What they said about…Colin, 1907-1909

Jun 8th 2011 09:30 pm |

This week, New York will host another edition of the Belmont Stakes, the longest running Triple Crown race and one of the most important races in thoroughbred racing history. There have been many memorable editions of the race — especially considering its recent history as the final leg of the Triple Crown — but the edition that would make the best movie is the 1908 Belmont. In that race, Colin, who was reported just days before to be hopelessly broken down and unable to ever race again, made a miraculous recovery to win the Belmont in one of the most dramatic series of events in racing history.

Read about the 1908 Belmont Stakes here

Colin’s Belmont Stakes was his fourteenth win from fourteen stars. He would race once more for a perfect fifteen for fifteen career. On the occasion of this Saturday’s Belmont Stakes, I thought I would do a “What they said about…” for one of that race’s great champion winners.

New York Times, 1 October 1907

Here are a few things they said about the great Colin over one hundred years ago…

Colin is a racy looking, well furnished brown colt by Commando – Pastorella, and almost the living image of his great sire, whose death something over a year ago was a distinct loss to the turf. Colin runs close to the ground with that even, frictionless stride which bespeaks a great horse, and he will take high rank among the best of his age this season if he trains on. He appeared to pull up slightly lame after yesterday’s race, but it is the hope of those who love a good horse that it will not prove serious.  New York Tribune, 2 June 1907

The most remarkable race horse of his time on the American turf, James R. Keene’s unbeaten colt Colin, won his tenth race of the season at the Brighton Beach course.  New York Times, 1 October 1907

Colin’s victory in the Champagne Stakes rounded out a career that is little short of marvelous. To win twelve straight races, eleven of which were stakes, extending over the full season, is a record that will make a bright page in turf history. Comparisons are odious, perhaps, and it is not intended to belittle the brilliant performances of great horses in the past, but Colin has established himself as the greatest horse ever bred and raced in this country. New York Tribune, 21 October 1907

After Colin won his 3-year-old debut in the Withers Stakes at Belmont park in May 1908, some questioned his performance:

When somebody suggested that Colin was all out to win [owner James R. Keene] smiled in a confident way and remarked that he guessed [Jockey Joe] Notter took things a little too easy up the stretch, which forced him to call on the colt again near the finish. Jimmy Rowe, who trains Colin was all smiles, but had no comment to make. A close friend of Mr. Keene, however, was more talkative, and expressed the opinion that, barring accidents, Colin would never be beaten. He said further: ‘This was his most dangerous race as it was his first start of the year and the track was not altogether to his liking. The race will do him a lot of good, and I don’t believe there is any three-year-old in training that can take his measure.’  New York Tribune, 24 May 1908

Montreal Gazette, 30 May 1908

Less than a week after winning the Withers, and just days before the Belmont Stakes, Colin’s career was believed over when he “brokedown” during a workout:

Colin will never race again. James R. Keene’s great colt broke down after a fast [1 1/4 mile] workout at Sheepshead Bay yesterday morning and his case is hopeless. He bowed a tendon in each foreleg, a disability which will prevent his ever being trained again…

…Colin has been pronounced by the most conservative of judges to be the greatest horse ever bred and developed in this country, if not the world.  New York Tribune, 29 May 1908

Just a few days later, Colin recovered, raced, and won the Belmont:

Greeted by the enthusiastic cheers of tens of thousands of race-goers, whose idol he is, Colin, the great son of Commando, won the valuable Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park today. Not in many years, if ever, has there been such a demonstration of enthusiastic affection for a thoroughbred as that accorded Colin as he passed the finish line for his fourteenth consecutive victory, with never a defeat against him…he was pulled up apparently strong and sound and as he came back to the judge’s stand, the crowd of more than 30,000 persons rose to their feet and cheered repeatedly while the band played ‘Hail to the Chief’.  The Montreal Gazette, 30 May 1908

And, he raced once more to complete a perfect career:

“Colin is still unbeaten. The great son of Command0-Pastorella won his fifteenth straight race at Sheepshead Bay yesterday, when he defeated in his same old lazy way Dorante, Stamina, and Chapultepec in the rich Tidal Stakes of $20,000. Betting or no betting, Colin was such an attraction that a crowd numbering some fifteen thousand persons went down to the track to see the good three-year-old continue his victorious career. Nine out of every ten present showed their appreciation by cheering and applauding as Colin raced home some three lengths before Dorante.  New York Tribune, 21 June 1908

The Tidal Stakes was the last of the great Colin’s career.  The passing of the Hart-Agnew law in 1908 banned gambling on horse racing in New York.   Racing in the state limped along for a few years but eventually disappeared from the state until 1913.  James R. Keene knew the effect the new law would have on the sport in the U.S. and took drastic measures to keep his horses in training.

James R. Keene, at the Belmont Park race course, yesterday, announced that he had decided to send the champion horse of America, Colin, three years old, and unbeaten winner of fifteen races in his two years on the turf, to England at a time that remains to be fixed, this Fall. A section of Mr. Keene’s racing stable will be shipped abroad on Saturday of this week, sailing on the Atlantic Transport Line steamer Minnehaha, and it is likely that Colin may be among the number sent to England…Interest in the Keene shipment, however, centers on Colin, and the announcement that the famous colt is to leave America caused many expressions of regret by horsemen.  New York Times, 15 October 1908

The Day, 22 October 1909

Colin’s never made it to post in Europe as he failed to show Keene and his English handlers that he was sound enough to race again.  One year after being shipped overseas, his career officially came to an end:

James R. Keene’s unbeaten Colin has been taken out of training and sent to the Egerton stud, at Newmarket, all efforts having failed to bring back the horse to racing form…

…Colin won 15 races and $178,000 during his two years’ of running on the American turf. Just before the race for the $25,000 Coney Island Jockey club stake of 1908 James R. Keene announced that both Colin and Celt had gone amiss and would not run for that valuable prize.

Colin never ran again, and was sent to England in October of 1908. He was placed in the stable of Sam Darling at Beckhampton, but he was never able to get the great colt to a race. Much will depend upon the reception which Colin will receive from breeders as to whether he will remain in England or brought back to America. The Day, 22 October 1909

Colin was described as a “shy breeder” and disappointed at stud considering his stellar career on the track. He returned to the United States around 1913, about the same time the racing ban in New York was lifted. He ended his stud career in Middleburg, Virginia, where he also died in 1932 at the age of twenty-seven.

Sources, News, and Notes

UPDATE 6/10/2011: Check out a post from our friend Teresa at Brooklyn Backstretch on Colin’s soundness issues

See links above for the sources of the the above quotes

Details about Colin’s stud career from Edward Bowen’s outstanding Legacies of the Turf: A Century of Great Throughbred Breeders published by The Bloodhorse in 2003.

I will be in the house at Belmont Park this Saturday, one the highlights of my racing calendar. If you are in the area, NYRA does a great job on Belmont Stakes day and it is well worth coming out. Hope to see you there!

Thanks for reading and good luck!

Filed in Belmont Park,Belmont Stakes, 1908,Colin,horse racing history,thoroughbred racing history



One Response to “What they said about…Colin, 1907-1909”

  1. Now what I find interesting is how Colin looks exactly like the painting of the black horse in Bielenburg’s bedroom at the Grant-Kohrs (highly historic) ranch. Same markings and about the right time for the horse in the painting to be Colin. I just find it rather interesting. 🙂