  Charles Hatton who saw both Man O'War and Secretariat run stated of Secretariat, “He’s the greatest horse that anyone has ever seen.  Don’t let anyone kid you.  He could do anything, and he could do it better than any horse I ever saw.  No question about it in my mind.”  Secretariat was like two horses in one, he could do things no horse before or since could do.

Spectaculat Bid's 3 yr old season by comparison at a similar time in their careers was 2:02 plus for 10 furlongs and 1:54 plus for 9 and 1/2 furlong in May and 1:46 3/5 in September for the Bid's Marlboro Cup and 2:01 2/5 for 10 furlongs following the Jockey Club Gold Cup as a 3 year old.  It would be unfair to compare the 12 furlong performances in June just as it would be naive to compare the time at the fastest playing track in North America to the times accomplished by Secretariat on the slower East Coast tracks.

Steve, your writing is the best.  Reminds me of the writing of Charles Hatton who could really turn a phrase.  My favorite has always been, Raise a Native worked this morning, the trees swayed.

09 Dec 2013 7:51 PM
livewire

By the way, the TVG telecast of 75 sensational years at Hollywood Park has footage of Dr Fager complete with the flagging of his tail as he runs down the stretch.  Hope everyone has a chance to see it.

09 Dec 2013 7:53 PM
lunar spook

THE DEACON  ,  LIVEWIRE - I Agree with you on trainer BUD DELP , very arrogant and didn't care for him either and under a better trainer "THE BID" may have done even more , but safety pin or not he failed to win the triple crown and couldn't handle affirmed , I cannot put this horse in the elite company of secretariat , count fleet or even seattle slew , also you had mentioned secretariat woulda been a monster at 4 , well in my humble opinion , if WILL TAKE CHARGE stays healthy he is gonna have a 4 yr. old campaign the likes we haven't seen in some time , this big stud is just now figuring it all out and that is in a word SCARY !!!

10 Dec 2013 11:09 AM
Bill Two

That's great stuff, Steve!  I just wish every racing fan now alive could have seen this magnificent beast run.  I still get goose bumps thinking of him and those wonderful days. Nobody knows how he would have fared against Secretariat, Slew or Bid,but from what I've seen they would have had to run him down and I'm not sure any of them would have been up to without benefit of a rabbit.

10 Dec 2013 3:32 PM
The Deacon

Bill Two:  I agree don't think any horse could get the Doc, he wouldn't let it happen. Look at some of his fractions, he toyed with the opposition. Look also at the weight he carried. No one will ever know if Secretariat would have handled up to 139 LBS.

The Doc was just a monster, a beast.

Lunar Spook:  Discussions about who is the greatest is pointless, it's ok to disagree but remember The Bid set a 7 furlong record of 120 flat and a 10 furlong record of 1:57 4/5. To say he isn't one of the all time greats

is just mind boggling to me.

He won the Preakness in 1:54 2/5, which I might add was a faster time then Seattle Slew and Affirmed.

He carried weight of 130-132 LBS and set records. He broke Damascus Washington Park Handicap time of 1 1/8 miles in 1:46 2/5. He won the Californian Stakes at Hollywood Park carrying 132 LBS in 1:45 4/5 at also 1 1/8 miles. What more do you want. I could go on but it seems pointless.

The horse is one of the all time greats. I stand by that conviction.............

10 Dec 2013 6:42 PM
Bill Two

Deacon, with the possible exception of Ghost Zapper - certified freak - I cannot think of a horse that has performed since the 1970's that could have warmed up the Doctor.  In the immortal words of the late Freddy Capposella, "...and they're not going to catch the doctor today!"

11 Dec 2013 3:39 PM
Paula Higgins

livewire, Zenyatta was great. I know she wasn't the good Dr., but she easily made it into the great category. I wish they had let her go one more year (I can't believe I am saying that) because I think she had one more great year in her. She was that extraordinary. Rachel's 3 year old year goes into the great category as well.

11 Dec 2013 8:39 PM
sceptre

Of the more modern era horses, '80s-forward, I think that on their best day both Unbridled's Song and Indian Charlie could have given Dr. Fager a tussle at a mile. Although he performed mostly on turf ( two impressive wins on the then Dubai dirt), Dubai Millennium is another that could have been up to the task. But, yes, there's a very good chance that Dr. Fager was the greatest miler, ever.    

11 Dec 2013 10:53 PM
The Deacon

Coldfacts: Before you seem to always ask and answer your own questions perhaps I can enlighten on the ACTUAL facts. Dr.Fager had sore knees, in April of 1967 he made his 1st start of the year. It was the Gotham Mile in which he won by 6 lengths. Since he had been ill the prior winter (colic I believe) Nerud was very cautious with him. Nerud's intent was to run him in the TC races but he was very concerned with the horse's knees. Buckpasser was also injured in 1966, in fact many great horses don't always make the TC races. Horses develop at different times, they get hurt and when you have a great animal trainers take their time and are cautious.

I take exception to your post. Playing devil's advocate is one thing being mean spirited and spouting words as if they were gospel is another.

12 Dec 2013 2:02 AM
Coldfacts

Mr Haskin,

I would appreciate the removal of my last post as it contained some inaccuracies. I have submitted a corrected replacement.

Thank in advance.

12 Dec 2013 7:01 AM
lunar spook

PAULA HIGGINS- I agree with you on ZENYATTA , I wish she could have ran another year because I think she was right at her peak and maybe could of won another breeders cup classic !  COLD FACTS- I agree with you about the triple crown series , I for one put a lot of stock in it as well , that is my argument with all these folks on here who have gone ga-ga over SPECTACULAR BID , the bottom line is he lost in the Belmont and couldn't beat AFFIRMED , all the talk about his record times and the weights he carried , bottom line he failed when it came put up or shut up time !

12 Dec 2013 8:33 AM
sceptre

This Dr. Fager blog is long in the tooth, but I couldn't let it go into the sunset without taking some exception at Steve's remark that Dr. Fager's 1968 year was the most remarkable in Racing history. I can recall at least two others that may have done him better. One is Buckpasser's 1966 tour de force, and the other is his sire, Tom Fool's, 1953 racing year.

12 Dec 2013 11:44 AM
The Deacon

Sceptre:  Steve was right on in his post about the 1968 year Dr. Fager had. Yes your mention of Buckpasser and Tom Fool are correct. Please be aware, and I say this about a lot of bloggers who just don't understand the weight factor a horse has to endure.

In every race in 1968 (not 100% sure) Dr. Fager had to carry over 130 LBS. He carried 139 LBS in one race as well. Name another great horse in history who has done that. He set world record times as well.

I love it when folks pass themselves off as knowledgeable horseman when in fact they really don't know what they are talking about. Steve Haskin is a very knowledgeable horseman. This man is a writing Picasso who knows and understands the game. His words are good enough for me.

To say this blog is tiring is also incorrect. I would think most folks never get tired of discussing the all time greats.

I think many of you out there were around in the 1960's to see these great animals run. So your reference point is watching old YouTube videos and reading books.

Every great horse has had a standout year, otherwise they wouldn't be great.

12 Dec 2013 3:07 PM
lunar spook

SCEPTRE- Allow me to keep this pot stirred up , you mentioned TOM FOOLS 53 YEAR , well in my opinion NATIVE DANCER had a better 53 YEAR , granted he did lose one race , but look at the list of stakes he won that year , wow! look it up its impressive !

12 Dec 2013 3:33 PM
Bill Two

A lot of people would have loved to have seen Tom Fool and Native Dancer meet on the track.  Never happened unfortunately.  Steve may know why.  I don't.

12 Dec 2013 8:29 PM
Racingfan

Lunar Spook - I'm with you on Native Dancer's 3 year old year!  WOW!  And that was following his undefeated 2 year old year!  But for the awful ride in the Derby, he would have been undefeated and but for the foot bruise in the fall that sent him to the sidelines, he would have raced and whipped Tom Fool.

12 Dec 2013 9:16 PM
sceptre

Buckpasser (at 3) made 12 starts in 1966; a 2nd that year in his first start (to stablemate, Impressive. Shoemaker was riding Buckpasser for the first time) followed by 11 wins in a row in many of America's most prestigious races; including The Woodward at 1 1/4M, followed by The Jockey Club Gold Cup at 2 miles, and closing it out with a win in the 7 furlong Malibu (he went directly from 2 miles to 7 furlongs!). In my opinion, that easily trumps Dr. Fager's 7 wins in 8 starts in a resume of somewhat lesser quality races, and with a demonstration of far less versatility...Tom Fool's 1953 (at age 4) consisted of 10 starts/10 wins, including The Handicap Triple Crown (at the time, only the 2nd horse in racing history to run the table on those three in the same year). Incidentally, he carried 136 lbs. to victory in the 3rd leg, The Brooklyn--at 1 1/4M (not 7 furlongs), and that win directly followed his victory in the 7 furlong Carter H. under 135 lbs. I'd say that season also bettered Dr. Fager's 1967 (and Native Dancer's 1953 as well-the HOY voters certainly thought so). Weight carried does count, but let's not overestimate its significance/differential in weight carried by the competitors also should be considered, but even here it's of secondary importance. (and, by the way, Whisk Broom II carried 139 to victory in his last leg of The Handicap Triple). If weight is so crucial, and given that in years past the handicappers endeavored to assign weights such that all horses (in handicaps) would finish in a dead heat, why was it that the race highweight would invariably be the favorite at post time? So, The Deacon, I'd suggest you re-read the last sentence of your 1st paragraph, and the first sentence of your 3rd and consider that it rather applies to you. Lastly, I loved Dr. Fager; as a matter of fact I have a small Reeves Oil of him hanging in my study, and a print of Dr. Fager's finish in The Washington Park Hdcp. hanging in my hall. But, many of you are making too big a deal about his Vosburgh win under 139. He beat very little that day-I lived through it, and remember it well.    

13 Dec 2013 12:13 AM
Bernie Dickman

Hard to believe there's so much interest in Dr. Fager 45 years later, but it's well-deserved. I was working in the sports dept. at the L. I. Press at night on July 15, 1966, and as an Allstate adjuster in the daytime. I was in Brooklyn getting a signed statement from one of our insureds  - a guy named Vince - when he asked me if I bet the horses. He then told me on my way back to Long Island to stop in at Aqueduct and bet on Lift Off, with Ronnie Turcotte riding, in the third race. I rushed to the Big A with $7 in my pocket, paid $2 to get in, and bet the other $5 on Lift Off. Turcotte moved him perfectly on the turn and Lift Off took the lead entering the stretch - he was 9/2 - and before I had a chance to start rooting, here comes this spindly-legged blur with David Hidalgo and goes by my horse as if he had dropped anchor. That's the day I fell in love with the Doctor. Never missed another race of his when he was in NY.

   On Memorial Day in 1967, I bet a $100 win parlay with a bookie on Buckpasser in the Met Mile and Dr. Fager in the Jersey Derby. Watched the race wire at my new paper, the Suffolk Sun, and saw Buckpasser pay $2.60, so I had $130 going on the Doctor. It took 20 minutes after the Jersey Derby for the bad news to come over the wire. $100 was a fortune in those days.

  To Scepter: Tom Fool was a special horse, but the quality of competition that he faced in 1953 was not only less than the Doctor's, it was inferior. In his last four races he faced a total of six horses. And you couldn't name one exceptional horse he faced, because there were none.

   As for Spectacular Bid, after losing twice at two, he only lost two more for the rest of his life - the safety pin Belmont and the Jockey Club Gold Cup to Affirmed. He was awesome.

13 Dec 2013 10:03 AM
Jean in Chicago

Deacon, it proves you were a very lucky man to see such horses.

13 Dec 2013 6:50 PM
Racingfan

They are ALL great horses but on the subject of Spectacular Bid, I do believe he was responsible for the last walkover in a race (the Woodward Stakes in September 1980).  You must be pretty darn good when NOBODY will face you, even for a second place paycheck....!

13 Dec 2013 10:37 PM
Linda in Texas

Deacon, you can say no wrong. Just know you have a cheering squad in Texas whatever you say. You know your stuff. Your daddy learn't you well. And Spectacular Bid was aptly named. He is one of the all time greats with records to prove it. And your mention of Sandy Koufax was a blast to the past. I was and still am a Yankee Fan. But i did watch Sandy when he pitched no matter who the Dodgers were playing. He was awesome on the mound.

And to Bernie Dickman - great stories. I can just picture you with your tickets stuck in your hat band! Thanks for the memories of your track visits.

And to dear Steve - you could write about toothpicks and i would read about them with baited breath. We all owe the privilege of reading and enjoying your impeccable knowledge of horse racing to your dad who let the gates swing wide open for you when he realized you knew your calling! I compare Steve to no one as he is his own self made Greatest Horse Racing Writer of All Time.

P.S. There are some great You Tube Videos of Dr. Fager racing. Stayed up til 1:30 the other night viewing them.    

14 Dec 2013 10:52 AM
Will

Having actually seen Spectacular Bid lose the Belmont to Coastal and to Affirmed in the Jockey Gold Cup as a three year old, I cannot agree with Lunar Spook that those two losses should give all the admirers of the Bid pause - myself included - when even mentioning considering him with the likes of Dr. Fager. Best to say Bid was a distant facsimile of Dr. Fager as a 4 year old winning at different distances and setting world record and track record times. No, he never got a chance to prove himself on grass like the Dr. and certainly never won his first grass start in a big race like the United Nations Handicap at a high impost and staggering weight differentials against accomplished turf horses in spite of not handling the slick turf course. That was not the Bid's fault but his connections, and he may well have proved formidable on the turf. If he had not been hurt and retired late in his 4 year old year and returned to the track at age 5, Delp may have tried him on the grass to prove his versatility and greatness. He may as well have been routinely assigned weights in the high 130 lbs. range. As an undefeated 4 year old, the Bid carried 132 lbs. and a 130 lbs. twice approaching from a distance the types of high weights Dr. Fager was assigned in his record breaking performances, though probably not the weight differentials the Dr. had to give away. In one of those, the Grade 3 Washington Handicap at Arlington Park, he bested the track record jointly held by Dr. Fager's rival, Damascus. However, Delp withdrew him from the Marlboro Cup that year when the Bid was assigned 136 lbs. Whether he could have won at that weight as I suspect he would have, we will never know but that's hardly the fault of the Bid. Certainly, Delp was no Nerud who routinely dismissed high weight assignments as non-factors in Dr. Fager's races and Steve's story about Nerud asking for the Dr. to be assigned an impost of 145 lbs. is his last race, the 7 furlong Vosburgh, is certainly head shaking and unique, bespeaking a trainer's confidence in his horse that is hard to get a handle on. Would loved to have seen Spectacular Bid on the track as a 5 year old if injury had not forced his retirement. There's no reason to think he would not even have been better, but so would have Dr. Fager if he too had not ended his career as a 4 year old. Spectacular Bid was still a developing 3 year old when he lost by a length to the older horse, Affirmed, and the outcome may well have been different if that had been the 4 year old Bid contesting with Affirmed. Affirmed was Spectacular Bid's Damascus, but Dr. Fager faced his rival of the same age when they were both 3 and 4 year olds and the Bid got only one shot at Affirmed as the younger 3 year old. As for his Belmont loss, Steve's story about what Dr. Harthill extracted from the Bid's hoof after the Belmont loss and the severity of the injury should, as he said, put to rest any doubts that Spectacular Bid did not have a major excuse in the Belmont. Coupled with a poor ride by a young jockey who had admitted to poor judgment, little experience at riding races at the Belmont distance,and who moved prematurely on an injured horse, the race should not be viewed as a definitive statement that the Bid was not in some way a distant facsimile of Dr. Fager who Steve rightly puts in a category all his own. In the game of comparison from a distance possibly only Spectacular Bid and maybe Easy Goer - if injury had not cut short his 4 year old year career - could be considered as distant facsimiles to Dr. Fager.

14 Dec 2013 11:11 AM
TripleCrownKaren

Well Steve you just gave me a GREAT Christmas gift.    A reminisence that one again brought the good Doctor to life again for me.    His was the era of the "Iron Horse" in the truest sense of the word.   Damascus, more than once, I believe pushed him to the extraordinary accomplishments that he made look so EASY.    But sometimes lost in this legend are the accomplishments of the man who let Dr. Fager BE himself ....and that is John Nerud.   He was smart enough to know that this horse needed to do things HIS way to get the best from him.   Adn the Docotr's way was AMAZING.   So many good memories for those of us who had "been there/done that".   I fear generations of race fans younger than my generation do not have the same versatile, hard knocking racehorses to admire now. If one DOES come along who looks light they "might" be special....they are yanked to the breding shed or sold overseas before they have a chance to even think about becoming anything with styaing power in the public's eye.   At least I can say I saw some truly GREAT horses........Dr. Fager being near or AT the top of that list!

14 Dec 2013 4:09 PM
livewire

Paula Higgins

Sorry, I should have been more clear regarding the lack of a truly great horse since 1980.  What I meant was a truly great male horse.  We have had a number of great mares/fillies.  Bayakoa, Lady's Secret, Zenyatta, Rachel Alexandra, etc...

16 Dec 2013 2:52 PM
Coldfacts

Greatness has to be redefined to conform with current racing and breeding philosophies.

Horses are no longer going to be making a large number of starts. Bernardini could have been a monster 4YO but he was retired after his 3YO season. Many connections are opting for big purse races as opposed to resume building races. The Bigger the purses the more competitive races are likely to be.

Certainly, Curlin could be considered a great male. Having not raced as 2YO and with only 3 starts he contested the grueling Triple Crown series.  He won one leg, was a troubled 3rd in Derby and a close 2nd in the Belmont.  

The great Dr. Fager made 5 starts as a 2YO and 1 as a 3YO. He had significantly more foundation than Curlin but did not participate in the TC. He opted to build his résumé with starts in the Withers, Jersey Derby, Arlington Classic, Rockingham Classic etc. No Preakness/Belmont participation for a quality 3YO that won 6 of 7 starts.

After the TC, Curlin contested the Haskell, JCGC, Breeder Cup Classic, Dubai World Cup. He raced on Turf, Synthetic and Dirt. He had connections that continually challenged his ability. This challenge started in the ultimate test for 3YOs despite his lack of foundation. It continued at the highest level against older horses here an abroad. He performed exceptionally despite the major disadvantages he faced.

Would Dr. Fager had retired with 18 wins from 22 starts had he been subjected to the major races from 3YOs? Unlikely, as Damascus would have destroyed him in many.

It is worthwhile revising the parameters for greatness as the previous are no longer applicable.

17 Dec 2013 12:38 PM
Sagerider1

I was only a teenager, but I remember him well, He was beaten once by Buckpasser in his last race. He & Damascus traded wins in the Suburban & Brooklyn in 68, and in the 67 Gotham & Woodward. I only have a few books on specific horses, 2 Man o' War, 1 Lady's Secret, 1 Secretariat & 1 Dr. Fager. I remember vividly my mother complaining, "when will I see another Triple Crown winner", as a was looking at the BloodHorse front page and I held it up, and said "Here," showing her the picture of Secretariat winning the Futurity. I followed him and Dr Fager very closely, because I loved them almost as much as Man o' War. I love chestnuts & Dr Fager was nearly one.  I also love grays like Lady's Secret, Holy Bull, Native Dancer, Runaway Groom, Native Charger, Black Tie Affair, Silver Ghost, Icecapade, Foggy Note, Polamia, Spotted Beauty, Sharon Brown, Grey Flight, Silver Fog, Silver True, Native Street, & Gray Mirage. I also liked bays or browns, Rachel Alexandra, Round Table, etc. As for the resurgence of the females, this seems to happen every 30 years, so enjoy, most of us won't live to see the next time. I don't know why it's held on so long this time, but it's fine with me. Maybe you could try to figure out why this is happening now. I love seeing the mares & fillies win, when I was little I thought it was normal. Sadly not so.

30 Mar 2014 3:43 PM

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