Update: Whatever Happened to Jim Dandy?

Aug 2nd 2011 08:30 pm |

Last week, I put together a post about Jim Dandy, upset winner of the 1930 Travers Stakes. I left a bit of a void at the end of the story after finding nothing about what became of Jim Dandy after his racing career.

On Monday afternoon, I was surprised to find a letter in my mailbox (the analog one) from Carol Holden of Sporting Life Stable and Trackside on Radio. She sent me a photocopied article written by Debra Ginsburg from the now defunct Backstretch Magazine. In an article from 2000 titled “Jim Dandy: 100-1 Colt Pulled off Greatest Upset in Racing History,” Ginsburg wrote a detailed and well told account of the major players in the 1930 Travers Stakes. What is most intriguing about the article is what she found out about the famous upsetter’s post-race life.

It turns out that Jim Dandy’s trainer on Travers day, John McKee, stuck with him for most of his racing career. When his owner, Chafee Earl, lost interest in racing, he gave the Travers winner to McKee. McKee died just prior to the horse’s retirement but, before he did, he arranged for his old friend to be taken care of. Jim Dandy retired to the riding academy of L. G. Otto of Glendale, California, where he had a successful career as a jumper and dressage horse. Ms. Ginsburg found no record of where Jim Dandy died but she did provide a quote from a women whose parents cared for him late in his life.

Rosemary Taggert of Garden Grove, Califonia, is quoted in the article saying this of Jim Dandy:

I can’t remember why he came to us, but he was an old horse by then…My mother had a special gift for keeping old horses going, so that’s probably how we got him. He was very kind. I was just a teenager then, but my mother let me ride him on trails around our barn. Finally, she wouldn’t let anyone ride him because of his age.

Many thanks to Carol Holden for sending me the article. And, of course, thanks to the late Debra Ginsburg for her stellar research in finishing the unbelievable story of the immortal Jim Dandy.

Update to the update, 8/3

Reader T.J. Connick left this in a comment last night:

Dredged up a piece that appeared in the September 17, 1941 edition of the Utica Daily Press. Jim Kelly, sport editor, described the familiar tale of the Travers in his Time Outcolumn, and followed with news of Jim Dandy at age 14:

Jim Dandy never did much after that. But he’s still an active piece of horseflesh. We have had many of those “What ever became of Jim Dandy?” queries in the last few years but it was only yesterday that we found ourselves in a position to answer.
A clipping from the Los Angeles Examiner reports that Jim Dandy, although 14 years of age, is making good in a big way as a show horse and jumper, which is the equivalent of a 49-year-old track man making a comeback in fast company.
Trainer John B. McKee, who bought the horse from 
(sic) Chaffey (sic) Earl in 1929, had turned Jim Dandy out to eat grass and grow fast (sic) after he had retired Jim from racing in 1939 in the face of the horse’s inability to win any kind of a race.
But he detected a restless spirit in the veteran and finally was persuaded to turn him over to Maj. L.G. Otto, who operated a riding academy near Los Angeles.
Nine months in training and Jim Dandy is an accomplished jumper. He has ridden to the hounds, jumps flawlessly and appears in horse shows and appears to be enjoying life as much as he did in his racing days.

McKee had bought Jim Dandy for $25,000 in 1929 from W.S. Dudley on behalf of Chaffee Earl. Earl was new to the game, and reputedly only owned two horses in his time: Jim Dandy and Naishapur — a pretty good batting average.

Jim Dandy’s relations had good batting averages, too. His dam’s sire, Star Shoot, enjoyed outstanding success as a sire of broodmares. Star Shoot’s daughterThunderbird (72 starts) may not have produced others as famous as her son Jim Dandy, but she passed along her endurance to others.

1925: Ormonbird, colt, (by Ormont), does not appear in the Pedigree Online Thoroughbred Database, but was mentioned as a success in the 1929 report of Jim Dandy’s purchase, ran 17 times in 1929, had run 9 races by May 31, 1930, and appeared to be going strong.

1926: Vimont, a full brother to Ormonbird shows in the database as an earner of $16,318 from a lifetime record of 147-16-12-16.

1927: Jim Dandy

1930: Transbird, colt, (by Transmute), earned $15,455 from a record of 221-21-31-21.

1933: Baby Vivian, filly, (by Sun Flag), unraced, but one of her two offspring, Martha Joan (1937 – by In Memoriam, started 48 times), had a daughter (Joan Mint – 1951 – by Mintson, started 34 times, no offspring), and a son, Joey Bomber (by Bomber). The grandson of Man O’War started a remarkable 176 times, winning 36, and banking $67,820.

[Aside from Ormonbird, all quotations drawn from Pedigree Online Thoroughbred Database. Thunderbird had a 1929 foal and a 1928 yearling, but they are also absent from the database. The 1929 purchase of Jim Dandy was reported in the Daily Racing Form, and from the same report was drawn word of the 1928 and 1929 progeny of Thunderbird.]

A final fun fact about Jim Dandy, winner at 30-1 over a muddy Saratoga track of the 1929 Grand Union Hotel Stakes: his sire Jim Gaffney was runner-up (at 30-1) in the 1907 running of the same race. The winner that day was the 1-5 favorite, Colin.

Many thanks to Mr. Connick for his contribution! One of these days, i’m going to talk him into doing a guest post for this site. He is an outstanding racing historian.

Debra Ginsburg, “Jim Dandy: 100-1 Colt Pulled Off Greatest Upset in Racing History,” The Backstretch, July/August 2000

Thanks for Reading and Good Luck!

Filed in Gallant Man,Jim Dandy,thoroughbred racing history

One Response to “Update: Whatever Happened to Jim Dandy?”

  1. Undine says:

    I’m so glad you were able to post this! I had feared that JD had come to a bad end, but it sounds like he was among the lucky ones. Thanks for the update.