Colin is Still King, Belmont Stakes 1908

Jun 3rd 2008 12:36 am |

PART 2 of 3 | Part 1 | Part 3

This year marks the 100th anniversary of one of the most dramatic Belmont Stakes of all time. In 1908, the undefeated Colin, whose racing career was declared over because of injury just three days before, made a miraculous recovery to win the Belmont. It was his 14th straight victory. Colin’s Ghost celebrates the 100th anniversary of the 1908 Belmont Stakes with a three part series.

Part 2 — Colin’s owner, James Keene, Reacts to the Injury to his Beloved Colt

The day after Colin was found to have “broken down badly in front” after a workout, the New York Evening World reported, May 29, 1908:

“James R. Keene, who has successively lost by death or accident the services of such great horses as Domino, Commando, Peter Pan, Superman, and Sysonsby, was informed this afternoon by Dr. McCullough, a veterinary, that Colin will never be able to race again. This report from the specialist confirms the opinion of Trainer Rowe and others that the great race horse’s breakdown yesterday would prove to be permanent.

“Race track patrons will never see their idol on the track again. For the rest of his days Colin will live in peace and quiet of the Keene stock farm.

“The veteran sportsman was seen by an Evening World reporter today at his rooms in the Waldorf-Astoria. He was deeply affected over the condition of Colin.

Image: James R. Keene from New York Evening Journal, June 1, 1908

“‘It is a blue day for me,’ he said sadly. ‘I hoped perhaps with the attention of Rowe and a rest Colin would recover, but a message to me this morning states that he is completely broken down, and I have already begun to make arrangements to send him to my farm in Kentucky.’

“‘Of course, I am bitterly disappointed. I was greatly attached to Colin, who is very intelligent and playful. I expected great things from him this year.’

“‘I am going down to see him this afternoon and I dread the trip.

“‘At the time of his breakdown Colin was the greatest race horse in America. He could beat every horse he ever met without extending himself. Most of his races were more gallops for him.’

“It is a peculiar coincidence that Sysonsby died after winning thirteen races and Colin broke down after establishing the same record. The hoodoo number has twice interfered in two years with James R. Keene champions

“As between Colin and Sysonsby, the former stands out as the greater race horse…..”

“Only a few days ago Mr. Keene said he believed Colin would win every race in which he started.

“Mr. Keene feels the breaking down of Colin more deeply than he felt the death of Sysonsby. This is because he bred Colin himself, while Sysonsby was bought. The old sportsman entertains toward Colin a feeling of affection akin to that felt by father for a child.

“Mr. Keene owned Domino, Colin’s grandsire, and Commando, his sire. Seldom does it fall to the fortune of a horseman to own in succession such a trio of thoroughbreds. Undoubtedly, some of Colin’s get in the stud will inherit speed and courage sufficient to make another generation of the Domino strain famous.

“Sysonsby was by imported Melton-Optime. Mr. Keene bought Optime with foal at a sale at Madison Square Garden and shipped her to Castleton Stud Farm, his place in Kentucky. There Sysonsby was foaled a short time later. He did not begin to attract Mr. Keene’s attention until his first start at a two-year-old.

“With Colin it was different. Mr. Keene watched his baby antics when he ran by the side of his dam over the pastures of blue grass. He vistied him every day when he was finally shipped to the race track and placed in training for a career as a race horse. The growth and development of Colin have been watched by the eyes of a loving master.”

Image: James R. Keene’s Unbeaten Colin, from New York Daily Tribune, May 29, 1908

“It is hard to tell just how badly Colin is injured. Mr. Rowe is extremely secretive about the condition of the horse and refuses to allow any one outside the stable attendants to see him.

“Dr. Sheppard the veterinarian who attended Sysonsby, has not yet been called to look at Colin. Some of the trainers say they saw Colin eating grass in an inclosure behind the Keene stables at 6 o’clock this morning and that he did not appear to be very lame.

“While Colin may be able to walk and crop grass, he will never be able to stand the strain of a race again. It is probable that he will be shipped to Castleton Farm within a few days.”

The New York Tribune added this on May 29, 1908:

“…When the doleful news reached James R. Keene he was stunned for a few minutes, and could hardly believe that his great colt would never be able to face the starter again. He accepted the blow, however, in his usual quiet was, and though only of seeing that the horse had every care.

“H. De Courcey Forbes, the manager of Mr. Keene’s racing stables, was affected quite as much as Mr. Keene and Jimmy Rowe. He was authority for the statement at Belmont Park yesterday that Colin would never race again. Both he and Jimmy Rowe could hardly restrain tears when their many friends hurried to the paddock to offer sympathy. Mr. Forbes explained that the trouble came like a bolt of lightning out of a clear sky, as there never had been any indication of weakness. On the contrary, Colin had been of the hardy, wear-and-tear sort, which seemed to preclude his breaking how under the constant care with which he worked and raced…”

View the above in the New York Evening World and the New York Tribune at the Library of Congress

PART 3: Colin wins the Belmont Stakes

Filed in Belmont Park,Belmont Stakes, 1908,Colin,Keene, James,Sysonsby



One Response to “Colin is Still King, Belmont Stakes 1908”

  1. Nabil says:

    I was totally blown away with this story and had never even heard of this horse except for reading his name on a old belmont glass that listed all the previous Belmont winners and I have been around horses for almost 49 years . What brought this horse to light was when I was watching Antiques road show and a old women brought the 1908 Belmont trophy in for a appraisal . It was a silver humidor with a statue of a horse on it. Kaiden with over 200 ounces of silver with a estimated worth over $30,000. Intrigued I looked up the horse on the Internet and wow what a story appeared. Enjoy!