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Before their glory came the claiming ranks
Hall of Fame trainer Hirsch Jacobs claimed Stymie in 1943 for $1,500 and raced him for a tag nine more times. There were no takers. When Stymie retired six years later, he was the world's richest Thoroughbred, with earnings of $918,485.
Aqueduct honors what many still consider the greatest claim in the sport's history with the Stymie Handicap, which will be run for the 51st time Saturday.
In a career that spanned 131 races, Stymie won 25 stakes and handicaps up and down the Eastern seaboard. He was voted handicap champion of 1945.
Stymie's accomplishment might seem unique, but he was not the first, or last, ex-claimer to wear the world's money crown.
When he won the 1940 Santa Anita Handicap in the last start of his career, Seabiscuit, who ran in claiming races four times in 1935, rose to the top of the money-won list. He was never claimed, however.
Test your knowledge of ex-claimers who went on to successful careers.
1. Seabiscuit could have been claimed three times for $2,500 and once for $4,000. He was eventually sold privately by the Wheatley Stables to California auto magnate Charles S. Howard.
Seabiscuit was voted handicap champion in both 1937 and 1938. He was also voted Horse of the Year in 1938.
Seabiscuit was not the last Horse of the Year in the 20th century to have competed in claiming races, and Stymie was not the last ex-claimer to be the world's leading money winner. Name the other horses who claim these distinctions.
2. In the eighth start of this gelding's 98-race career, he ran for a $2,000 tag. This was the era where claiming races were "selling races" and the winner was put up for auction after the race, with the claiming price being the starting bid. In this horse's case, the owner bought him back for $2,005.
In seven seasons on the track, this gelding was champion three seasons, set or equaled 11 track or American time records, and won 24 stakes races at distances from 4 1/2 furlongs to 1 3/4 miles. Name him.
3. William L. McKnight, chairman of 3M Corp., celebrated his 70th birthday in 1957. To honor the event, his employees bought him a filly with $6,500 they had collected.
She made her debut for McKnight's Tartan Stables in a $6,500 claimer and finished that year - and her career - in another $6,500 claimer. She retired with two wins in 14 starts and total earnings of $5,115.
While mediocre on the track, she was worth far more than $6,500 as a broodmare. Of the first seven foals she dropped, four were stakes winners - two of whom made it to racing's Hall of Fame. Name the broodmare and her two most successful foals.
4. In 1942, legendary trainer Horatio Luro claimed a smallish English-bred colt at Saratoga for $2,500. The horse had earlier been running for a tag as low as $1,500.
Luro gradually turned the colt into a major stakes winner, whose victories included the Jockey Club Gold Cup and Saratoga Cup.
The colt entered stud in Virginia for $250 a season. In the years that followed, he was moved to Claiborne Farm in Kentucky, where he became North America's leading sire in 1957 and 1958. In addition, he was the No. 1 broodmare sire eight seasons in North America and once in England. Name him.
5. This gelding saved the best for last. Claimed for $10,000 in 1961 in his 11th career start by future Hall of Fame trainer Warren A. "Jimmy" Croll Jr., he raced for five seasons and competed in 98 races, winning 27 of them.
In the last three races of his career, at age 7, he wrapped up the title of grass champion of the season with victories in the Kelly-Olympic, United Nations, and Long Island handicaps. Name him.
History Challenge Answers
1. Since ex-claimer Seabiscuit was voted Horse of the Year in 1938, two other Thoroughbreds who competed in claiming races - John Henry and Charismatic - were voted Horse of the Year.
In addition, John Henry retired as the world's leading money earner, having amassed $6,597,947 during a career that spanned eight seasons.
In the 14th start of his career, in 1978 at Fair Grounds, John Henry was entered for a tag for the first time - $25,000. He ran in claiming races four more times, with no takers.
When his career was over, John Henry had been voted Horse of the Year twice and garnered seven Eclipse Awards in all.
Charismatic won his maiden in a $62,500 claiming race in 1998. After Charismatic finished fifth and last in his first stakes start the following season, trainer D. Wayne Lukas again entered him in a $62,500 claiming race. Charismatic won on a disqualification. No claims were ever entered for him.
Eleven weeks later, Charismatic scored a 31-1 upset in the Kentucky Derby and followed up two weeks later with an 8-1 win in the Preakness. In a year of middling horses, he was voted champion 3-year-old and Horse of the Year.
2. Roamer was the result of an accidental breeding between a farm teaser and a blind mare. Apparently, one or the other jumped a fence - hence the gelding's name.
Roamer was named Horse of the Year in 1914 as a 3-year-old and champion handicap horse the following two seasons.
On Aug. 21, 1918, in a race against time at Saratoga, Roamer broke Salvator's 28-year-old world record for one mile. The final time was 1:34.80, besting Salvator's 1:35.50 (also run against time, but on a straight course at old Monmouth Park).
The Thoroughbred Record said of Roamer in 1918, "He has made more track records than any other horse that has sported silk in this country."
3. Aspidistra's career on the racetrack was nondescript, but as a broodmare, she ranked among the elite.
Her second and third foals - A Deck (1961) and Chinatowner (1962) - won and placed in stakes. Her fifth foal in 1964 was Dr. Fager, who in 1968 became the only horse ever to be voted Horse of the Year and champion handicap horse, grass horse, and sprinter in the same season.
Aspidistra's seventh foal, a filly, was 1970 champion sprinter Ta Wee. In her final four wins, Ta Wee carried 132 pounds in the Hempstead Handicap, 136 in the Regret Handicap, 140 in the Fall Highweight Handicap (against males), and 142 in the Interborough Handicap.
Dr. Fager was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1971; Ta Wee was elected in 1994.
4. Princequillo was among the last horses shipped to America before German submarines made travel by the seas too dangerous. His success in America on the track and at stud made him one of the great claims of all time.
Among his offspring were Round Table, a multiple champion and a Horse of the Year; Hill Prince, a Horse of the Year; Dedicate, champion handicap horse; Quill, champion 2-year-old filly; and Misty Morn, champion 3-year-old filly and later Broodmare of the Year.
Princequillo also produced Prince Simon, champion 3-year-old in England, and Irish Derby winner Tambourine.
5. Major grass racing was still fairly new in the United States when Parka was voted champion turf horse of 1965. The first grass championship was awarded just 12 years earlier.
Parka was bred in Virginia by Marion duPont Scott. After trainer Jimmy Croll claimed him for $10,000 out of a winning race, he brought Parka back in 15 days for a $13,000 tag. Parka won by eight lengths, but was not claimed. He never raced for a claiming price again.