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Forego by the Numbers

This weekend sees the running of the Forego Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga Race Course, a race named in honor of the great racehorse Forego, a three-time Horse of the Year. We thought about writing a pedigree post about his family, but in sifting through the library here at The Blood-Horse offices, we came across something a little more interesting that we thought we would share.

Forego winning the 1974 Vosburgh Stakes (gr. II) at Aqueduct.

Below is a copy of a handwritten conformation note written by famed New York veternarian Dr. Manuel Gilman. Doc Gilman, who died just two years ago, served as chief examining veterinarian for the New York Racing Association, as general manager of Louis and Patrice Wolfson’s Harbor View Farm, as director of the U.S. Jockey Club, and finally as Jockey Club steward at the NYRA racetracks. Doc Gilman was mostly recognised for his work in racehorse identification. In an era where "ringers" were used, he realized that the horny growths on the inside of a horse's legs—called chestnuts or "night eyes" by native Americans—served as the homologue of the human fingerprint, and he helped develop the Universal Horse Identification System now used throughout Thoroughbred racing to assure that the horses on which the public is betting are in fact the horses running in the race.

In addition to his work on the identification system, and as possibly part of it, Doc Gilman was also obviously interested in the phenotypic measurements of the horse, evidenced by a folder of horse measurements that has found its way to The Blood-Horse. The measurements include many of the elite horses that raced during Doc Gilman's 32-year tenure as the chief examining veterinarian for NYRA. The great Forego was measured as a mature 6-year-old in 1976, the year he captured his third consecutive Horse of the Year title.

Gilman's measurements of Forego dated Sept. 28, 1976.

Among other horses that Dr. Gilman measured that we have records on are Affectionately, Affirmed, Alydar, Bold Forbes, Buckpasser, Cox's Ridge, Easy Goer, Exceller, Genuine Risk, Hail to Reason, John Henry, Kelso, Majestic Light, Never Bend, Northern Dancer, Round Table, Ruffian, Seattle Slew, Secretariat, Sir Gaylord, Spectacular Bid, Sword Dancer, and Wajima—a veritable trove of information which we plan to get together and share with our readers at a later date.

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Another interesting story of a vet and Forego came in the spring of his six-year-old career.

Sherill Ward, who had been training him, retired at the end of Forego's five-year-old season. Early the following year, prospective trainer, Frank Whiteley traveled to Florida with veterinarians Arthur Davidson and Alex Harthill, to inspect Forego and determine whether Forego's rather rickety legs would support is considerable frame through another season.

Following x-rays of Forego's near fore and off hind, the verdict was that there was no chance of getting Forego back into racing shape. Whiteley elected to take the shot anyway, and Forego earned a third successive Horse of the Year title.

Alan Porter 28 Aug 2013 10:55 AM

Wow, great stuff. Would be interesting to know what Forego weighed, as Gilman didn't list (or take) his weight. Would love to see Easy Goer's measurements if you can post them. Thanks

ThoroGreats 28 Aug 2013 1:55 PM

Would love to see a comparison chart of those horses mentioned!

Jean in Chicago 28 Aug 2013 4:07 PM

What an interesting post! Thank you for sharing!

For those who are interested, the 1974 American Racing Manual contains an interesting comparison -- created by Dr. Gilman -- that chronicles the physical development of Secretariat from October 1972 to October 1973. An excerpt from the Manual was posted on DRF.com in March 2012. If anyone wishes to read it, here is the link to the article:


Keelerman 28 Aug 2013 4:32 PM


We have these multiple measurements of Secretariat also. Interestingly there are multiple measurements of horses like Seattle Slew (age 3,4), Affirmed (2,3,4), Buckpasser (3,4) and Kelso (4,5) in the sheets we have here.

Byron Rogers 28 Aug 2013 5:09 PM

Love seeing this type of article. Can't wait to see the comparisons. Are there patterns to look for? I remember reading that when Jim Reno measured Secretariat for his life size bronze and the Quarter Horse, Dash For Cash, for his, there measurements were identical. Great stuff and fun to read. Thanks!

Bret Stossel 29 Aug 2013 8:31 AM

I would have been more interested in reading what was your first idea...Nice to see Forego's measurements, but some of the landmarks are a bit vague and not easily duplicated by another. Buckpasser's would be more interesting, because visually I consider him near ideal...Forego, physically, was a rather atypical Forli who was a lovely, smooth, medium-sized (therefore somewhat enlarged) version of his forebear, Hyperion. Have you any notes on the size of Forego's dam, and her close relatives?

sceptre 29 Aug 2013 12:58 PM


Unfortunately we don't have any measurements of close relations to Forego. Hopefully in the coming weeks we will put together some interesting charts on the measurements taken. I agree some of the measurements are vague, but this is interesting nonetheless. It's also interesting to look at these in comparison to those published in Frank Mitchell's Racehorse Breeding Theories.


Byron Rogers 29 Aug 2013 1:52 PM

Thanks for the reply, Byron...I may have left the wrong impression and wish to clarify by saying that I considered Forego, overall, to be a quite good specimen. I touted him highly to others following his unplaced effort in first start, attended his 1973 Derby, bet him, and clearly felt that he would defeat Secretariat in that race. Still believe that he was a better racehorse than Secretariat.

Re-Alan's comments on the Vet report received by Whiteley; if accurate, shame on Whiteley (and, perhaps, Mrs. Gerry) for ignoring it and allowing him to compete for another year. One could say that it worked out, but who knows what further arthritic issues the horse was left with. Weren't two HOY's enough; was it moral to risk him again? Certainly not an example of the horse coming first.

sceptre 29 Aug 2013 11:20 PM

As we all watched the running of the 1973 Kentucky Derby when Secretariat ran the fasted 10 furlongs in the history of the race no one could have foresaw the big Hoss who run down the field that day would go on to give us precious memories of the ''Sport Of Kings''. Thank-You Forego for your weight defying moments and for Kelso before you and the 1918 Kentucky Derby winner before him Exterminator. Although we would love these magnificent animals to go on and do well at stud it does not always happen so let us remember them as ''Geldings'' who contributed well to the sport.

John T 30 Aug 2013 12:41 AM

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