Dr. Fager was the best dirt miler in American history. His record carrying 134 has not been broken in 47 years. The horse could carry weight, and has by far the heaviest burden of any record holder on the attached list. Kelso, by contrast, was the best dirt two miler in history and still holds that record after 51 years.
As Braulio Baeza remarked, Dr. Fager was so fast he could punch a hole in the wind. He was incredible out to 10
furlongs. He never raced past a mile and a quarter, so we really don't know what his stamina would be going long. I have no doubt that Kelso would do well with another half mile added onto 16 furlongs. I like both these guys, so it would be a good contest, short or long. Steve Haskin had the pleasure of writing the Thoroughbred Legends book on both. http://www.horsehats.com/horse-racing-records.html
Silky's most baffling race was his 6 1/2 furlong allowance at Santa Anita in 1958. 40 lengths back from the eighth horse down the backstretch, and 15 lengths behind at the half mile to still win. A $10,700 purchase who won the Santa Anita Derby, behind at one point by 28 lengths.
Sullivan, I'm not sure you meant to say 20 furlongs, as Dr. Fager was never raced past 10. You and I are big fans of Kelso, who won from 6 furlongs to the two mile Jockey Club Gold Cup, winning five years in a row. In my mind, Kelso is the epitome of the racehorse who could sprint or route, on dirt or turf, in the slop or on a fast track. One thing is for sure – both these guys carried 130 or more many times and still whipped the rest of the field. They were good.
You'll like the book. Only three ever finished ahead of Dr. Fager - Horses of the Year Damascus and Buckpasser, and Champion Two Year Old Colt Successor. Steve Haskin has some good BloodHorse articles online on the three Horses of the Year.
I've been on this site for four years now, John. On my first day I knew the name Secretariat. That was it. Contributors like Icyhotboo, footlick, Buckpasser, Lazmannick and others have been a wealth of knowledge. John Nerud did not believe in rushing his horses to the races and was notorious for having them work slowly in the morning. The exception being Gallant Man in the Derby when Shoemaker stood up too soon to allow Hartack and Iron Liege the victory. Nerud did not feel that Dr. Fager was ready for the classics, and didn't run him at 10 furlongs until September. John Nerud took a training tip from Ben Jones and only worked his horses 4 furlongs. He became known as that "half-a-mile sonofabitch," as the other trainers were working almost two miles and getting beat by the trainer from Minatare, Nebraska.
You might find that Citation was the first racehorse to earn a million in the 1951 Hollywood Gold Cup, baynut. Big Cy was retired right away after Warren Wright, Sr. accomplished his goal. Damascus and Dr. Fager were good rivals, splitting their record at 2-2. Damascus the great closer, as in his Travers and Woodward. Dr. Fager the epitome of domination in feet per second and fire on the racetrack.
The Good Doctor was leading sire in 1977, John. Some of his offspring were 1975 American Champion Two-Year-Old Filly Dearly Precious, 1978 co-champion sprinter Dr. Patches, Tree of Knowledge, and Canadian HOTY L'Alezane. Sadly his stud career was cut short when he passed away at age 12 from a ruptured stomach.
The best statement on the Doc comes from our friend Buckpasser: “Every time I would see Dr. Fager blast out of the starting gate with his mouth wide open racing like a demon from hell, I was reminded of the descriptions of Man o' War and others that carried the fiery temper of Hastings.”
In the United Nations Handicap, the race that won him his Champion Male Turf award (along with Fort Marcy), the Doc was slipping and sliding in his only try on grass. Advocator, who's sire was Round Table, carried 22 less pounds and battled Dr. Fager back and forth down the stretch until finally being beaten by a neck. This race is well worth watching, with Fort Marcy finishing third.
In the Vosburgh Dr. Fager carried 139 on a slow, deep winterized track in November. The night before the race the Doc was acting colicky, so John Nerud stayed up until 2:00 in the morning, walking Dr. Fager around and giving him baking soda to settle his stomach. Braulio Baeza eased Dr. Fager the last quarter, and the Tartan Farms star just just missed the world record at 7 furlongs by a fifth, while setting a new track record for Aqueduct by a full second.
Dr. Fager went out with a bang, becoming a millionaire by $2600. The Washington Park, United Nations and Vosburgh capped off IMO the finest single season ever seen in America. The genius of trainer, owner and breeder John Nerud were his Tartan Farms results of the 60's and 70's, and the talented prodigy that developed later. The former Nebraska rodeo cowboy who grew up in a log cabin with a dirt floor did well. A Steve Haskin article on Tartan Farms winners - http://cs.bloodhorse.com/blogs/horse-racing-steve-haskin/archive/2014/02/27/in-the-shadow-of-giants.aspx
My first visit to a track was the 2012 Alabama. Questing ran the fastest time since Randy Romero and Go For Wand in 1990. I won with her and had a super day at the Spa.
Geldings like Ben's Cat who defy age are fun to watch and easy to praise, Mary. What was the biggest surprise of the racing day for you?
Nine year old Ben's Cat showed resilience after the Parx Dash by winning the Mr. Diz sprint for the sixth straight year. Hall of Fame trainer King Leatherbury had a special presentation after the third race, then saw his splendid runner make history for a 30th win, with 25 stakes and almost $2.5 million in earnings. This hard knocking gelding is an easy fan favorite at Laurel.
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