07/03/2009 11:10AM

The Doctor is In.


Ah, the Suburban Handicap!  Presidents come and go, and fads like the Rubik's Cube and the Hula Hoop dissolve over time, but the Suburban has been a constant on the racing calendar since Stromboli won the 1915 running at the old Empire City after the race took a one-year hiatus (Sam Jackson finished second that year, for you trivia buffs out there). 
Before the breeding industry robbed us of our handicap horses, the Suburban was one of the three races that comprised the New York Handicap Triple Crown.  Back in the day, the best of the best older runners locked horns in the Metropolitan Handicap, the Brooklyn Handicap, and the Suburban to find out who was top dog in the division.  Only Whisk Broom II (1913), Tom Fool (1953), Kelso (1961), and Fit to Fight (1984) were able to pull off a clean sweep of the Triple. 
There's been talk of Dr. Fager recently on FormBlog, and he did the 1968 Suburban proud by winning under 132 pounds.  That season's Handicap Triple was hotly-contested to say the very least. 
In Reality won the Metropolitan at Belmont on May 30 at 3-5 odds for owner Frances Genter, and the son of Intentionally came within 1/5th of Count Fleet's 26-year-track record. 
To show the depth of the division, In Reality returned in the Suburban on Independance Day, and was dismissed as the 6-1 third choice in the field of five.  Dr. Fager went favored at 4-5 with the great Damascus sent away at 7-5.  Receiving one pound from Damascus, Dr. Fager went right to the front, and was never headed while equaling Gun Bow's track record of 1:59 3/5 for the 1 1/4 miles.  In Reality finished last. 
Understandably, In Reality wanted no part of the "Big Two" in the Brooklyn on July 20, and this time it was Damascus, in receipt of five pounds from Dr. Fager, who turned the tables on his speedy rival.  Damascus's rabbit, Hedevar set the pace from a rank Dr. Fager through a first half-mile in a wicked 45 4/5.  Hedevar soon backed up, and Dr. Fager, carrying 135 pounds, opened up a clear lead leaving the backstretch.  The fractions took their toll, however, and Damascus came rolling on the outside to win by 2 1/2 lengths. 

Here's what the legendary turf writer, Charles Hatton, had to write about Dr. Fager in his "Profiles of Best Horses" column in the 1969 American Racing Manual:

"Dr. Fager was a singular performer as a four-year-old in 1968.  He was appropriately awarded Horse of the Year honors, which is the ultimate accolade, and excelled in more departments and divisional titles than any horse since the DAILY RACING FORM and The Morning Telegraph poll was instituted in 1936.  William McKnight's Tartan Stable homebred also was proclaimed the handicap, turf course and sprint champion all rolled into one.
Dr. Fager set and tied records from seven furlongs to a mile and a quarter, slashing the world mile mark to 1:32 1/5 en route.  He did everything with flair, though he was not tested at cup routes and his stamina was not incorruptible by the iconoclasts.  His prodigal wire to wire speed, his impartiality concerning track conditions, his bravery under fire and his ability to make light of enervating weights, elicited widespread acclaim..."

"...Nevertheless, any statistical summary of Dr. Fager's record has a ring.  At four, he won seven of eight races and earned $406,110, then retired to the breeding paddocks at Tartan Farm, Ocala, Fla., in sound condition.
In three seasons of his active career, he won 18 of 22 starts and placed ninth on the roster of all-time money leaders with $1,002,642.
Dr. Fager is partially syndicated for stud duty, with his breeder retaining 24 shares and his trainer and one-fourth owner, John Nerud, disposing of three of his eight shares at the heady rate of $100,000 each.  The horse is insured for $3,500,000, and this seemingly hysterical evaluation places him in the front rank of first season sires.  Two decades ago, one could scarcely give away a Florida-bred, and the fact Dr. Fager is out of a gift mare is more romantic than the gospel according to Vuilliers, Lowe, and other proponents of breeding theorem."

"...Dr. Fager's knees and ankles were mushy as a young horse and he was not nominated to the futurities.  He was afforded time for the bones to develop, before the introduction of X-ray programs for yearlings' underpinning, which has made some significant differences to horses' conformation, concerning the soundness of the species.
In the course of the '68 season, Dr. Fager won the Roseben, Californian, Suburban, Whitney, Washington Park Handicap, United Nations and Vosburgh, and placed in the Brooklyn.  He won from seven furlongs to a mile and a quarter, under weights ranging from 130 to 139, carried 134 pounds a mile in 1:32 1/5, winning the Washington Park 'Cap by 10 astonishing lengths, and gave Advocator 22 pounds and a beating in his only start on grass in the United Nations.
It required the combined efforts of Damascus and his surrogate, Hedevar, to negotiate his defeat in the Brooklyn, run in 1:59 1/5 for the 10 furlongs.  At three, the Tartan flyer won seven of nine starts and $484,194, including the mile and a quarter New Hampshire Sweepstakes at Rockingham in track record time of 1:59 4/5.
Conceivably, Dr. Fager was his own formidable foe.  Except for being at once arrogant, conceited, impetuous and ingenuous, he might never have known defeat.  A rank, headstrong individual who was a hard puller with a hard mouth, he always led trumps.  Little Willie Shoemaker, with his delicate hands, never really fit him.  Braulio Baeza got on fairly well with him, through cajolery and exercising care not to antagonize him."

"Dr. Fager could never tolerate following a rival or stalking the pace once his blood was up, and his impatience had a low threshold.  Rival riders knew this and in the Woodward, when he was three, they made a dead set at getting him on the muscle early in the race, yelling alongside him and slapping their whips to excite him into excessive use of his resources.  Somewhat similarly, Hedevar had only to prompt him into the first turn to set him up for Damascus in the '68 Brooklyn. 
Nerud was delighted, naturally, to find the colt had phenomenal speed at two - and he made the most of it.  Could he have foreseen what manner of horse Dr. Fager would become, the trainer might have endeavored to teach him to wait, rating behind horses in his work.  But then this tactic often has the effect of confusing and at length discouraging a horse so that he does nothing well.  Considering Dr. Fager's mettlesome, volatile nature, it is quite possible he would have been utterly spoiled and too hostile for any use.
The NYRA's learned Dr. M. A. Gilman sized up Dr. Fager with standard and tape last September.  The colt's vital statistics:

Height,  16 hands, 2 inches.
Point of shoulder to point of shoulder, 15 inches.
Girth, 73 1/4 inches.
Withers to point of shoulder, 29 inches.
Elbow to ground, 38 1/2 inches.
Point of shoulder to point of hip, 48 inches.
Point of hip to point of hip, 24 inches.
Point of hip to point of hock, 41 inches.
Point of hip to buttock, 24 inches.
Poll to withers, 43 inches.
Buttock to ground, 57 1/4 inches.
Point of shoulder to buttock, 69 1/2 inches.
Circumference of cannon under knee, 8 1/2 inches.

Dr. Fager's easy competency at eliminating time and space is explicable in his conformation, which implements his fluent action.  For the sake of comparison, he girths a quarter-inch more than did Kelso, but the latter measured 43 inches from hip to hock.
Buckpasser girthed a substantial 75 1/2 inches and measured 43 inches from hip to hock.  All have in common the fact they proved intuitively genuine race horses.  The action, heart, nerves and combustion of oxygen into motivation power for the muscles are things one cannot see studying a horse in his box.  They are the most crucial factors..."

"Dr. Fager is something of a sport, or freak, as old-time horsemen say..."

Sadly, the excitement generated by Dr. Fager, and other great Handicap Triple competitors like Buckpasser, Bald Eagle, Bold Ruler, Nashua, Busanda, Assault, Armed, Devil Diver, Eight Thirty, Equipoise, Grey Lag, and Forego has been transferred to breeding farms around the world.  It is all about the money, after all. 

While the Suburban has unfortunately lost its once-lofty stature in the racing world (heck, it's not even a Grade 1 race anymore despite its veritable who's who listing of winners), this year's running looks like a solid betting event full of capable Grade 2 and Grade 3 types.

IT'S A BIRD seems solid favorite as he's won three of his last four, and has become one of the top horses in a weak handicap division.  His good inside post coupled with his tactical speed should put him in a cozy spot tracking the early speed of both FINALLYMADEIT and SAMHOON. 
I'll take a shot with COOL COAL MAN, an inconsistent son of Mineshaft trained by Nick Zito.  On his best day, Cool Coal Man is capable of winning races like the 2008 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park.  When he doesn't feel like running, he gets beat by runners like Giant Moon as he did in the Grade 3 Excelsior on April 4.  Cool Coal Man's most recent race, a three-horse listed stakes event, was more like a paid public workout.  He went right to the front, set solid fractions, and coasted home under an extremely-confident John Velazquez.  Cool Coal Man doesn't need the lead to win, and may be sitting with It's a Bird with the hope of getting the jump on closers like ASIATIC BOY and READY'S ECHO.

I'm also guessing that WARRIOR'S REWARD won't disappoint in the Dwyer, and will look for the venerable 10-year-old battler, BETTER TALK NOW, to run down the game and genuine PRESIOUS PASSION in the United Nations.

More importantly, who do you fancy this weekend?  I want to know.


Now as carrying weight goes, didn't Ouija Board carry considerably more weight, more often, than Zenyatta while racing in Europe? I'd like to see OB in her prime against Zenyatta on pro-ride AND turf. Unfortunately it'll never happen but those two against each other would make for a great Breeders cup Classic at Santa Anita!

Let's take a look at her past performances:

Download Ouija Board


congrats to jerrry for finishing first under the line in the HandiGambling 140 exercise.  He gets to select next week's race.


Enjoy the holiday weekend.


meadowlake59 More than 1 year ago
1-It's a Echo Rumor(15-1) Picked her feet up a bit in the late stages last time but has already lost to many of the others. Trainer is 0-24/jockey is 2-38, though does sport best last BSF--still, hard to like. 2-Jestic Light(10-1) Comes out of very good claimimg efforts sporting best lifetime BSF-I'm guessing trainer and jockey are father/son(?) w/good (almost identical) stats. Worth a long look. 3-Alert Alert(4-1) Ever since bullet on 4/22 this runner has been on the improve--note last out winner came back to score in follow-up and drops 4lbs--big contender. 4-Pawpaw Bobbys Baby(8-1) 3-yo ships has worked solidly in advance--has yet to catch dry dirt and triner is very solid--beware the FG shipper. 5-Carmel Doll(6-1) Royal Academy over a Maria's Mon mare with a string of very solid works and lasix for debut? All the upside is there--but can she run with others? 6-Quick Hit(8-1) Her debut was encouraging--albeit at 20k--top conditioner and reliable rider plus improved post gives this one a real shot. 7-Lady Regent(8-1) Forwardly placed for a half in debut but couldn't stay with the 3 and the 8 looks faster--not for me. 8-Maxincomefree(9-2) Must consider as best speed threat--bested the 1 two back and earned 60 BSF--similar performance would be tough to beat--top contender. 9-Mary's Deal(3-1) Gets FTL and switch to top percentage rider can't hurt--still, has lost to the 3 and no posted works give me mixed signals--only at a better price. I have a tough time splitting the 8, 5, and 3 as my best so I'll take the firster who should offer the best value in a field of mostly proven also-rans. $20 WP 5 = $40 $5 Tri Key 5/3,4,6,8 = $60 Total = $100 Good Luck and Good Racing!
Mathieu More than 1 year ago
Reiner, Check out Dan's Disabled List on the right of each thread in red. Tiago was off for three weeks due to colic but had a strong 5F work on 5/31 of 59 and change. Also, you can sign up for Horse Watch and have each work and race entry e mailed to you.
Mathieu More than 1 year ago
Hey, does anyone have any clue when Tiago will return? Posted by: Reinier * Sherriffs is keeping him in the barn while Moss' lawyers fight to get him eligible again for the Santa Anita Derby.
slewofdamascus More than 1 year ago
I want to send into cyberspace some good wishes to Bobby Frankel, who apparently is very ill. He's the best trainer I have ever seen (from my side) and I don't know how many times - years and years ago - that a blind bet on one of his charges saved me from all sorts of tumult. As a former compulsive gambler, I can tell you that he saved my ass on more than a few occasions when I was into the rent money. His notorious love for animals (his dogs, mainly)always made me believe that he is one of the good guys, in a sport filled with bad guys. He is one of those good guys who liked to wear the black hat, a black that belied his true nature. In a world of tell-all theatre, led by the Oprahs and Dr. Phils, I have long admired the fact that he is a very private person. I know he's a fighter, and hopefully this is just a bump in the road on the way to a long life. Here's the drf story: http://www.drf.com/news/article/105253.html
Stephen L. Taylor More than 1 year ago
SR VEGAS-we don't have Winchester Bay anymore-he got claimed at Oaklawn (Still wish I had remembered to bet him-he gives 100% every time he runs!)
chaazz More than 1 year ago
Race of the day Ariege - No problem!
p ensign More than 1 year ago
"I trusted Frankel enough to throw that race out and that he wouldn't be running if Frankel didn't think he could win." Likewise, I never trusted anyone jumping a horse from NW1 or NW2 to a GI or GII like Brooklyn Bobby...
jim tully More than 1 year ago
I feel bad now that a few weeks ago I declared the Bobby Frankel era over, especially because I have always liked Frankel. The news today does explain a lot, however, and shows that it's not always just the horseflesh that wins races, it takes a keen horseman as well. I have been following the races since 1992 and Frankel trained the greatest horse I have ever seen in Ghostzapper. In fact, if I could bet one race all over again, it would Zapper's Breeders Cup when the pub let him off at 5-2. I should have bet my entire bankroll on him. Bobby Frankel also trained the only horse coming off a zero Beyer that I have ever bet. I forget the horse, but he had been eased in his last and was back in three weeks. I trusted Frankel enough to throw that race out and that he wouldn't be running if Frankel didn't think he could win. He won.
slewofdamascus More than 1 year ago
I am surprised there has been no mention of today's Philly Steak. I lost my chew is not an unfamiliar chant heard on the corner, while others have said, "watch out for colora!" How about the stake at Indiana Downs, tomorrow? Stake on Tuesday? One of my early Derby horses (wow was that bad), No Inflation, who has surprised on the turf, is second choice (hardly a lock, though) at 3-1. Another hoss I like, Turfiste (speed), is also running, but he's been instilled as the 3rd choice (7-2) by a stingy oddsmaker, who's probably the genral manager's brother-in-law. There oughta be a law. *** Off the subject, I was floored to pick up the paper today and read about Steve McNair, who always had a place on my all-pro team because of his courage and willingness to play in pain. He burned the raiders on numerous occasions, even during the Raiders mini-resurgence around the millenium. I don't know what happened, but I have a hard time believing that a 20yo woman plugged him 4 times, twice in the chest, twice in the head, then shot herself in the head. That doesn't sound right to me, that sounds more like ex-boyfriend type of rage, but I guess anything is possible. Yeah, I've watched lots of 48 Hours, too, and I guess I'm just skeptical about murder-suicide from a psychological profile point of view. That's an execution, not an "I hate you![shoot once, MAYBE twice] OMG, what have I done?"-type of lover's shooting. In any case, RIP Steve McNair. I think McNair is HOF worthy, myself, but he shouldn't get in before Plunkett and Stabler (2 travesties), not to mention Cliff Branch (total travesty) or Ray Guy (general travesty), although they weren't QBs, of course, well, Guy could play QB (quite well, actually, a terrific athlete). Plunkett and Stabler each called their own plays, in some of the greatest NFL games ever played, in fact, I think today's game has been bastardized by the all-controlling "offensive cooridinator" system (micro-managing every single aspect, making the players "pieces" to be manipulated, instead of utilizing and enhancing their unique abilities to create and use their special instincts, in some cases), but don't get me started.
Whackymacky More than 1 year ago
Hello All.. Hope all had a safe and enjoyable holiday weekend. What a race at Monmouth. I wonder about that time? That horse looked like he was running on cement. You cannot compare that race with some of the greats. Very suspect in my eyes. Taking my Monday and Tuesday off as usual. Back wagering on Wednesday. 6th at Suffolk #3 Fondant $11,971 Win Pool $3,870 Place Pool $35,798 Show Pool Won for fun.... Get well Bobby Frankel... Sad to see Mike Smith on MTB...I wanted his EX to get the mount. I think that she deserved a shot. She has rode the horse and I did NOT like his ride in MTB last race... LOL to all this week..OUT