In celebration of the 150th
anniversary of racing at Saratoga Race Course, the New York Racing
Association, Inc. (NYRA) and the Saratoga 150 Committee established the
Hoofprint Walk of Fame, located at the Wright Street entrance to the
Hoofprint Walk of Fame honors 30 of the greatest horses to ever have
raced at Saratoga, 14 of them winners of the Travers Stakes, which will
be run for the 144th time on Saturday.
into the breeding of the 14 Travers winners honored in the Hoofprint
Walk of Fame shows a common denominator running through the winners of
the Travers: the bloodlines of the great sires Lexington and Native
This year's running of the Travers continues the influence of those powerful thoroughbred families.
Triple Crown stars - Kentucky Derby winner Orb, injured Preakness
winner Oxbow and Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice - all trace back
through Native Dancer to Lexington. So do Haskell Invitational winner
Verrazano and Jim Dandy runner-up Will Take Charge.
is no doubt that endurance was Lexington's most important quality as a
sire, as many races in his era were four miles long, and he produced
horses that could win at that distance," said sportswriter John
Eisenberg, author of the book "Native Dancer: The Grey Ghost: Hero of a
was born in 1850 and raced a total of seven times at ages 3 and 4,
winning six times and placing once. He was retired to stud in 1855 due
to blindness, a condition also suffered by his sire, Boston.
sired nine Travers winners, three of whom are members of the Hoofprint
Walk of Fame: Kentucky, winner of the first Travers in 1864; Harry
Bassett, 1871; and Duke of Magenta, 1878.
The 1894 running of the Travers was won by Henry of Navarre, whose sire and dam both traced to Lexington.
The success of Lexington's bloodlines continued into the 20th
century through one of his daughters, Aerolite, who was born in 1861.
Her son, Spendthrift, easily won the 1879 Belmont Stakes. In 1893,
Spendthrift sired Hastings, who won the 1896 Belmont and raced carrying
weights as high as 140 pounds.
1905, Hastings sired Fair Play, who was successful on the track but
even more so at stud. One of his sons from the year 1917 was Man o' War,
winner of the 1920 Travers and widely considered one of the greatest
racehorses of all time.
a brilliant racing career, Man o' War went to the breeding shed and
sired Seaplane, grand-dam of 1939 Travers winner Eight Thirty.
the mid-1900's, Lexington's bloodlines have been carried forward by the
bloodlines of the brilliant champion Native Dancer.
Dancer traces back to Lexington through Fair Play, who, in addition to
siring Man o' War in 1917, also sired the 1926 Preakness winner Display.
notoriously fiery before his races, sired Discovery, the brilliant 1935
Horse of the Year. As a stallion, Discovery sired the filly Geisha, who
was bred to Polynesian in 1950. The offspring was Native Dancer, a big,
gray horse who often came from behind to win his races with an
overwhelming finishing kick.
by Alfred G. Vanderbilt II and nicknamed "The Grey Ghost," Native
Dancer won 21 of 22 career starts, including the 1952 Hopeful and
Saratoga Special at age 2 at Saratoga, as well as the Preakness, Belmont
Stakes and Travers the following year. His only loss came when second
by a head in the Kentucky Derby.
He was the first horse made famous by television and appeared on the cover of Time magazine in May 1954.
to stud in 1954 due to a foot injury, Native Dancer went on to become
one of the most influential stallions in racing history. He sired 43
stakes winners from 306 foals, and, particularly through his son, Raise a
Native, and his grandsons, Mr. Prospector and Northern Dancer, became
the dominant influence in many modern racing champions.
a Native, who had a short but successful racing career, sired Mr.
Prospector, 1978 Travers winner Alydar, and Majestic Prince. He also is
the grandsire of Triple Crown winner Affirmed (disqualified winner of
the 1978 Travers), 1989 Travers winner Easy Goer, as well as the
great-great-grandsire of champion Zenyatta.
Prospector, a brilliant sprinter retired early because of injury, also
has been a dominant influence on the breed, and his male-line
descendants have included Travers winners Thunder Gulch (1995) and Point
sire, Malibu Moon, is out of a Mr. Prospector mare. His dam, Lady
Liberty, traces from a Raise a Native-Mr. Prospector family. Palace
Malice can be directly traced to Native Dancer in a tail-male sequence
(a continuous unbroken chain of stallions) from Curlin to Smart Strike
to Mr. Prospector to Raise a Native to Native Dancer. Will Take Charge's
sire, the late Unbridled's Song, hails from the Raise a Native-Mr.
Prospector line, as well.
Dancer is a grandson of Native Dancer who won the Kentucky Derby and
the Preakness in 1964 and sired 147 stakes winners during an extremely
successful stud career.
Dancer's sire was Nearctic, a son of Nearco, who "was unbeaten in 14
starts in Europe and became one of the two or three greatest sires of
the 20th century", according to John P. Sparkman, author of the book
"Foundation Mares: How Outstanding Female Families Shaped America's Breeding Industry."
great-grandmother, Sibola, won the 1899 running of the One Thousand
Guineas, "a race roughly equivalent to the Kentucky Oaks nowadays in
Europe," Sparkman said.
was the great-granddaughter of Maiden, who won the second running of
the Travers in 1865 - and is the daughter of none other than Lexington.
Dancer also is an ancestor of Danzig, sire of the 1985 Travers winner
Chief's Crown, the only horse to be favored in all three Triple Crown
races and not win one of them.
The other three Hoofprint Walk of Fame Travers winners do not trace their bloodlines to Lexington and Native Dancer.
rich bloodlines of Lexington and Native Dancer show no signs of tiring.
They should be influences on Thoroughbred racing - and the Travers -
for years to come.