Inaugural WOW! post: Dr. Fager’s World Record Mile

Mar 30th 2008 04:44 pm |

In honor of the two “sublime” performances Saturday by Curlin in the Dubai World Cup and Big Brown in the Florida Derby, I have decided to launch my horse racing history blog with Dr. Fager’s world record run in the 1968 Washington Park Handicap. One of the great things about the internet is the amount of history you have at your fingertips. You Tube is a prime source for historic film/video of our most significant races (especially recent history). Of the older historic clips on You Tube, the film of the ’68 Washington Park Handicap is better then most. Not only does it have the race in its entirety (without commentary) but it captures the immediate post-race reaction by announcer Phil Georgeff. Listen for Georgeff’s “Wow” a few seconds after Dr. Fager crosses the line:

AUGUST 24, 1968

Here are some highlights from the 1968 NY Times story published the day after the race:

“Dr. Fager Sets World Record Mark; Colt’s Time 1:32 1/5”
By Steve Cady

“Burdened with 134 pounds in the 112,700 Washington Park Handicap, Dr. Fager established himself as carrier of the year by setting a world record of 1 minute 32 1-5 seconds for the mile. A crowd of 27,861 cut loose with a chorus of ‘yah-hoos’ as the 4-year-old Tartan Stable colt sped under the wire 10 lengths ahead of Racing Room.”

My comment: Dr. Fager broke the mile record set by Buckpasser in 1966. There are a number of interesting similarities between the two runs. Both records were set at Arlington Park (“an oval noted for its bounce” – NYT ). Braulio Baeza was the jockey for both rides. One of the most significant differences is that Buckpasser set the record carrying only 125 pounds as a 3 year old. Dr. Fager carried an astounding 134 (at the time, the highest weight ever by a Washington Handicap entry).

NYT article continues:

John Nerud, trainer and part owner of Dr. Fager with William L. McKnight called the colt’s efforts ‘another Babe Ruth performance.’ Gaining his 16th victory in 20 starts, Dr. Fager earned $67,700, more than enough to pay the latest installment on his $1 million insurance policy. Commenting on the size of the policy, Nerud said it was ‘not very much.’ Considering Dr. Fager’s potential as a sire Nerud may be right. The colt will begin his breeding career next winter in Florida.”

“Nerud had doubted Dr. Fager would break Buckpasser’s record. Buckpasser came from off a fantastic early pace set by his stablemate, Impressive, who ran the first six furlongs that day in 1:06 4/5. Dr. Fager, Nerud figured, would be setting his own pace by the time the field reached the six-furlong mark. With nothing to challenge him in the stretch, he supposedly would not get the pressure needed to break Buckpasser’s record.”

“But Dr. Fager, a colt with rare desire and dash, roared through the upper stretch after taking the lead after six furlongs with the fractional time of 1:07 3/5. A slight following wind may have helped the contestants in their long run down the backstretch. But worked the other way in the stretch, and that’s where Dr. Fager slammed though to his record.”

“Baeza, who arrived here by plane from New York about noon, said he had ‘tapped’ Dr. Fager once on the shoulder coming around the turn into the stretch. That was all he needed. Comparing Dr. Fager with Buckpasser, he said, ‘They’re different types. Let’s say I like both types.'”

“To get a better idea of what concessions of 16 to 23 pounds mean, think of one-pound boxes of sugar. Then think of running a mile with that kind of penalty piled on top of the regular weight-and running it in a world record time.”

“Despite the fact that Dr. Fager had never finished worse than third except on a disqualification in the 1967 Jersey Derby, the ‘bridge jumpers’ here apparently were worried by his crushing 134 pounds into post. They bet him heavily to win and place, but the show betting, surprisingly, failed to produce a minus pool. Dr. Fager paid $2.20 both to place and to show.”

Read more about Dr. Fager:

Steve Haskin wrote the book on Dr. Fager for the Thoroughbred Legend series published by Eclipse Press. Here it is at Amazon

Online Resources

Dr. Fager wiki page

Article by Steve Ragone at

“The Doctor is in” by Ron Hale

Purchase images of Dr. Fager:

Race video at You Tube:


OK, I was one of the doubters about Big Brown and I am still letting Saturday’s huge win in the Florida Derby sink in. The esteemed Steve Byk (At the Races) thought Smooth Air was sitting on a Sharp Humor type of performance who ran within a nose of Barbaro in the 2006 Florida Derby. Steve was exactly right, unfortunately, Big Brown ran a full second faster then Barbaro when he also won the race from an impossible post position. Those facts alone — a wider post and faster final time then Barbaro — are hard to believe. Let’s hope he stays healthy — he could be a good one.

Filed in Dr. Fager,horse,Nerud, John,Washington Park Handicap

9 Responses to “Inaugural WOW! post: Dr. Fager’s World Record Mile”

  1. theaspiringhorseplayer says:

    Being both a history lover and a horse racing lover, I find the combination of horse racing+history here to be fascinating!

    Keep up the good work! I’ll shall check back often.

  2. ljk says:

    Sorry to pick a nit, but it was PHIL Goergeff on the call. When I was a kid growing up outside Chicago, I assumed every racecaller in America said “and hear they come spinning out of the turn”.

    I’ve already bookmarked this blog. Keep up the good work.

  3. ColinsGhost says:

    ljk: Thank you for the contribution. I appreciate the “nitpick” and have made the correction.

  4. bbison says:

    Thanks for the video–I was there that day (as a 7 year old) and hadn’t see it since.

  5. jms says:

    Thanks for the memory. On orders to Viet Nam, I drove from Ft Knox to Chicago for the ’68 race. I had $100 and had to drive to NY the following day. As luck would have it, all $100 went straight win on The Doctor! That and seeing Secretariat on both ends of the Crown in ’74 were my cherished memories that ran also to RoundTable at Arlington and Forego at Belmont. But thru it all, Dr Fager remains my favorite.

  6. Bob Soskis says:

    Great stuff really enjoyed the replay. May have been the greatest feat by a race horse in history. I point out, he did not break very well, he was wide the entire turn and most of all, he was carrying 134 lbs. WOW!

  7. Lynn says:

    I had a quarter horse (appendix registry) whose grand sire was Dr Fager. I used him as a hunter/jumper until his death from a colon obstruction. He looked a lot like Dr. Fager; big and a dark brown-black. I had no idea my horse had this sort of breeding. He wasn’t fast but boy could he jump.

  8. Randy Scaroborough says:

    Secretariat no doubt had the best performance of all time in the Belmont & considered unbreakable. No one calls it but I will not taking nothing from Fager. If Impressive ran the 1st 6 furlongs in 1:06 4/5 that can tell anyone that track was burning fast. The 1973 Belmont was so impressive that Charles Justice said Secretariat probably would have broke the record carrying 136 lbs.

  9. THE DODGER says:

    I DOUBT it secretariat never carried more than 126 lbs HE would never beat FAGER going a mile Fager also carried 139 in the Vosburg and equalled his own track record