Let’s take a trip in the
Saratoga Time Machine, back to what many consider to be the Golden Decade of
thoroughbred racing, and the year of 1972.
Do you remember when
gasoline cost 36¢ a gallon, a dozen eggs was 59¢, and that you could mail a
first-class letter for one thin dime? For the younger crowd, did you even know
that the Dow Jones had a high of only 1,036. This was also the time when
Richard Nixon was running for re-election against George McGovern and the
Watergate Scandal would have its beginnings. The Vietnam War was still going
on after 13 years.
Carly Simon had a #1 hit
with You're So Vain, which included
the noteworthy line, "I hear you went up to Saratoga and your horse
It was in 1972 that Secretariat launched racing’s Golden
Decade. At Saratoga Race Course, the Meadow Stable star began his run to the Horse of the
Year title, one of only three two year-olds to ever be so honored. The
legendary Bold Ruler colt registered his second, third, and fourth victories at
the Spa. He won his first level allowance, the Sanford, and the Hopeful in a
span of 42 days.
1972 Sanford Stakes
In 1972 Saratoga was the place where racing
royalty and racing fans assembled for only 24 days of racing. The leading
trainer was Allen Jerkens with 19 winners. The top jockey was Jorge Velazquez
with 20 trips to the winner’s circle, which at the time was a simple chalk
circle drawn on the track. Spanish Riddle set a track record (1:08) for six furlongs on the main track that
still stands today.
In addition to
Secretariat, two other horses won multiple stakes at the Spa as they built their resumes for division championships.
Canadian-bred La Prevoyante went unbeaten in twelve
1972 starts. In a campaign that spanned just over six months, the Schuylerville
and the Spinaway at Saratoga represented win numbers five and six. The daughter
of Buckpasser would win the two year-old filly championship in both the USA and
Rokeby Stable’s Key to the Mint would become champion
three year-old based on a four race win streak that began at Belmont Park with
the Suburban. He then moved to Saratoga where he added the Whitney and Travers,
a mere 14 days apart. A month later it was back to Belmont to add the Woodward.
That was not all for trainer Elliot Burch and Rokeby’s owner Paul Mellon. Their
filly Summer Guest would win the
The regally bred gray colt Icecapade, sired by Nearctic, was a
half-brother of Ruffian, both out of the legendary dam, Shenanigans. Icecapade
ran in the colors of Stuart Janney Jr. and his Locust Hill Farm when he won
Saratoga’s Saranac. Icecapade held the six-furlong track record of 1:08 at
Monmouth Park for many years. Ruffian would come along two years later and captivate racing fans with her sensational
win at Saratoga in the Spinaway.
Icecapade and Ruffian would set the stage for the thrills that we all received
in 2013 from Stuart Janney III’s Orb.
The royal parade of owners
continued when another Buckpasser filly, Numbered Account, who was the juvenile champion in 1971, won the Test for the Phipps
Stable. At the time Roger Laurin was the trainer for the Phipps family.
The Greentree Stable of
the Whitney family won the Saratoga Special with Stop the Music. Stop The Music would go on to set two track records
as a three year-old at Belmont Park, at 5½ furlongs and then at a mile.
who was equally talented on the grass as on dirt, won the Jim Dandy in 1972 for
owner Charles Englehard. Later E. P. Taylor would buy him for $2,000,000 and
send him to stud at his Windfields Farm in Maryland.
In the 41 years since
1972, racing has changed a great deal because the world has changed a great
deal. Thoroughbreds ran far more often during a much shorter Saratoga meeting,
and their owners and trainers did not hesitate to step up and run against the
best competition. Regardless, Saratoga is still a place where we can enjoy
racing in its current form, but in a setting that constantly reminds us of the grand
history of racing.