Bold Ruler wins the Wood Memorial, 1957

Apr 5th 2014 09:50 am |

Originally published on April 2nd 2009

Last week, we looked at Gen. Duke and his world record tying performance in the 1957 Florida Derby. The favorite in that race – the Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons’ trained Bold Ruler – returned three weeks later to race in the Wood Memorial at Jamaica Racetrack in Queens, New York.

Wheatley Stable’s Bold Ruler won seven of ten in an injury plagued two year old season. Two lackluster performances in the Garden State and the Remsen in his final starts of 1956 cost him the two year old title (won by Calumet’s Barbizon).

Bold Ruler wintered in Florida and opened his three year old season by winning two of three starts at Hialeah including the prestigious Flamingo Stakes. After his loss to Gen Duke in the Florida Derby, Bold Ruler returned to New York where he had won the first five starts of his career.

Image: Bold Ruler and Sunny Jim. Read a complete account of Bold Rulers life at the Unofficial Hall of Fame

Before the Wood Memorial, jockey Eddie Arcaro was asked to compare Bold Ruler to his half-brother Nashua – the 1955 Horse of the Year – a colt also ridden by Arcaro.

Arcaro said of Bold Ruler: “This one I’ve got today is kindlier then Nashua. He’s more generous and his speed is easier to manage and the clods they throw in his face when we’re off the pace don’t bother him. I don’t know yet if he has Nashua’s ability. I’ll know more about that after the race.”

Bold Ruler went off as the 1 to 2 favorite in the Wood. The Washington Post’s Shirley Povich wrote this about Bold Ruler’s run on April 20, 1957:

Bold Ruler, with switch-hitting Eddie Arcaro plying whip to both flanks in a stretch tussle with Gallant Man, today won the Wood Memorial by a margin of a snub nose.

“A beaten favorite three jumps from the finish, with the $180,000 wagered on him seemingly down the drain, Bold Ruler gave Arcaro the final winning lunge as they hit the wire.

“Both Bold Ruler and Gallant Man were improving their Kentucky Derby credentials with a tandem assault on Jamaica’s track record time for the mile and eighth, which they lowered to 1:48 4/5. They clipped two seconds off the old mark that had stood for six years.

“They gave the 42,212 Jamaica fans a stretch-long drama ushered in by the roars that greeted the move of Gallant Man and Johnny Choquette on the backstretch when they elected to go to the front-running Bold Ruler. From there to the wire it was neck and neck, head and head, and finally nose on nose…

“…The start brought grief for Ambehaving, backed into second choice by thousands in the throng. He was the victim of a saddleslip coming out of the stall gate, and was left at the post, with Willie Shoemaker declining to persevere with him.”

SIDENOTE: Shoemaker’s bad luck in the Wood was nothing compared to his gaffe in the Derby two weeks later when he prematurely stood up on Gallant Man costing his mount the win.

Povich described the stretch run between Bold Ruler and Gallant Man:

“…it was Gallant Man the one to beat, and a surprising one because Bold Ruler and Arcaro had handled him easily in the Bahamas Handicap at Hialeah. But this day the son of Migoli was full of run and eager, and rounding the last turn on the outside of the railrunning Bold Ruler, he was taking dead aim at the 1 to 2 favorite.

“Through the last three-sixteenths of a mile it was a din-dong thing in the rush for the $20,800 winners share of the $59,400 purse. Not until they had straightened out for the big issue in the stretch did Arcaro dig into his mount.

“First it was with the right hand that he stung Bold Ruler to new speed, and he was getting it because it had been a loafing six furlongs. When the stubborn Gallant Man ranged alongside, Arcaro had to switch to the left flank.

“Inside the eighth pole it was Gallant Man actually heading Bold Ruler, with Choquette matching Arcaro blow for blow in the whipping finish. In wide arcs, Arcaro was swinging his bat and asking Bold Ruler for heart as well as speed.

“Only those spectators on the wire could be sure that Bold Ruler had won it with his come again effort, and when the pair of them returned to the winner’s circle, it was a heavily puffed Arcaro who saluted the judges, spent by his exertions on the back of the colt he will ride in the Derby a fortnight hence.”

After the race, when asked again to compare Bold Ruler with Nashua, Arcaro said “I like this colt. I like his chances in the Derby. It’s unimportant whether I rate him with Nashua or not. Let’s just say there’s a lot of Nashua in him. He can run on his heart like Nashua did when he was a mind to. In those last jumps he was as eager to win as I was.”

Two weeks later in the Derby, Bold Ruler, like Nashua, was the beaten favorite in the Derby. Gallant Man, who was the buzz horse after nearly beating Bold Ruler in the Wood, lost by a nose to Calumet’s Iron Liege.

Bold Ruler avenged his Derby loss with a win in the Preakness. Gallant Man won the Belmont with Bold Ruler finishing twelve lengths behind in third.

After over two months rest, Bold Ruler returned for a fall campaign that earned him Horse of the Year for 1957. Considering the competition – the title was as meaningful as it had ever been.

Image: Bold Ruler with Arcaro and Sunny Jim in the winner’s circle at Pimlico after winning the 1957 Preakness (Image courtesy of MegaCorp USA)

Bold Ruler retired after his 4-year-old season and went on to one of the most prolific stud careers in history – leading the American sire list eight times.

Even while siring a small army of champions and stakes winners, Bold Ruler’s place in history was cut in stone when his son Secretariat hit the track in 1972. Bold Ruler died in 1971 – a year before Secretariat began his historic run to the Triple Crown.

Read an excellent article on the namesake of the Wood Memorial at Brooklyn Backstretch.


Shirley Povich, “Derby Colt Noses Out Gallant Man in 1:48 4/5,” Washington Post, April 21, 1957

“This Morning…with Shirley Povich,” Washington PostApril 22, 1957

Walter Haight, “Hoses and People,” Washington Post, April 22, 1957

Thanks to those who commented on my one year anniversary post. This post is my 50th since starting the blog last March 30th. Milestones abound…

Apologies for the gaffe in last week’s post where I typed “Gen. George” in places where I definitely meant “Gen. Duke”. The perils of self proofreading and a late night. After proofing it multiple times the night before – I even reread it on my phone the next morning – but still saw “Gen. Duke” thoroughout. Thanks to the anonymous reader who pointed out the error – corrections are always welcome and appreciated.

This weekend is one of the biggest before the First Saturday in May. My plans to attend the Wood are likely going to be scrapped with Villanova in the Final Four. It’s not every day a local college team makes it this far in the tourney (not since ’85). Looking forward to a huge day of racing and basketball in the evening.


Filed in Arcaro, Eddie,Bold Ruler,Fitzsimmons, Sunny Jim,Gallant Man,Wood Memorial

2 Responses to “Bold Ruler wins the Wood Memorial, 1957”

  1. Linda says:

    I have a decendent of bold ruler that will forever in my heart! Love you Bold Ruler!

  2. Leila Mohseni says:

    What a neat article to “stumble upon!”

    I just love Bold Ruler, and thought he was a fantastic racehorse. Its just a shame that you cannot find any of his races on YouTube to watch!

    Anyone know of a site where I can watch some of his races?

    🙂 🙂