Racing History Blog

Clarence Kummer: A Quiet Path to Greatness

Posted Aug 10, 2021


Best known for his association with Man o’ War, Hall of Fame jockey Clarence Kummer wasn’t as flashy as some of his contemporaries, but his achievements guaranteed his status as one of the elite riders of the 1920s

By Brien Bouyea
Hall of Fame and Communications Director
At the dawn of the Roaring Twenties, the American sports scene was entering a nicknamed era of its own — the Golden Age. Baseball had Babe Ruth, who was swatting home runs at a prodigious rate and dizzying turnstiles throughout the country. In the boxing ring, heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey was on par with the Bambino as a drawing card and public idol. Baseball and boxing were joined by thoroughbred racing as the decade’s most popular sports. In 1920 — when Ruth crushed a record 54 homers and Dempsey walloped Billy Miske and Bill Brennan in the early days of his four-year reign as champ — Man o’ War was decimating all his competition on the racetrack during an undefeated 11-race campaign. In the irons aboard Man o’ War for nine of those victories was a little-known member of the Hall of Fame, 21-year-old Clarence Kummer.  

Historical horse profile: Irish Lad

Posted Jul 14, 2021


Champion 2-year-old of 1902 brought Harry Payne Whitey and Herman B. Duryea to prominence in American racing

By Brien Bouyea
Hall of Fame and Communications Director 

Harry Payne Whitney was just starting to dabble in thoroughbred racing when he purchased the promising colt Irish Lad in partnership with Herman B. Duryea in the spring of 1902. Bred by H. Eugene Leigh, Irish Lad was sold to John E. Madden as a yearling in the fall of 1901 for $2,550. Madden meticulously prepared Irish Lad for the races and received a healthy return on his investment when he resold the horse to Whitney and Duryea for $17,500.

Ruthless: First Belmont belonged to a filly

Posted Jun 2, 2021


Hall of Famer also won the 1867 Travers Stakes

By Brien Bouyea
Hall of Fame and Communications Director 
Ruthless was exactly what her name suggested she was. The most accomplished of the famed “Barbarous Battalion,” Ruthless earned her high place in racing history by winning the first edition of the Belmont Stakes in 1867 at Jerome Park and the fourth running of the Travers later that summer at Saratoga.

Survivor: Forgotten star of the first Preakness

Posted May 12, 2021


A crowd of 12,000 was on hand at Pimlico Race Course in 1873 for the first running of one of America’s most iconic races

By Brien Bouyea
Hall of Fame and Communications Director

The Preakness Stakes was first contested in 1873, six years after the inaugural Belmont Stakes, and two years before the maiden running of the Kentucky Derby. It was a time of healing in America. The country was slowly being stitched back together both physically and emotionally during the Reconstruction period in the aftermath of the Civil War. Thoroughbred racing was on the ascent and playing a significant role in the new America. State officials in Maryland — which had a distinguished racing history and traced its Jockey Club’s origins to 1743 — desired a piece of the post-war turf action.

Aristides: The original Kentucky Derby hero

Posted May 12, 2021


In 1875, the “little red horse” won the inaugural edition of America’s most famous horse race

By Brien Bouyea
Hall of Fame and Communications Director 

The name Aristides was derived from the ancient Greek words “Aristos,” which means “best,” and “Eidos,” defined as “type” or “species.” The name was carried by an obscure second-century saint and later more famously by a fifth-century Athenian statesman, “Aristides the Just,” who was lauded for his integrity. On May 17, 1875, a small chestnut racehorse bearing the historic name Aristides proved to be the “best of his type” in a new sporting spectacle that generated tremendous anticipation prior to its debut — the inaugural Kentucky Derby.

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