Trifecta of Kentucky Derby winners in a “Fall Classic” at Pimlico, 1918

Nov 1st 2013 06:42 pm |

Washington Herald, 11 November 1918

Washington Herald, 11 November 1918

Before the Breeders’ Cup, horse racing in the fall was different. Before the so-called “world championship” of thoroughbred racing, big races at the end of the year were not as hyper-focused around a prescribed singular event. Instead, the location for significant races at the end of the calendar year shifted and evolved depending on the era.

Races like the Jockey Club Gold Cup were a traditional end-game for the nation’s best runners in the pre-Breeders’ Cup era. The Washington DC International served as a highly competitive test for turf runners for nearly forty years at the Laurel Park fall meet. The Pimlico Special in Maryland, from its inaugural run in 1937 into the early 1950s, brought the best of the breed onto the same track at year’s end.

These are just a few of the many races that served as grand stages at the end of the racing season. If you dig into racing’s past, you’ll find great fall races that have been overshadowed over the years, but deserve to be remembered. As we gear up for another Breeders’ Cup, I thought it would be fun to highlight one of these end-of-year races.

As I was researching another article a few weeks ago, I stumbled upon a fall race in 1918 that brought together a stellar field that included three Kentucky Derby winners. The Washington Herald published this preview of the big race on November 11, 1918:

The $10,000 Bowie Cup, a handicap for 3-year-olds and over, and one mile and a half, which will be the last great race of 1918, insofar as the East is concerned, will look more like a Brooklyn or a Suburban in a great year as the size and quality of its field goes than a race run at the [tail] end of a long hard season. The Bowie Cup will be renewed by the Maryland Jockey Club at Pimlico track on Tuesday. There will certainly be as many as twelve starters, and there may be fifteen or sixteen”

The preview claimed that a few of the year’s better horses — names long lost by history — would be “conspicuous by their absence from the field, [as] all the other cracks will be present and accounted for.”

Here is a rundown of the field along with their key career wins up to that point:

George Smith : 1916 Kentucky Derby

Omar Khayyam : 1917 Kentucky Derby, 1917 Travers Stakes

Exterminator : 1918 Kentucky Derby

War Cloud : 1918 Preakness Stakes, 1918 Dwyer Stakes

Cudgel : 1918 Brooklyn Handicap, 1918 Dixie Handicap

Stromboli : 1915 Suburban Handicap, 1916 Met Mile

Midway : 1918 Washington Handicap (Laurel Park), 1918 Merchants and Citizens Handicap (Saratoga)

The Porter : 1918 Baltimore Handicap (Laurel Park)

Corn Tassel : According to the article in the Washington Herald, he had “…at one time or another this fall beaten practically every good horse in training.”

The article from the Herald concluded:

No handicap run in the United States in the last ten years ever drew a better bunch of horses than these…The prospective starters in the Bowie Handicap of 1918 are the seasoned products of a trying period of racing. They are moreover all sound. No man would think of starting a horse wobbly on his underpinning in such a race. He would be wasting his time and his money…it costs $350 to send a horse to the post.”

Two days later on November 13, the same paper had this report of the race and its trifecta of Kentucky Derby winners:

When three former Kentucky Derby winners met this afternoon at the $10,000 Bowie Handicap at Pimlico, the track record was destined to fall and as a result George Smith, the sterling 5-year-old colt by Out of Reach, stepped the distance, which was a mile and a half in 2:35 1/5, with Oman Khayyam, another derby victor, three-quarters of a length in the rear, and Exterminator, the other derby conqueror, in third place.

“George Smith…is in the opinion of many turf experts the most valuable horse on track today. The belief was strengthened after his performance of this afternoon and many are of the belief that the black campaigner could have done still better had he been pushed harder.”

The best horses going head-to-head as we near the year’s end…as it should be, as it was in 1918, and as it will be at Santa Anita this weekend

Here are the past performances for the 1918 Bowie Cup and the report about the race from the Daily Racing Form



Great field in Bowie Cup, Washington Herald, 11 November 1918

George Smith breaks track record in landing Bowie, Washington Herald, 13 November 1918

I had two articles published at CBS Local about the Breeders’ Cup…check them out: Breeders’ Cup: Game On Dude Poised (Again) To Get His Classic and Breeders’ Cup Classic: How I’d Bet $100

I also had a few BC related articles for Hello Race Fans: Ten Things You Should Know: Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Breeders’ Cup Best Score: Picking Your Spots

Good luck this weekend and thanks for reading!

Filed in Breeders Cup,Kentucky Derby

4 Responses to “Trifecta of Kentucky Derby winners in a “Fall Classic” at Pimlico, 1918”

  1. Joseph Martin says:

    I’am not a big Breeders Cup fan. And I certainly don’t like California and/or
    cal. breds. Without even thinking about it, I’d rather spend a cold, winter day
    At Laurel than a summer-like day at Santa Anita. And I most certainly would
    Rather be at the Maryland Hunt Cup the last Saturday of April than the Breeders
    Cup On the first Saturday of Nov. at Santa Anita.

  2. Laura from RI says:


    Thank you for this !

    Santa Anita is a place to see as is Del Mar.

    I’ve been going to the tracks since age 8. (1974). Mainly in the Northeast.

    But fond memories of the great Billy Barton & Jay Trump remind me of the Mid-Lantic tracks like Laurel (been to), Pimlico (been to) & Bowie (1998).

    Bowie must have been a great place. I went before they tore the grandstand down whilst I was visiting my sister in MD. I hope Mr. Martin has seen the Belair Stable & Museum.

    Laura from RI

  3. Owen Klein says:

    It would be two years before my favorite from that period, Exterminator, would hit his prime. By then, most of that field were pastured. Great flashback-thanks.

  4. T. J. Cassidy says:

    “Washington Herald, November 11, 1918”

    Something tells me the Bowie Cup wasn’t the big news story in the Herald that day.