Reversal of Fortune: Hirsch Jacobs's Searching

By Teresa Genaro of Brooklyn Backstretch

This Ones for Phil's victory at Gulfstream in the Sunshine Millions Dash over the weekend has occasioned much conversation about the horse's massive improvement.   How could this horse have run this race?  What's with the trainer change?  Oh, that Dutrow again-look what he's done.

On websites and bulletin boards, the chatter, the accusations proliferate, detractors and defenders rushing to promote their views. 

What, I wonder, would folks have made of Searching?

At age two, Searching (War Admiral - Big Hurry, by Black Toney) made thirteen starts but never made it to the winner's circle.  She finished second once and third six times.  William Robertson tells us what happened next:

As a three-year-old (in 1955), she resumed her frustrating pattern.  Seven straight times she was in the money without winning the main part, and after she finished second five successive times owner Ogden Phipps sold her to Hirsch Jacobs for $15,000. Naturally, Searching won first out for her new owner.

Not too long before this, Jacobs had made headlines when he claimed Stymie for $1,500 and subsequently trained him to a Hall of Fame career, during which Stymie won over $900,000.  Apparently for Hirsch Jacobs, lightning did strike twice. 

Fourteen months after Jacobs purchased Searching, there was no trace of the 0-20 maiden of the previous year, as noted by James Roach in the New York Times:

 There's a new pet in Hirsch Jacobs' barn.  She's a 3-year-old filly, and her name is Searching.

When a visitor goes to her stall, she lifts a front foot in greeting and then shifts her weight and lifts the other one.  It's a pleasing bit of business.

Also pleasing to members of the Jacobs family is the way Searching has learned to pick ‘em up and put ‘em down in a race.  In today's Saratoga feature...she won for the sixth time    since Jacobs bought her for $15,000 last June.
At the time of her purchase, Searching was a nonwinner...For the Jacobs family...she has collected $22,650 in a little more than two months. 

Before too long, trips to the winner's circle in major stakes races became a matter of course for Searching and her connections:  At three, the filly won the Vagrancy and the Gallorette; at four, the Diana, the Maskette, the Top Flight, and the Correction; at five, the Distaff and the Gallorette (again); at six, the Diana (again), the Molly Pitcher, the Matriarch, and the Correction (again). 

On her first victory in the Diana, in 1956, James Roach wrote:

As every racetracker knows, Jacobs is the man who holds the international record for being lucky as a horse-purchaser.  He claimed Stymie for $1,500 and won more than $900,000 with the old boy. 

Slightly more than a year after being purchased as a perpetual loser, Searching had fifteen wins, including five stakes races, to her credit. 

Two years later, Searching won her second Diana, and by this time turf writers were acknowledging not only her astonishing record, but her personality: 

Searching, a little mare with a streak of gameness, became the twentieth winner of the $27,250 Diana Handicap today...Searching weights only 950 pounds and stands fifteen hands high. She won the race in 1956 and was beaten a head by Pardala last year. (Conklin)
Searching carried the top weigh of 123 pounds, giving seven pounds to the runner-up Endine, and eleven to Rare Treat, who finished third. 

Between the ages three and six, Searching hit the board in twenty-five stakes races, making a total of 89 lifetime starts and compiling a record of 25 - 14 - 16, earning $327,381.  She bore eight foals--seven winners, three of them stakes winners-and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1978.  Not bad for a horse who broke her maiden in her 21st start.

An 0 for 20 filly moving from one well-known trainer (Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons) to another (Hirsch Jacobs), utterly reversing her winless form and beginning a career that would land her in the Hall of Fame.  Imagine the conversations if that happened today...



Conklin, William R. "Searching Defeats Endine by Half-Length in Diana Handicap at Saratoga." New York Times. 21 Aug 1958. 16 Jan 2008.

Roach, James. "Searching, 5 - 1, Saratoga Victor." New York Times. 10 Aug. 1955. 16 Jan. 2008.

Roach, James. "Searching Triumphs By Two Lengths in $28,000 Diana Handicap at Saratoga." New York Times. 23 Aug 1956. 16 Jan 2008.

Robertson, William H.P. The History of Thoroughbred Racing in America. New York: Bonanza Books, 1964.


Teresa Genaro writes regularly about New York racing at Brooklyn Backstretch.  


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