02/24/2010 11:31AM

Damascus, HG PP's

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In the previous blog, we talked about some of the great 3-year-old campaigns of all time.

Let's go back to 1967.  The year-end awards were determined by a panel of 40 editors, handicappers, trackmen, columnists and correspondents from Daily Racing Form and The Morning Telegraph.  Points were given to the contenders in each division with 5 for first place, 2 for second and 1 for third.

In the Best Three-Year-Old Colt or Gelding category, Damascus received 200 points with Best Sprinter winner Dr. Fager finishing second with 77.  In Reality finished third with 25 followed by Proud Clarion (14), Best Grass Horse winner Fort Marcy (3), and Jungle Road (1).

Damascus received the unanimous vote for Horse of the Year. 

Let's relive Damascus' championship season through the words of the legendary Charles Hatton from his "Profiles of Best Horses" column from the 1968 American Racing Manual:

"Horse of the Year honors are the ultimate order of merit in American racing.  The voters hailed Mrs. Edith Bancroft's Damascus the 1967 champion of champions, rather more than electing him to that position.  He had already proclaimed himself incontestably the 'most' horse in actual competition, leaving nothing to conjecture nor to be desired.  Those experting the season's form were unanimous in their acclaim. 
Campaigned solicitously at two, when he won three of four races, including the Remsen, Damascus reappeared last season to sweep the boards of 12 of 16 starts, finishing three times second, once third and earning a season's record $817,941. 
The coveted Bay Shore, Wood Memorial, Preakness, Belmont, Dwyer, Leonard Richards, American Derby, Travers, Aqueduct, Woodward, and Jockey Club Gold Cup all fell before his pendulistic stride.  In the process of distinguishing himself in these old fixtures, he defeated every challenger for top honors in the aristocratic set in which he moved, among them Buckpasser, Dr. Fager, In Reality, Handsome Boy and Ring Twice."

"He danced all the dances and ran all the distances from a mile to two miles.  Never did we see him spit out the bit, as the homely expression goes, and he was confronted with such defiant tasks as carrying topweight of 128 pounds in the Dwyer, giving Ring Twice and Straight Deal actual weight in the Aqueduct, and running smooth-shod in unaccustomed going in the grassy Laurel International.  Fort Marcy won the money that day, but Damascus won the crowd's heart. 
It is not every three-year-old leader that ventures to oppose the old pros, and fewer still who compare themselves favorably with them.  Damascus is not a strapping figure of a horse for all his swashbuckling but he is 'all heart and no peel.'  It was thrilling to see him fighting back, eyes blazing, lengthening his stride so that his neck and tail were on a straight line, in a heated debate the last frenetic yards. 
He was the antitype of the throatlatcher who is reluctant to leave his opposition.  Usually he had put his rivals on a treadmill in the early stretch, but when circumstances conspired to place him on his mettle he was courage itself.
He thrived astonishingly in the course of his severe campaign, stripping for the weight-for-age Woodward on September 30 in better flesh than he had for the Dwyer on July 15.  Remarking on the rigors to which he was being subjected, horsemen wondered when he would fall apart.  He never did.  On the contrary, he went from strength to strength.  It goes without saying he is a good doer and is intuitively a racehorse, gifted with the wearing quality Hard Boots call bottom and reasonably sound."

"Damascus can run on his heart, as he has a compelling urge to win.  This and his action go farther toward explaining him than does his physique, which is nothing to terrorize rival horsemen.  It was his pluck in overcoming some offside byplay and making repeated runs in the course of the same race, that suggested to jockey Willie Shoemaker he might be a runner above the ordinary.
At a glance, Damascus is a demure little horse who goes quietly on parade and handles himself with decorum at the gate.  But in the heat of conflict, when his blood is up, he has iron resolution.  His character is such he won on first acquaintance with competition in the mud, though fielding the unfamiliar shower of wet loam had him ducking about like a dog at a county fair.
His imagination is such that he missed his lead pony saddling up for the Kentucky Derby.  The throngs, flags and bands unnerved him in the paddock.  A horse is confronted with the teeming milieu once only in his career.
Damascus was green at the outset of his three-year-old campaign but gained confidence as it progressed.  In the end, his psyche was all that could be desired and he was quite the horseman's horse, with all the self assurance and resourcefulness this implies. 
Mrs. Bancroft's colt is dashing enough out of the gate to place himself in the first flight in any race, except that usually he has been taken in hand once they broke and he got running on his mind.
'Action makes the racehorse' and Damascus was very strident so to speak, with a fluent manner of going which made him a great ground gainer.  In another age, veteran sportsmen had a little conceit they could tell a Matchem just from the way he laid his legs to the ground.  Damascus' action was all that distinctive.  He was always in cadence, racing in any context.
The Belair colt recalled Northern Dancer in that he was at once clever as a polo pony, but when fully extended went long and low as a southern hound.  Another of the same synchronized sort was Old Rosebud.  Perhaps it is a matter of balanced physical organization, achieving grace and the kinetic pleasure one experiences in observing an exceptional ballet dancer.  Something of this is suggested even in Damascus' four-square, swinging walk.  A bad walker is rarely a good runner, though there are some notable exceptions, reflecting that Ben Jones thought Citation walked like Charlie Chaplin, while War Admiral and Top Flight were indifferent at the slow pace and Tom Fool toed out. 
Damascus is a hard bay with black points and appears a bit on the small side, as his sire Sword Dancer was in training.  He looked a compact 15.3 hands, but is reputed to be 16, measured as an early four-year-old at Santa Anita.
He is plain about the head and neck and his back has a bit of a dip.  This last is accentuated by his height and breadth across the hips and loin, which are exceptionally well muscled.  The stifle is strong and conjoins with gaskin to match.  He is a terrible horse behind, as Bill Brennan once said of the mighty Equipoise's gluteal muscles.  This is just as well, for Damascus' hocks are behind him and want compensatory articulation.
Damascus is not at all on-the-leg, girths a moderate 73 inches and has eight dense inches of bone below the knee.  One could wish his ankles were smoother.
There is nothing mutton-shouldered about him before the saddle.  He appeared to be a bit tucked and light of flank in midseason but filled out as the leaves began to turn.
The pasterns are of the correct length, strength and angulation and the hoofs have firm definition and are round.  Though he vets fairly well, as the saying goes, Damascus at three was a lot more horse than he looked, until one saw him in action."

"Damascus' pedigree is unrestrictive and unobjectionable though it is not the most aspiring any breeder ever fantasized.  He comes of 'simple, honest folk.'  Sword Dancer got a champion three-year-old filly in Lady Pitt, who also stays well, with only moderate opportunities at stud.
It is only doubtful if anybody will care to deny Damascus represents an improvement over his sire, just as the latter marked an improvement over Sunglow.  This is a male line which is in the ascendancy, rather than deteriorating, a happy result of intelligent breeding.
Sun Again, who sired Sunglow, was cursed with large, mushy knees that popped when he was two.  This, combined with his gross middle, compromised his racing success but he was not far behind Shut Out and Alsab on their classic form.
Kerala is a mare the Bancrofts secured in a package deal.  A young mare, foaled in '58, she is by the Guineas winner My Babu out of Blade of Time, a daughter of Sickle and Bar Nothing.  She was bred by Greentree and never ran.  Bar Nothing was out of Beaming Beauty, dam of Bubbling Over, one of the most brilliant and underrated of all the Kentucky Derby winners.  He would make three of Damascus physically, but had the same marvelous way of going.  Atavism works in strange ways. 
Some of the Sickles were hot under the collar, as Andrew Jackson Joyner used to say, declaring 'I wouldn't ride one of them as a gift.'  Joseph E. Widener had numerous Sickle fillies who were so obstreperous at the gate they never raced.  But of course Sickle was a broodmare sire of the first class, and Damascus has inherited none of the knavish sulkiness of the tribe."

Here are Damascus' lifetime past performances:

Download Damascus

 

Damascus was inducted in racing's Hall of Fame in 1974.  Here is his page from their website:

http://www.racingmuseum.org/hall/horse.asp?ID=54

 

***

HG 173
Like the 1 in this spot. Big improvement 2nd out and would seem to be bred for at least a mile--top and bottom.
The 7 and the 9 have consistent numbers but I am hoping the 1 offers the better price.
$50 exactas  1/7,9
Good Luck and Good Racing!!!

Ok Formbloggers, I hope you like my selection--I'm on a bit of a streak lately--let's see if I can keep it going.
For this week's Handigambling contest, I choose Thursday's 7th race from Gulfstream Park; a conditioned allowance with an optional $100,000 tag at 9 furlongs on the turf course. The list of entries is impressive--this could easily be an overnite stake. So good luck to all and let's pray for sunny weather and no late scratches.
Good Luck and Good Racing!!!
meadowlake59

Here are the past performances for tomorrow's HandiGambling event:

Download HG174

 

 

 

Remember that you have a mythical $100 with which to wager on the race, and the entrant with the highest money total will receive a "Monthly Enhanced 60-Card Past Performance Plan."   Anyone going over the $100 limit will be disqualified.  In the event of a tie, the earliest post gets first preference. 

I know that there is a time issue for some of you, but let's remember why we began the HandiGambling races in the first place.  The goal was to share ideas on why we like these horses, and why we're betting them the way we are.  I'm not asking for a novel, but if you could spare a sentence or two outlining your handicapping angles, and thought processes about wagering, it would be appreciated.

Best of luck to all.