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Dr. Fager

And His Illustrious Relatives

by William Osler

Turf and Sport Digest

July, 1969

When Dr. Fager became "everybody's Horse of the Year" for 1968, he was the first of an illustrious line of American Thoroughbreds to be so honored. He is the latest, and certainly one of the greatest, of the descendants of a horse who came to America in 1860. The horse founded a line whose blood has pulsed strongly through the veins of some of the finest performers on the American turf for 109 years, but none had ever been named Horse of the Year.

The founder of this great racehorse family was Eclipse--known variously as *Eclipse, Imported Eclipse and Morris's Eclipse, to distinguish him from other racehorses of the same name. His descendants include many who captured the imagination of US racing fans through the ages: Domino, Alsab, Equipoise, Stymie, and in more recent years, Carry Back.

Before Dr. Fager, only three horses of what are generally called the American sire lines had become Horse of the Year: War Admiral in 1937, Seabiscuit, 1938, and Busher, a filly, in 1945. All are of the Fair Play line through Man o' War. Their founder is *Australian, imported from England in 1858. The third surviving American line is that of *Bonnie Scotland, imported in 1857. This is the line of Ben Brush, Broomstick, Sweep, etc. There is older American blood in many of today's pedigrees, but it has come down through the females, and has no sire lines as such.

Such has been written of the 1968 Horse of the Year and it would be superfluous to dwell on his achievements. But Dr. Fager's racing record of 18 wins in 22 starts, plus proven weight-carrying ability and almost flawless pedigree, are reasons to hope for a glittering career at stud.

Eclipse arrived in America with good credentials of pedigree but his racing record showed only sprinting ability. His sire, Orlando, was awarded the 1844 Derby, in which he finished second, when it was found that the first finisher, allegedly the three-year-old Running Rein, was really a four-year-old ringer whose real name was Maccabeus. It provided one of the great scandals of English turf history.

*Eclipse first gained attention in America as the sire of a bevy of fleet footed fillies--Ruthless, Relentless, Regardless, Remorseless and Merciless, known collectively as the Barbarous Battalion. They were all from the Simon mare *Barbarity. All won stakes and were famed as sprinters, though Ruthless had enough stamina to win the inaugural Belmont Stakes in 1867 at a distance of 1 5/8 miles. Alarm, by *Eclipse, was another brilliant sprinter, but his most important contribution to racing was in getting Himyar, who in turn sired Domino in 1891 and Plaudit in 1895. Several branches of the Domino line continued, and two of them are still strong today, but the Plaudit tribe has been teetering on extinction for many years. While there have been numerous stakes winners, each generation seems to have produced only one outstanding sire. The line comes down from Plaudit through King James, Spur, Sting, Questionnaire, Free For All to Rough'n Tumble, sire of Dr. Fager. Rough'n Tumble died in 1968, but he has seven sons at stud, including Conestoga, already the sire of two stakes winners. With the addition of Dr. Fager, the line looks healthier than it has for some years. There was another line, through Ultimus, a good son of Plaudit, whose descendants carried on well for a time, but the line has not been active since the early 40's.

Domino, though officially a brown, was known and loved as "The Black Whirlwind." He was a horse of blazing speed and was virtually unbeatable up to a mile. Beyond that, however, his stamina was suspect. He died at six, soon after the birth of his first foals. He left only nine sons, of which four were gelded, but one of the colts was Commando, and that was enough.

Commando, like his sire, had great speed, but also could go on, and he won the 1901 Belmont. He managed only three seasons at stud before early death took him, but he was leading sire in 1907, and left among several good sons, Colin, Peter Pan, and Ultimus. Colin won the Belmont and 11 other stakes and sired, among others, Neddie, whose son Good Goods sired Alsab, the "Wonder Horse" of the 1940's. Alsab won 25 races and $350,000 at a time when purses were much lower than today. He won 17 stakes and was enormously popular. The line is represented today by Armageddon's son Battle Joined, who has one stakes winner and one stakes placed in three crops.

Peter Pan, Commando's third great son, like so many others of his tribe, won the Belmont among eight stakes. Three of his sons, Black Toney, Pennant and Peter Hastings have descendants among modern stakes winners. Peter Hastings has been represented until this year by his grandson Pet Bully, (by Petrose) stakes winner of $365,702 and sire of several stakes winners.

Pennant's most famous son probably was Equipoise, the beloved "Chocolate Soldier" of the Depression years. He won 29 races from four furlongs to 1 3/4 miles, most of the time giving away weight in carload lots. With a bankroll of $338,610, he was the world's second leading money winner up to that time, despite the fact that purses were dropping steadily throughout his racing career in the early 30's. Though he left only four foal crops, he was leading sire, posthumously, in 1942, when his offspring won $437,141, a record for a single year at that time. His son, Shut Out, won the Belmont and the Kentucky Derby and four other stakes to be top money winner with $238,972. Other stakes-winning sons were Swing and Sway and Equestrian, sire of Stymie.

Stymie, like others of his tribe, was a popular idol. His pedigree was pure American for three generations. His owner, Hirsch Jacobs came from Brooklyn and had claimed him for $1,500 as a two-year-old. Add to this his bright chestnut color, high, proud head, and come-from-behind style of winning, and you have the ingredients which made the fans take him to their hearts. He won at two and three, but his first stakes win and entry into the big time came at four, and this seemed to enhance the rags-to-riches image. He retired at eight, with a lifetime record of 35 wins and $918,485.

This great American breed of Thoroughbreds, especially those tracing to Domino, seem to throw up a spectacular horse every few generations--a horse that is more than just a performer of excellence, one that grabs the affections of the public through some illusive quality of style or personality. Such were Domino, Alsab, Equipose and Stymie. Such too was Carry Back (by Saggy-Swing and Sway-Equipoise) who burst upon the turf scene at the beginning of the present decade. He had plenty of style of his own, with his great rush-from-behind manner of winning, but he also had a deft and colorful trainer, Jack Price, who gave him expert care, plus an almost carnival style of promotion. The sportswriters helped by giving the colt a poor boy image, insisting that he rose from the slum origins to become an equine millionaire.

Actually, there was nothing slummy about Carry Back's background. His sire won stakes and was the only horse to beat Citation at three. But the stud fee was low ($400) and his dam, Joppy, a non-winner acquired for $265 in part settlement of a board bill. The gentlemen of the media stressed these aspects and ignored the presence in his pedigree of names like Equipoise, Hyperion, and *Blenheim II. Anyway, Carry Back lived up to his billing. At three he won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Flamingo and four other stakes and went on to become fifth among millionaires.

Such are Dr. Fager's relatives.

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