Saratoga News and Notes, 1919

Aug 22nd 2009 01:30 pm |

I have spent some time over the last few weeks reading the Racing Form’s coverage of the 1919 Saratoga meet. Even though the current online edition only includes issues up to August 20th (I assume the remainder will be digitized at some point), it is still full of interesting stories and quotes from the Saratoga scene 90 years ago.

Here are a few of my favorites —

As I mentioned in a post a few weeks ago, 1919 was an important year for Saratoga and racing. It was a record breaking year in terms of attendance according to this from Aug 11, 1919:

“Saturdays attendance was the largest in the history of Saratoga. ‘The nearest approach in numbers was in 1904,” said [Racing secretary] Mr. Earlocker, who has charge of the statistical end of the association . ‘We sold out of everything on Saturday last, but we expect to eclipse all past records next Saturday, which our books show is the prospective big day of the season, being the third Saturday of the meeting. We shall order at least 2000 more programs for that occasion.'”

Saratoga is famously known as the Graveyard of Favorites — 1919 was no exception:

“Backers of favorites are squirming under punishment since the meeting started here. Few of the first choices have connected. The rank and file are beginning to look at all favorites with suspicion. The wise handicappers are profiting by the downfall of choices for no other reason than many of the favorites have been quoted at exceedingly short figures and some of them come under the head of false favorites…Favorite backers are not usually good handicappers but rely on the market for their tips. This is where the experts and cold form backers reap the harvest of their intelligence”

The opening race on Aug 5, 1919 was run under unusual conditions as described in the DRF:

“The record number of thirty were carded in the initial dash. Its conditions were such as to secure the attention of every owner with an ordinary racer. It had French claiming attachments that is a carded starter could be claimed before the race but his transfer then to another establishment automatically barred him from starting in the race. The rule also provides the claiming of a horse after the race.”

Two were claimed before the race — here is the chart:

On Aug 8, 1919, the Form quoted trainer Tom Welch explaining his reasoning for pulling one of Joseph Widener’s runner’s from the previous day’s feature:

“Tom Welch withdrew Naturalist from the Delaware Handicap for the reason that he did not want to spoil the present disposition of the horse, which has been far better the past two months than it has been in his career. ‘I have just educated him into running kindly over any kind of track,’ Mr Welch said, ‘and I don’t want to destroy his disposition. Last year he acted badly in two races over here and I am a bit fearful he may return to the habit if his temper is ruffled…’

Naturalist would run later in the meet in two races that had the Racing Form calling the gelding the “greatest sprinters that the American turf has ever known.” Seems like he never got over his disposition problem. A note on his pedigree query page has this alongside his race record: “extremely bad-tempered.”

Also on August 8, 1919, E.R. Bradley — who turned a bookmaking business into one of the most successful breeding and racing operations during the era — had this rambling reaction to winning the first race on that day’s card:

“‘Perseverance is a virtue,’ said E.R. Bradley while being showered with congratulations after Binding Tie’s victory in the first race. ‘It is the first race that I have won in Saratoga in four years. I have always brought what I considered a good band of horses here but always something happened to them on arrival or after that caused their failure to race to their best. There is a maxim that happenings always come in cycles of three and as I have experienced three years of lean in the past I am now ready for the fat. I have a right to believe in the cycle of three for I have had three of my managers die in a short period, have had three colts go wrong on the eve of their important stake engagements, and the investments in oil that I made were bad. The fourth however was successful.'”

Makes perfect sense, right?

And finally, from the turf gossip section on August 10th 1919, some words of wisdom from an unknown (and long dead) Saratoga patron:

“My bank roll is just dying a peaceful and happy death,” said one of the prominent clubhouse members after he had made six wagers and lost all of them. “But I am coming back smiling and full of hope. Its no use getting grouchy. Nobody can win with a grouch on.”

As true today, as it was then. Enjoy!


All the above quoted from – my new addiction – the Historic DRF Online. They recently updated their homepage — check it out!

Thanks for all who commented on last week’s post about Upset. I am especially pleased that a few of you commented on the past performances from the Sanford. The evolution of PPs is a fascinating topic — more on that in a future post



Filed in Bradley, E.R.,french claiming race,Naturalist,Saratoga Race Course,thoroughbred racing history

One Response to “Saratoga News and Notes, 1919”

  1. EquiSpace says:

    Interesting that the fourth day of the 1919 meet was on a Tuesday…I wonder if they had any dark days or which days were dark?