Remembering the Cougar

Author Mike Sekulic has been a horseracing fan for more than 39 years. The Arcadia, Calif., resident works in the mortgage field but also has degree in English from California State University Long Beach. Sekulic wrote this piece in recognition of the 40th anniversary of Cougar II's controversial disqualification following a five-length victory in the Woodward Stakes, Oct. 2, 1971.

By Mike Sekulic
 
Chile-bred Cougar II was a champion Thoroughbred who raced from 1968 to 1973. He was brought to the U.S. as a 4-year-old, in 1970, and made his first four starts for track announcer Joe Hernandez’s Perla De Chico Stud. He won two of those efforts before being bought by Mary Jones Bradley (Florsheim shoe heiress, known as Mary F. Jones at the time) for $125,000 and turned over to trainer Charlie Whittingham. Cougar II placed in three of four starts for his new owner in 1970.
 
Cougar’s march to greatness began in 1971, the beginning of his 5-year-old season. He won the San Gabriel Handicap and San Marcos Handicap, then finished second by a half-length to the top turf runner and Victoria Derby and Cox Plate winner Daryl’s Joy on Santa Anita’s turf course. Back to the dirt, he was a fast-charging (not to mention very wide) second to Ack Ack in the Santa Anita Handicap, losing by an ever-diminishing 1 1/2 lengths. Then he shifted back to turf for the San Juan Capistrano where he defeated 1970 Horse of the Year Fort Marcy by about three lengths. Under top weight, Cougar was third in Hollywood Park’s Century Handicap (a race where jockey William Shoemaker said that the competition did their best race-riding against his horse, keeping him boxed in all the way), before posting popular wins in the Californian Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on dirt, and the Hollywood Turf Invitational (then called the Ford Pinto Invitational) at 12 furlongs on turf, beating Fort Marcy by a head.
 
At this point Cougar was becoming immensely popular with the fans, and he was one of the top horses in the country as well, so Cougar's owner wanted Charlie Whittingham to enter him against Ack Ack in the Hollywood Gold Cup. It was Mrs. Jones’ belief that her horse could be Horse of the Year, and that he should be given the opportunity to compete against Ack Ack again, so that he could turn the tables. In their only prior meeting Ack Ack had held off “The Big Cat” on a track labeled “slow,” which was not to Cougar‘s liking. When Cougar came back to win the San Juan Capistrano, Californian and Ford Pinto Invitational, Mrs. Jones thought he was an improving horse, sitting on top of the world, so she made the bold statement, “I cannot wait to have it out with Ack Ack in the Gold Cup.“ Charlie Whittingham scratched Cougar II the morning of the Gold Cup, according to Mrs. Jones, because he wanted to maximize Ack Ack’s chance of winning and keep that horse’s Horse of the Year campaign on track.
 
Cougar turned up a week later, losing by about a half a length in the two-mile Sunset Handicap on the turf. He had hit the rail at about the sixteenth pole and totally lost his momentum. The winner, Over the Counter, carried 114 pounds to Cougar’s 130. Luckily, the dramatic incident nearing the wire only cost him a victory.

Mrs. Jones next set her sights on the Woodward Stakes at Belmont Park and had her way.The horse had been sent East several times but generally fared poorly. This time, however, Cougar won by an easy five lengths, running 10 furlongs on dirt in 2:00 2/5, only to be disqualified to third for an “interference,” which really didn’t amount to a hill of beans. A famous racing writer called the disqualification “the greatest travesty in the history of the NYRA.“ He was much the best and had obliterated the best field the East Coast could muster up that day. He won with a disdainful and complete authority over his rivals. Charlie Whittingham, upset that Cougar was disqualified, said, “I made my point,” meaning that if, according to his opinion, that Cougar—who was the second best horse in Whittingham's stable and in the country—was able to make a mockery of the Woodward field, what would Ack Ack have done? Ack Ack had been intended for the Woodward, but he came up ill, and never started again, so Cougar was sent to Belmont in his place. Cougar went back to California and won the Oak Tree Invitational, in a five-length romp, running 2:24 3/5 for 12 furlongs on turf.
 
Cougar’s next 4 starts were losses; 3 seconds (San Pasqual, Santa Anita Handicap, San Juan Capistrano) and 1 third (San Antonio), but he only lost the Big ‘Cap by a head to Triple Bend, while giving that one seven pounds. Charlie Whittingham entered Marge Everett’s Buzkashi so that he could engage the front runners, because that way Cougar would have a pace up front, and a target to run at, but Buzkashi ran into the rail coming out of the gate, so Cougar II was on his own! Buzkashi was fine and was back racing soon thereafter. Triple Bend managed to hold off Cougar by a head, with Unconscious close behind in third.
 
Later in the year, Triple Bend opted to go to New York when a situation with level weights with Cougar was in the cards in the Californian Stakes, and what a good decision that was because Cougar came from 16 lengths off the pace to win by nearly 3 lengths while running the second fastest 1 1/16 miles on dirt in history, 1:39 1/5. The time, which was astoundingly fast, was just 1/5 of a second off of Swaps’ track and world record. Indeed, Cougar was back in a big way, and three weeks later he returned to the turf, running 1 3/8 miles in a record 2:11, a mark that stood for around 15 years, while defeating Unconscious and Star Envoy. Then he finished third by 1 1/2 lengths to Typecast and Violonor, who carried 117 and 110, respectively, to Cougar’s 129. These narrow defeats while carrying top weight motivated owner, Mrs. Jones, to publicly complain that Cougar was the “star of the show” and “the best horse.” She thought it was unjust that he was hampered in this manner, saying, “People want to see him win!” and that he would be able to win more often if he didn’t have to give away so much weight. Cougar returned in autumn to take the Carelton F. Burke and Oak Tree Invitational, both in easy fashion. Cougar II was awarded the Eclipse Award for championship turf horse of 1972.
 
The first goal of 1973 was the Santa Anita Handicap, a race that he had finished second in 1971 and 1972, and Charlie Whittingham brought him up to the race after a four-month vacation on workouts alone, to win under top weight by a nose, defeating Kennedy Road  in 2:00. By this point, though, Cougar was 7 years old and had probably lost a step. He finished third six times (San Luis Rey, San Juan Capistrano, Hollywood Turf Invitational, Marlboro Cup, Woodward Stakes), but he did manage to win the Century Handicap and the Sunset Handicap, both on turf. In the Hollywood Gold Cup his owner took a lot of flack from the press and from the racing fans because she removed regular rider Bill Shoemaker and put on Laffit Pincay Jr. Shoemaker had just been third, by 1 1/2 lengths, on Cougar in the Hollywood Turf Invitational, while Life Cycle and Wing Out, at 115 and 118 pounds, to Cougar’s 130 pounds, got the best of the weight situation. At that point Mrs. Jones thought Shoemaker was not the jockey for her horse, so she asked Whittingham to put Pincay on, because they had won the Santa Anita Handicap together. Mrs. Jones was booed by the fans when she appeared in the paddock, and when Shoemaker won on Kennedy Road the fans roared approval for them, and it is said that Mr. Jones left the track that day in tears.
 
When speaking of his experience in the Gold Cup that day, Pincay said that the more he got into Cougar the more the horse fought him, dropping farther and farther back, to where he was nearly 20 lengths back at the far turn. Pincay said he wanted to keep the horse within striking range, but that the horse had different plans. Shoemaker had similar complaints about Cougar, saying that the horse had a mind of his own and wanted to lag way, way behind, leaving him way too much to do! The horse finally did get going, much too late, probably running his last 1/4 in :23 4/5, while third.
 
The Sunset Handicap was the next stop, and it was a winning effort, with Shoemaker up, over Life Cycle and Wing Out, in 2:26 for 12 furlongs.
 
Cougar II was then invited to the inaugural running of the Marlboro Cup, and he finished a very good and fast-finishing third to Secretariat and Riva Ridge, besting the track record himself (1:46 1/5 for Cougar) but Secretariat won in 1:45 2/5. After the race Charlie Whittingham was quite proud, saying, “If he hadn’t tried to tear down the starting gate, and hadn’t broken so badly, and hadn’t had to alter his course in the stretch, he would have been closer. We’ll be back for the Woodward...and I’m not conceding anything to Secretariat and Riva Ridge.” That’s how good Charlie Whittingham thought Cougar II was...and Charlie was a great horseman. When returning from the race to have his horse unsaddled Shoemaker supposedly said something like, “Those are two runnin’ sons of guns!”
 
Cougar II was immensely popular with the racing fans in Southern California. He would get a rousing ovation in the post parade and he would stop, look at the fans, do a little showing off, stop and look at the tote board or the fans again, and then go off into his warm-up, whenever he was ready. Fans would bring out banners that read, “GO Cougar GO” in the infield at Santa Anita. Michael Whittingham (the trainer’s son) said he would get chills when Cougar II ran because the fans were so excited and would cheer him from the paddock to the post.
 
In 1971 and 1972 Cougar II was invited to the prestigious turf championship race, the Washington D.C. International at Laurel Racecourse. Each year he boarded the plane from Southern California and went East only to be scratched each time. It was well known, after two terrible starts on very soft turf that Cougar hated soft turf, so when the storms came to Maryland prior to the race each year, softening up the turf and creating horrible racing conditions, Cougar was scratched both times. What an unfortunate turn of events, though, as this likely cost him the Champion Turf Horse award in 1971 because, if the turf had been firm and he had won, he likely would have garnered the award, which ended up going to Run the Gantlet, the winner of the race. Mary Jones said, “I just wish we could get Run the Gantlet on a firm turf, we would win by five lengths!” In the official program for the 1972 race Cougar II is listed as the morning line favorite over Droll Role (winner), Riva Ridge, Belle Geste and San San (the Arc de l’Triomphe winner), which speaks not only to his reputation but to the level of respect he held within the racing world. He was the favorite over Riva Ridge and the Arc winner!
 
Cougar II finally retired at the end of 1973 with a record of 50 starts, 20 wins, seven place, 17 show, for earnings of $1,162,725, which was good for ninth place on the all-time earnings list at that time. He was the first foreign-bred horse to reach the million dollar mark. To that point in racing history there were only 13 equine millionaires, total, so his feat was quite remarkable. He constantly carried top-weight and was usually the wagering favorite. His 1:39 1/5 for 8 1/2 furlongs on dirt, and his 2:11 for 11 furlongs on turf were remarkable shows of speed and versatility. He finished in the money in 30 of his last 31 races.
 
It’s also interesting to consider that Fort Marcy beat Damascus by a nose, and was third to Dr. Fager by 1 1/2 lengths, and Cougar II managed to beat Fort Marcy in two of their three meetings. And here’s another bit of trivia: Cougar II defeated the top class fillies and mares, Susan’s Girl, Drumtop, Typecast, Shuvee, Summer Guest and Manta. Many believed that he should have been the champion turf horse of 1971 and the handicap horse of 1972 as well, he was that good. He was ranked as one of the very top horses in the country on turf and dirt in 1971, 1972 and 1973 by the Daily Racing Form.
 
Cougar II paraded before the fans at Santa Anita on Oak Tree Invitational day of 1973, and this marked his final farewell to his adoring public. Yes, of course he put on his regular show, all flash and brilliance. The good ones know they’re good. He knew how good he was; after all he was “The Big Cat,” the star of the show.
 
The Racing Hall of Fame finally and deservedly honored Cougar II by inducting him into the hall of champions in 2006. Del Mar has a race named in honor of Cougar II. What a fitting tribute to one of the most charismatic and dynamic racehorses that has ever graced a racetrack.

30 Comments

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IronMaidens

Its fascinating to read about Cougar II.   I've read lists of Cougar II's exploits, of course, but there's nothing like really getting a feel for a horse by reading an synopsis of his accomplishments. Your well-written article brings this remarkable horse to life.

New champions come along every few years to capture our attention, but it's important not to forget the remarkable athletes that helped set the standard.

01 Oct 2011 11:21 AM
oso7

Thank you Mike for bringing back to life one of California's greatest champions.  You have written a very fitting tribute to Cougar and his connections.  The '60's and '70's were truly among the greatest decades in racing.  I doubt if we will ever go back to those days of tremendous horse owners and trainers who bred stamina and durability into their TB's, rather than the emphasis on speed since the 1980's.  I was thrilled to see Cougar run and still enjoy watching replays of his biggest wins.

Kate Harper

01 Oct 2011 11:24 AM
cjwigg

Great article on an enduring equine legend

01 Oct 2011 2:11 PM
Alysheba4ever

During the Cougar's reign he was my absolute favorite, my bestfriend Gail loved Ack Ack so you can just imagine the words going back and forth when they faced off. I always felt that Cougar II was overshadowed too much by Ack Ack but then thats horseracing. I am happy to see that you are recognizing in this article just how great a racehorse he was. Thank you.

01 Oct 2011 5:19 PM
Terry M.

What a great story about a great horse! And look at the quality of thew horses he was running against. Amazing. I do wish you had included a photo of Cougar with the story.

01 Oct 2011 7:27 PM
willwewin

A very nice history of the Big Cat. He was an iron horse like so many of the good horses of that era. A fun refresher on the career of a horse that I followed in my youth.

01 Oct 2011 11:14 PM
Shackleford

Great read, although I wasn't alive at the time I do know some of the history of this great horse and found this article to be really in-depth and informative.  Nice to remember the greats of the past, after all they have done for us, it is fitting that we talk and remember them.  Once again, it was a great read and loved seeing it through the eyes of someone who was there.

02 Oct 2011 2:02 AM
Pedigree Ann

Just a note. Buzkashi didn't just hit the rail - he leaned against the temporary rail (across the turn) until he hit the permanent one, then tumbled over it onto the turf course.

Cougar II was a horse who knew his own mind and didn't need no stupid jockey boy or stud groom telling him what to do. When I went to visit the Big Cat at Stone Farm, the manager told us that one had to leave him entirely alone when he was covering his mares; he liked to take his time and do so without human interference.

He also sired numerous graded winners, aside from Kentucky Derby/Del Mar Futurity winner Gato del Sol. They included Our Suiti Pie (Del Mar Oaks), Angel Island (Alcibiades S, dam of G1 winner Sharrood), Milingo (Arlington Lassie), Exploded (Hollywood Inv. Turf Cup), First Norman (Del Mar Derby, a sire in New Zealand), and Cougarized (Nashua S). 20-30 sized foal crops in those days, remember.

02 Oct 2011 11:55 AM
Pam S.

A highly readable, very complete account of the career of a horse I was not terribly familiar with.  Great job, Mike!

02 Oct 2011 12:02 PM
eric anderson

Mr. Sekulic, thanks for the Big Cat flashbacks. in the early 70's having just returned to SOCAL from a stint in peninsula of Viet Nam, the Big Cat was just getting around to be a very solid if not great horse with an odd ball owner. His tail was of enormous length, and it seemed as though it was as long as he was when he got rolling and it floated out behind him. My old memory recalls that Charlie always had a real soft spot for this horse and wanted the world to know what this horse really was. In those years, a horse like him; stuck around, ran them into the ground and was a pleasure to be around and of course to see run. Senor de Encino

02 Oct 2011 3:11 PM
Matthew W

I saw The Big Cat run many times--including the 72 San Antonio, where he would be soundly defeated by Triple Bend and Unconscious--two talented four year olds--he had that long tail and smart eye--he ran with his head up high, and he lugged in a lot--and he was the crowd pleaser! He would just stop and look at the grandstand and just stand there--Shoe would look amused! He always came with that late run--not as consistent as Zenyatta but who was? Cougar II was one of my favorites, and his Marlboro Cup was fantastic, one-turn, 1 1/8, with trouble--Cougar's Marlboro, run as a seven year old, and his blow-out Woodward, vs a full field, in 71, showed everyone, Easty and West, that The Big Cat was for real!

02 Oct 2011 3:35 PM
angman

great job Mike, you are Cougars biiggest fan thats a given...

02 Oct 2011 6:32 PM
LouAnn

Wow, what a fantastic article and so informative and interesting in regards to a horse that has never been given the credit he so much deserved.  I have always been a fan of Cougar and this article is a wonderful tribute to a super horse.  Very nicely written-thankyou for sharing this!

03 Oct 2011 11:03 AM
The Deacon

Thank you for this very informative article. Nice to see some stuff written about the California greats. Cougar II helped put Calif racing on the map for the 1970's. I saw most of his races, along with Ack Ack, Crystal Waters, Kennedy Road, Quack, Hill Rise, etc, etc.

Good stuff, kudos to all involved..........

03 Oct 2011 4:40 PM
Pedigree Ann

Mike was kind enough to send me a DVD copy of the film made by Mrs. Jones of His Felinity's career; I had seen it at Stone Farm in the film version in 1977 when I visited My Own True Love, The Great Chilean One. I was amazed again at the smoothness of his action in the hind end compared to the jerkiness of that of his rivals. Yeah, he held his head high, he picked up his knees like a trotter breaking stride, but that efficient action behind got the job done. The solid bright red silks on a dark bay horse and the tail that reached his fetlocks streaming behind: it was always easy to spot Coug when he made his move on the outside and began to 'loom' over the field on the turn.

I always found it interesting that Cougar II was only the fourth or fifth best 3yo of his crop in Chile; his biggest win there was a major fall handicap over his elders, not a classic race. The best 2 of that crop also came to the States and were just okay, while Coug became a champion. Just goes to show you.

Oh, and did any of you see the article a long time ago about how the Chilean owner sold Cougar II for export because he was worried that the new, communist-leaning (in his mind) Allende government would nationalize horse racing and farms, as the Russians had done? I think the article was on The Thoroughbred of California.

Oh, and most people don't know that this apparent solid bay had a couple of large white spots on his right side. The saddle and girth covered them up completely.

04 Oct 2011 11:43 AM
Mike Sekulic

Has anyone ever seen the gallop out footage past the wire for the 1973 Marlboro Cup? With his flying finish, at 9 furlongs, which might have been a tad too short at that point in time, I would have to guess that The Big Cat passed RIVA RIDGE after the wire, but did he catch up with SECRETARIAT?

I think of SECRETARIAT as the best horse of all time, with SPECTACULAR BID being second, but I do believe that a 5 or 6 year old COUGAR II, instead of the 7 year old version, could have given SECRETARIAT all he could handle, especially at 10 furlongs. Maybe COUGAR II was past his slightly prime when he faced SECRETARIAT, so I'm just saying that if he had been in his prime he would have really made it a horse race!

05 Oct 2011 11:37 AM
GinaR

Great article, would love to read more about past great horses!

05 Oct 2011 5:04 PM
NFC

Very complete article about a great horse.  It is nice to have him remembered as well as introduced to a new audience.  Mike has a great love of race horses evident through both his wonderful photos and his writing.  A kindred spirit.

05 Oct 2011 7:22 PM
Linda Subias

This was definitely an overlooked horse in horse racing lore - he should be much better known/remembered than he is.  We need to pass this information on the younger generation of racing fans, and thanks for doing so, so well, Mike!

06 Oct 2011 3:25 PM
TyAlexander

My father first took me to Santa Anita, opening day 1974. So, I missed the great Cougar. But, just reading your passionate, articulate words, I feel like I was there!

Great article Mike, the only thing that surpasses this work,is your photography. I'm glad your work gets showcased so others can appreciate your talent, passion, opinions and natural gifts.

07 Oct 2011 3:04 AM
GunBow

A writer and piece worthy of one of the best, and most underappreciated horses of the last 40 years.

Had the graded system been in place for all of Cougar's career, he would have won 10 gr.1s and placed in 10-15 other gr.1s.  And, as you mentioned, remember that in many of his narrow defeats he was conceding substantial weight.  

Given Cougar was successful on turf and dirt, one can only imagine that he would have been dynamite on synthetic.  

Cougar, as you capture, wasn't popular simply for what happened between the start and finishes of races.  He was a horse with a larger than life poersonality, a genuine charisma that translated across species.

07 Oct 2011 3:47 AM
Mike Sekulic

One of my favorite quotes about COUGAR II was when Leon Rasmussen said, "When Cougar makes his charge he looks like he is riding Sir Lancelot into battle," such was his fire and tenacity. He really looked like he had a purpose. He did his thing with passion and purpose!

08 Oct 2011 2:43 AM
Chris Aplin

It is great to see someone who has such a passion for one of the great champions in the racing industry.  Cougar II was before my time so I enjoyed Mike's recount of all that the horse and his connections went through.  I especially like his inside view of Mrs. Bradley and Charlie Whittingham.  Wish I had been around to see the big cat.....

09 Oct 2011 9:24 PM
Mike Sekulic

In addition to that unfair disqualification in the 1971 Woodward (which should have been overturned years ago) there is another thing about COUGAR's legacy that bothers me, and that's the exclusion by the editors of the Bloodhorse from that list they put together of the 100 greatest horses of the last century. COUGAR is definitely better than at least half of the horses on the list. I don't think I am alone when I say that his inclusion on the list is a "no brainer" and that his exclusion is a mistake.

13 Oct 2011 2:35 AM
Mike Sekulic

COUGAR II, as compared to other racing greats:

COUGAR II 50 starts, 20 wins (40%), 24 placings (88%), unplaced (12%)

SHUVEE 44 starts, 16 wins (36%), 16 placings (72%), unplaced (28%)

CARRY BACK 62 starts, 21 wins (34%), 22 placings (69%), unplaced (31%)

RIVA RIDGE 30 starts, 17 wins (56%), 4 placings (70%), unplaced (30%)

GALLORETTE 72 starts, 21 wins (29%), 33 placings (75%), unplaced (25%)

FORT MARCY 75 starts, 21 wins (28%), 32 placings (71%), unplaced (29%)

SEABISCUIT 89 starts, 33 wins (37%), 28 placings (68%), unplaced (32%)

ASSAULT 42 starts, 18 wins (43%), 13 placings (74%), unplaced (26%)

DAHLIA 48 starts, 15 wins (31%), 10 placings (52%), unplaced (48%)

SUSAN'S GIRL 63 starts, 29 wins (46%), 25 placings (86%), unplaced (14%)

JOHN HENRY 83 starts, 39 wins (47%), 24 placings (76%), unplaced (24%)

All these racehorses competed at the top level of the game, in what you might call "Grade 1" company (races weren't graded until 1973 in America, so I'm just assigning that designation based on quality). All these horses, except COUGAR II, made The Bloodhorse's list of the top 100 horses of all time. Here is how they were ranked:

#23 JOHN HENRY

#25 SEABISCUIT

#33 ASSAULT

#45 GALLORETTE

#50 DAHLIA

#51 SUSAN'S GIRL

#57 RIVA RIDGE

#70 SHUVEE

#83 CARRY BACK

#86 FORT MARCY

Stakes wins and placings (and percentage of stakes placings from lifetime starts):

COUGAR II - (50 starts) 18 stakes wins, 22 stakes placings (40 total) 80%

ROUND TABLE - (66 starts) 31 stakes wins, 13 placings (44 total) 67%

FOREGO - (57 starts) 23 stakes wins, 14 stakes placings (37 total) 65%

JOHN HENRY (83 starts) 29 stakes wins, 18 stakes placings (47 total) 56%

SHUVEE (44 starts) 14 stakes wins, 10 stakes placings (24 total) 55%

GALLORETTE - (72 starts) 13 stakes wins, 26 stakes placings (39 total) 54%

FORT MARCY - (75 starts) 17 stakes wins, 22 stakes placings (39 total) 52%

DAHLIA - (48 starts) 14 stakes wins, 10 stakes placings (24 total) 50%

What an amazing and ultra-impressive statistic it is that after 50 races he was in the money 88% of the time. That matches FOREGO (also at 88%), and it is far better than the in the money records of many other superb runners, including: JOHN HENRY, DAHLIA, SEABISCUIT, ASSAULT, CARRY BACK, SHUVEE, NODOUBLE, CRIMSON SATAN, FORT MARCY, GAMELY, NATIVE DIVER, STRAIGHT DEAL, T.V. LARK, GALLORETTE, ANCIENT TITLE, RIVA RIDGE, AUTOBIOGRAPHY, EXCELLER, KEY TO THE MINT, KENNEDY ROAD, TYPECAST, LADY'S SECRET, PRECISIONIST, BAYAKOA, BEST PAL, SWORD DANCER, STYMIE, POLYNESIAN, DEVIL DIVER, BEWITCH, DISCOVERY, SIR BARTON, IMP, GREY LAG, EXTERMINATOR, etc.

12 Mar 2012 2:48 AM
Mike Sekulic

Here's a comparison between COUGAR II and DAHLIA (#50), which I believe shows him to be the much better horse and also proves he deserves a place on the Bloodhorse's Top 100 horses of all time.

Race Record:

COUGAR II - 50 starts 20 wins 24 placings (40% wins, 88% in the money); unplaced in 12% of his races.

DAHLIA - 48 starts 15 wins 10 placings (31% wins, 52% in the money); unplaced in 48% of her races.

Grade 1 wins (or equivalent):

COUGAR II - 10

DAHLIA - 10

Record in Grade 1 (or equivalent races):

COUGAR II - 27 starts 10 wins 15 placings (37% wins, 93% in the money...only 7% out of the money)

DAHLIA - 32 starts 10 wins 6 placings (31% wins, 50% in the money...and 50% out of the money!)

*In 27 Grade 1 starts COUGAR II was only out of the money twice, both on horribly soft & yielding turf courses. If not for those conditions he would likely be at 100% in the money, to DAHLIA's 50%.

Stakes wins:

COUGAR II - 18 wins, 22 placings (40 stakes placings)

DAHLIA - 14 wins 10 placings (24 stakes placings)

*Dahlia might have only 13 stakes wins, because I don't know if her first race was an offical "black type race."

Speed exhibitions:

COUGAR II - 8-1/2 furlongs on dirt in 1:39-1/5 (missed SWAPS' world record by 1/5)

COUGAR II - 11 furlongs on turf in 2:11 (NWR that stood for more than 15 years)

COUGAR II - 10 furlongs on dirt (*about distance*) in 1:58 (Del Mar track record)

COUGAR II - 9 furlongs on turf in 1:49 (Del Mar track record, on the old deep turf course)

COUGAR II - 10 furlongs on dirt in 2:00 (Santa Anita, 1/5 off track record)

COUGAR II - 10 furlongs on dirt in 2:00-2/5 (Belmont, 2/5 off track record)

DAHLIA - 13 furlongs on turf in 2:40 (Woodbine turf course record)

I think DAHLIA was a great turf mare, but I think it's rather evident that COUGAR II was a better horse, so he deserves a Top 50 spot on the all time best list, ahead of DAHLIA.

12 Mar 2012 2:54 AM
GinaR

Mike brings *Cougar II to life for another generation to appreciate. There should be a book written about this incredible horse and Mike should write it!

13 Mar 2012 6:43 PM
LouAnn

Thanks lots Mike for updating us with more info on Cougar ll. I don't believe that there are too many people out there that know as much as you do in his regards.  He was sure a talented horse!

13 Mar 2012 8:43 PM
Mike Sekulic

Local Southern California racing fan and friend, Eddie Rosenbloom, died just recently at the age of 53. Eddie's favorite horse was COUGAR II and, to him, no one else compared. He told me that when he watched COUGAR's races on video that he "cried and cried," because COUGAR "was just that special."

Santa Anita held a sort of memorial service or gathering to commemorate and eulogize Eddie the other day, and I love what Barry Abrams said, "Eddie is probably up in heaven with COUGAR, and Charlie Whittingham, right now!"

15 Mar 2012 1:39 AM
Mike Sekulic

It took 42 years for this film to surface, but, finally, someone posted the 1971 Woodward Stakes to Youtube.

www.youtube.com/watch

04 Dec 2013 11:41 PM

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