Jack Atkin: Remembering an Iron Horse, 1906-1910

Oct 27th 2011 11:30 pm |

Yesterday I posted the first of two parts about the iron horse Jack Atkin. The piece was authored by T.J. Connick and if you missed it yesterday, I encourage you to take a look at part one. Today, we’ll conclude the story of Jack Atkin with a detailed narrative about his racing career. — KM

Jack Atkin after winning the Flight Stakes at Sheepshead Bay in 1909

Jack Atkin’s two-year-old races, aside from victory in the Nursery Stakes at Churchill Downs, took place at the less renowned Montgomery Park in Memphis and Kenilworth Park outside Buffalo. Despite the unconventional preparation, a piece in the Washington Times lamented his absence from the 1906 Futurity at Sheepshead Bay:

The absence of the much-heralded colt, Jack Atkins (sic), is regretted on all sides as much because of the popularity of ‘Barney’ Schreiber as the quiet understanding of the youngster’s ability to trim the best of New York’s ‘babies’ when right.

A spider bite in his stall at Saratoga was understood to have been the culprit, and his career was soon in jeopardy when he developed ringbone. Schreiber was said to have shopped the future marvel, without finding takers, for $2,500. Meanwhile, he was patiently cured of the ringbone and resumed training for his three-year-old season early in 1907. Despite being unraced since victory on June 14, 1906, he was expected to start as a top choice in the Kentucky Derby.

A front-page piece in the Daily Racing Form of April 11 expressed disappointment that Jack Atkin had been sent to New York instead of Churchill Downs to prepare for the race. His training was interrupted by weather and a stone bruise. He skipped the Derby scene in Kentucky. He raced 24 times in New York over the next six months, appearing at  Belmont, Gravesend, Saratoga, Sheepshead Bay, Brighton Beach, Jamaica and Aqueduct.

The tour of New York produced a record of 24-8-8-4, and earned him a devoted following and respect from handicappers and opponents. He kept good company and made a good showing. On May 16, in his third start, he led in the stretch and held gamely for second in the Crotona Handicap at six-and-a-half furlongs on Belmont’s straight course. Finishing behind him were future Hall of Fame member Roseben, Frank Gill, and Brookdale Nymph. Frank Gill won the Withers Stakes two days later, defeating Peter Pan, who was to win the Belmont Stakes on May 30.

In the last 15 of his 28 New York races, Jack Atkin was high weight in 12, toting second highest in the other 3, and was the betting favorite 9 times – a hint of his future life with handicappers and the betting public.

A dozen races in New Orleans, mostly as the high-weight favorite, kept Jack Atkin busy the following winter. Racing at both City Park and Fairgrounds, he ran up a record of 9-2-1, earning kind words in the Feb 29, 1908 Daily Racing Form:

…in the opinion of eastern racing men he has improved at least ten pounds since arrival here at the beginning of the season….He is a very powerful, big, lengthy, rawboned horse, a wiry, wear and tear looking type that one seldom sees among big horses….he has a true, easy way of going and is a horse of good action.

From April to August, 1908, the tour returned to New York, and Jack Atkin moved to the front rank with a daring and sensational program. His record of 7-7-1 from 16 starts included an impressive list of stakes wins:

* Carter Handicap (7 furlongs)
* Queens County Handicap (one mile)
* Metropolitan Handicap (one mile)
* Crotona Handicap (6 furlongs – track record at Belmont under 137 lbs)
* Parkway Handicap (1 1/16th miles – track record at Gravesend under 124 lbs)
* Mount Vernon Handicap (one mile)

In his 16 New York races during his four-year-old campaign, Jack Atkin was high weight in all but the June 22 Coney Island Handicap at six furlongs on Sheepshead Bay’s Futurity course. He ran a game second under 135 pounds, the six-year-old winner, Dreamer carried 112, and the great Roseben, under 140 pounds, was a well-beaten 9th.

Jack Atkins winning the Met Mile as reported by the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in 1908

The chart comments and news accounts for the New York campaign are peppered with uncharacteristic superlatives. W.C. Vreeland, long-time fixture at the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, wrote of victory in the Crotona Handicap:

Winner and loser alike cheered the son of Sain on his return to the scales, a demonstration seen for the first time this year, though common enough in previous seasons, when such horses as Roseben, Ballot, Colin, Sysonby, or Reliable came back from repeated successes. Jack Atkin deserved every bit of the applause and is worthy of the niche he has filled in the public’s heart. Not only did he pick up a crushing impost, give away weight to all his opponents, and then make all his own pace, but he hung up 1:08 3/5 for the straight six furlongs. This lowers the time of 1:10 made by Suffrage two years ago with only 105 up, and closely approaches Tanya’s world’s record of 1:08, made at Morris Park. True, a brisk breeze aided Jack Atkin’s performance, but he had to run straight and hard and fast to do it.

Before returning to New York at age 5 the following May, Schreiber showed his champion to the racing fans at Santa Anita during a nine-race, three-month visit sandwiched between two breaks of a few months each. He clocked a record of 6-2-0 in California.  In each race he went to the post as favorite, never at more than even money, and ran under imposts of 130, 132, 135, 138, 140, and 148 pounds.

The 5-year-old New York campaign of 15 races ran from May to October of 1909, from which Jack Atkin posted a record of 7-3-4, despite toting high-weight in every race. Walter Vosburgh assigned 140 pounds on three occasions. Among the highlights was the Flight Stakes on September 6, when Jack Atkin was left at the post and came flying with an unforgettable display of speed to score a victory – a demonstration of terrific acceleration and thrilling determination.  His last career victory in New York came under 138 pounds in the Richmond Handicap at Jamaica on October 19.

As top earner among the 5-and-older set in 1909 and 1910, he followed his 1909 New York races with a nomadic tour that gave racing fans in many places a chance to root him home. Over a span of two years, he raced at Pimlico, Moncrief Park (Jacksonville, FL), Aqueduct, Belmont, Woodbine, Gravesend, Hamilton (Ontario), Empire City, Highland Park (Ontario), Blue Bonnets (Quebec), Fort Erie, Churchill Downs, Latonia, and Terrazas Park (Juarez, Mexico).

The first 13 months of wandering commenced with victory on October 23, 1909 at Pimlico, and concluded with victory in the Omnium Stakes on November 17, 1910 at Latonia. Packing high weight, he compiled a 15-4-6 record in 31 starts, with the crowning moment an unlikely victory at 1 ¼ miles at Fort Erie on October 10, 1910. Wiring a field of six and lasting by a head in a game stretch drive, Jack Atkin scored at odds of 10-1.

Barney Schreiber and associates were said to have made an absolute killing in the race, a great tribute to their favorite horse and their enduring faith in him. A quality field was assembled for the race, and the favorite, the four-year-old Olambala was enjoying a terrific season, with victories in the Suburban Handicap, the Brighton Handicap, and the Saratoga Handicap among his triumphs. Jack Atkin’s courageous victory was his penultimate lifetime win, the first at ten furlongs, and it established a new Canadian record of 2:04.

Photograph of Jack Atkins from the El Paso Herald announcing his retirement in 1911

Famed sports writer Bert E. Collyer, said it best when he wrote at the twilight of Jack Atkin’s career:

Now seven years of age, Jack Atkin has raced almost continuously winter and summer, and a more consistent racer never wore iron.

Welcome back Jack Atkin — champion, iron horse, and international star for all seasons — and thanks to Colin’s Ghost for hosting our rediscovery of his fine career.


This was the second of two parts, the first part can be found here.

Images above are from the following:

El Paso Herald,  29 April 1911 (Library of Congress)

New York Tribune, 12 September 1909 (Library of Congress)

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 14 May 1908  (Fulton Postcards)

Author T.J. Connick provided this insightful commentary regarding his research:

As a subject of study, Jack Atkin is obscure because secondary sources have little to tell us. Fortunately, bound copies of the Morning Telegraph and Daily Racing Form chart books yield the horse’s compelling story in the familiar shorthand of the race chart. Jack Atkin’s career was extraordinary in many ways: winning at 23 different tracks, scoring 56 victories, toting heavy weight, racing four seasons, producing startling form reversals by winning “beyond his distance”, etc. Nothing can match a comprehensive database of charts to paint the big picture without missing any of the details.

To complement the charts, contemporary news accounts and racing columns by the likes of Bert Collyer (Chicago American) and W.C. Vreeland (Brooklyn Eagle) revealed the horse’s “star appeal”, portraying a remarkably popular racing personality. The amount of racing coverage in the era’s newspapers never fails to amaze, and we’re fortunate indeed to have electronic access to the treasure by the good graces of individuals and organizations like Kentuckiana Digital Library (Daily Racing Form collection), Tom Tryniski (FultonHistory.com), Library of Congress (Chronicling America), and University of California Riverside (California Digital Newspaper Collection).

A sincere thanks to T.J. Connick, who has made a real contribution to racing history with this piece and we are thrilled to be the platform for him to share it. I hope it is the first of many articles that Mr. Connick writes for Colin’s Ghost.

Written by T.J. Connick, Copyright 2011 by Strategic Arts, Inc.

Filed in Jack Atkin,T.J. Connick,thoroughbred racing history

3 Responses to “Jack Atkin: Remembering an Iron Horse, 1906-1910”

  1. Ron Micetic says:

    Thanks for a great article on one of the forgotten “cracks”.

  2. Hal Dane says:

    To pedigree buffs.. JACK ATKINS is not forgotten.. among others, he appears in the pedigree of the wonderful champion stallion SUNDAY SILENCE winner of the Kentucky Derby, etc..

    There was a horse called DANDY NEWS in the 1990’s, descending from him.

    As a broodmare sire he did OK, being among others, damsire of Judge Hay, plus he was sire of the grandam of the filly Bertie S.. winner of the Top Flight handicap and the Fashion Stakes.

    You could find his name in other classic pedigrees if you do a little research.

  3. Matt says:

    I’m thrilled to see someone researching Jack Atkin and Barney Schreiber’s accomplishments. Barney was my great uncle and unfortunately, he seems to be largely forgotten.