Gallant Fox loses Travers, Sunny Jim Speaks, 1930

Aug 16th 2008 05:54 pm |

A few hours after Gallant Fox lost the 1930 Travers to Jim Dandy – the “mud-loving, mud-running fool from California” – the Fox’s trainer “Sunny Jim” Fitzsimmons sat down with reporters to discuss the defeat of his Triple Crown champ. On Monday August 18, 1930, the Saratoga Springs newspaper quoted the great trainer at length.

Image: Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons with Gallant Fox at Saratoga, 1930. (Library of Congress)

Here are all of Sunny Jim’s comments as they appeared nearly 80 years ago:

‘It’s the last time that Gallant Fox will race in a muddy track,'” said ‘Sunny Jim’ Fitzimmons. trainer of the erstwhile champion three-year-old of the season, as he sat on the porch of his cottage here some two hours after Jim Dandy, over a track deep with sticky mud, had checked the sequence of victories of the son of Sir Gallahad 3d.


The Saratogian, August 18, 1930

If the Travers had been earlier in the season I would have advised Mr. [William] Woodward [Sr.] to scratch him out of the race. But as Mr. Woodward was very eager to start him for the Travers and as the season was well advanced and the colt was in fine physical condition I made no protest in sending him to the post.

Gallant Fox had never even galloped much less raced in mud. His race in the Belmont couldn’t be called a muddy effort because the track at Belmont has a firm foundation and the topsoil on that day was merely wet and a trifle slippery. It wasn’t sticky and holding like the track here on Saturday. There is no nicer track than the one here when it is dry, but after a heavy rainstorm and when it begins to dry out it is heavy and holding.

I was afraid of the going more for the aftermath of the race than the prospects of having him beaten. Mr. Woodward thinks a great deal of Gallant Fox and would prefer to give up any chance of winning stake events than have him injured. Why, after the race his first thought was about his condition. He said, ‘Is he all right?’ To the horse he said, ‘You did fine old boy. I’m glad you’re not hurt.’

Front page of The Saratogian, August 19, 1930, three days after the race

I wonder if the patrons of the track appreciated the sportsmanship of Mr. Woodward and Mr. [William Payne] Whitney in starting their colts in the Travers under such poor racing conditions. I don’t know how badly Whichone is injured, but he certainly was very lame when I noticed him and he surely will be a long time away from the races. He is a valuable colt and one can’t get his kind every day

My comment: The Whitney-owned colt Whichone was considered Gallant Fox’s main rival in the 1930 Travers. He had beaten the Fox in the Futurity as a two-year-old and ran second to him in the Belmont Stakes. Whichone finished third in the Travers but bowed a tendon during the race. As far as I could tell, he never raced again.

Sunny Jim continues:

The Travers appears to be particularly unfortunate for colts that have won important races early in the season. Take for instance Reigh Count. He had won the Kentucky Derby of 1928 and was regarded as the best three-year-old of his year. He started in the Travers and finished outside the money, Petee-Wrack, Victorian, and Sun Edwin finishing in front of him. That race too was run in the mud. Petee-Wrack, like Jim Dandy, is a great mudder. He proved it not only that day but in the Suburban Handicap this year by winning over a wet track.

Reigh Count after his defeat in the Travers came back on a dry track to win the Saratoga Cup and the Jockey Club Gold Cup, the former at one mile and six furlongs and the latter at two miles. Well, I’m going to send Gallant Fox after both of these events. His next start, if all goes well with him and the track is dry, will be the Saratoga Cup on the last day of the meeting. He is in good physical condition, so we’ll take another crack at ’em.

‘You certainly can take a licking in good fashion,’ said one of his interviewers, ‘no wonder they call you ‘Sunny Jim’

‘It’s all in the game’, said Fitz with a smile. ‘I’ve been licked before and I expect to be licked again. But if you’re afraid you’d better remain in the house and keep your horses in the stable. It’s the uncertainty of the sport that makes it so popular. No man has it sewed up.

Per Sunny Jim’s plans, Gallant Fox ran in and won the Saratoga Cup and the Jockey Club Gold Cup. He also won the Lawrence Realization. These were the last three races of his career. His loss to Jim Dandy was his only defeat during a near-perfect three-year-old season (9 wins from 10 starts).


More on the 1930 Travers Stakes:

* Most race fans know that Jim Dandy won the Travers at 100-1 in one of the most shocking upsets in racing history. But it wasn’t this one long shot victory that put his name on a Saratoga stakes race. A year before winning the Travers, Jim Dandy won the Grand Union Hotel Stakes at Saratoga at odds of 50-1. That two-year-old stake was also run over a sloppy track. Anyone know of another race named for a horse whose two biggest victories came at odds of 50-1 and 100-1?

* Among the estimated 40,000 fans at Saratoga for Travers Day included New York Governor Franklin Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor. FDR had lunch that day with former classmates William Woodward and Harry Payne Whitney (they all attended the super-elitist Groton School in Massachusetts).

* The Saratogian reported on the day of the race: “Preparations were completed this morning for broadcasting the event over a long WEAF and WGY network – the first race to be broadcast from Saratoga in the long history of the event.

* The 1930 Travers drew an unprecendented crowd to Saratoga Springs. Restaurants had record days and hotels reported business that “closely approached the record set in previous years.” And, of course, with the crowd came the traffic. According to The Saratogian: “The handling of traffic was said to have been the greatest task ever imposed on the Saratoga Springs police department…”

First, a big thank you to Steve Crist who touted this blog in his column in the Daily Racing Form on Sunday.

The following news stories used here were copied from microfilm at the New York State Library in Albany:

“Record Crowd To See Gallant Fox Battle Whichone”, The Saratogian, August 16. 1930

“Derby Day Brings Unprecedented Throng”, The Saratogian, August 18, 1930

“Mud Caused Champions Defeat Sunny Jim Avers, The Saratogian, Ausgust 18, 1930.

“Jim Dandy Beats Gallant Fox and Whichone in the Travers”, The Saratogian, August 18, 1930– the line about Jim Dandy being a “mud-loving fool” was from this article

“How Jim Dandy Beat Gallant Fox”, The Sartogian, August 19, 1930

Speaking of Sunny Jim, as I have done before, I highly recommend Jimmy Breslin’s biography of the hall of fame trainer. It is out-of-print so it is expensive to buy but I found a copy in my local library. It will be well worth the effort if you can track it down.

Congrats to Proud Spell on her sweet win in the Alabama. I have been following her career since win number one at Delaware Park and was thrilled with her victory on Saturday.

Thanks for reading! Looking forward to a great weekend of racing…good luck!

Filed in Fitzsimmons, Sunny Jim,Gallant Fox,Saratoga Race Course,Travers Stakes, 1930

2 Responses to “Gallant Fox loses Travers, Sunny Jim Speaks, 1930”

  1. ljk says:

    I think it’s a crime that NYRA discontinued the Saratoga Cup, first run in the 1860’s and won by many, many great horses, including Gallant Fox.

  2. Kevin Stafford says:

    Hey Kev,

    Just wanted to thank you for your support on the NTRA thing. Also wanted to tip my hat to you for getting mentioned by Steven Crist! That’s quite an accomplishment! 🙂