Round Table’s Near Miss, 1958

Jun 29th 2010 07:45 am |

Round Table wins the 1957 United Nations (Bloodhorse)

On Saturday at Monmouth Park, Presious Passion is expected to try for his third straight win in the United Nations Stakes at Monmouth Park. While his comback race from Dubai a few weeks ago have some questioning whether the seven-year-old has anything left, it would be a mistake to count him out. If he can win the U.N again he would accomplish a rare racing triple — winning three editions of a major American turf stake.

UPDATE 6/30: Presious Passion is not among the entries for the 2010 United Nations.

Of course, winning any major stakes race three times is tough but winning the same major stake on turf three times appears to be especially difficult (in the U.S. anyway). Exterminator, Discovery, Devil Diver, Native Diver, Forego, Kelso, and Lava Man are on a short list of horses who have taken three or more of the same major stake on dirt but only John Henry has been able to do it on turf.

John Henry won the Hollywood Invitational Handicap (now the Charley Whittingham Handicap) and the Oak Tree Turf Championship (now the Clement Hisrch) three times each but he is the rare exception. Check the list of winners of major American turf stakes — from the D.C. International to the Breeders Cup Turf — and you won’t find any three time winners.

Round Table – one of the best American turf horses ever – came close. He won the 1957 and 1959 United Nations, then run at the Atlantic City Race Course. In 1958, he finished second to a horse named Clem — it was the first turf loss of his career. As good as Round Table was, the stars aligned against him in the 1958 United Nations, costing him three straight wins in one of the premier turf races in the country.

The talk of the racing world in 1958 was the four-year-old Round Table’s pursuit of Nashua’s all-time earnings record. By September -the month of the U.N. – Round Table had 32 career wins from 49 starts including wins in the Hollywood Gold Cup and Santa Anita Handicap. In a span of races between his three and four-year-old season he put together a run of nineteen wins from twenty starts. When the United Nations rolled around in 1958, Round Table was less then $50,000 away from Nashua’s career earnings mark. The $65,000 winners stake in the U.N. would have put him at the top of the list.

Round Table was making his eighteenth start of 1958 entering the U.N.   Clem and Round Table both spent much of the summer at Arlington Park in Chicago. Round Table beat Clem twice on the turf at Arlington, but two weeks before they met again in the UN, Clem beat Round Table on the dirt, setting a track record at one-mile in the Washington Park Handicap. Clem, one of the lesser known members of the great three-year-old class of 1957, won the Withers as a three-year-old but he was best at four, and never better at the end of the summer of 1958 — Round Table was on the wrong end of the two best performances of his career.

Round Table’s jockey for the Washington Park was the great Willie Shoemaker, who had been his regular rider since the middle of 1957. The ‘Shoe’, given the opportunity to ride Clem in the UN, did so, leaving trainer Will Molter to find a new rider. Eddie Arcaro was reported as the replacement but Ismael ‘Milo’ Valenzuela (later the regular rider for Kelso) replaced Shoemaker in the United Nations. It was the second (and last time) he would ride Round Table

Here is how the Associated Press reported the only turf loss of the great Round Table’s career on Sept 14, 1958:

“Clem smashed the Atlantic City track record and prevented Round Table from becoming the world’s leading money-winning race horse Saturday when he captured the $100,000 United Nations Handicap in a thriller before a sun-bathed crowd of 26,444

“In a dramatic switch of jockeys, it was Willie Shoemaker, the wee Texan who usually pilots Round Table, who brought Clem home the winner over Round Table by a half-length for the second straight race

“Round Table, with Shoemaker aboard, was upset on Labor Day when Clem won the Washington Park Handicap. Johnny Sellers rode Clem that day.

“Clem, owned by Mrs. Adele L Rand of Santa Fe, N.M, is named for the veteran racing announcer, Clem McCarthy, and he was getting the calls over the loud speaker, as well as radio and television.

“The time for the mile and three sixteenths on the grass course was a blistering 1:54 three-fifths, compared with the 1:55 four-fifths mark hung up in 1953 when Iceberg II from Chile won the United Nations…[Editor’s note: 1953 was the inaugural edition of the race]

“…The winner’s purse would have put Round Table past Nashua, now retired, as the world’s No. 1 banknote winner. The great Nashua retired in 1956 with $1.288,565, so Round Table will have to wait another day to get the job done.”

Two week’s after the U.N., Round Table, with Eddie Arcaro aboard, was beaten again by Clem in the Woodward over a sloppy track. He finished fifth by seventeen lengths — the worst defeat of his career up to that point. He would close out his four-year-old campaign with a win the Hawthorne Gold Cup and surpass Nashua on the all-time earnings list.

Round Table retired after his five-year-old season with forty-three wins from sixty-six starts. He won fourteen of sixteen starts on turf — his first defeat on turf was in the 1958 United Nations.


Cover for 1958 United Nations program, Atlantic City Race Course

Page from 1958 United Nations program, Atlantic City Race Course

UPDATED: 6/30/2010, 3:39 PM


“Shoemaker on Clem in the Feature,” Milwaukee Sentinel, 11 September 1958

“Clem, with Shoemaker up, wins United Nations Handicap,” St. Petersburg Times, 14 September 1958

“What’s with Round Table,” The Miami News, 30 September 1958

McEvoy, John. Round Table: Thoroughbred Legends (2002) Eclipse Press

Thanks to Ron Micetic who sent me the scan of the 1958 United Nations program.

I did another post about Round Table and the 1958 United Nations back in 2008. I am a sucker for a good turf horse so Round Table is one of my all-time favorites.

Also, read about Dr. Fager’s 1968 improbable United Nations win from a post here last year

I’ll be at Monmouth this Saturday for the UN — looking forward to my first trip to Oceanport in 2010.


Filed in Round Table,United Nations Handicap

7 Responses to “Round Table’s Near Miss, 1958”

  1. ZATT says:

    Kevin, Wonderful article. I believe Round Table to be one of the greats of American racing history, it’s a shame his name does not come up more often when discussions of all-time greats are held. In their great rivalry of 1958, Round Table gave the terrific Clem 20, 21, 21, and 17 pounds in their first four meetings in which they ran 1-2 each time. The Woodward was at equal weights, but clearly Round Table did not handle that sloppy track that day.

  2. RG says:

    In 57 & 58 Bold Ruler and Gallant Man made the east the dominate scene for racing. Clem was the horse that was always close to them. When he got rid of those two and entered on the Arlington dirt on Labor Day of 58 everyone in my neighborhood thought he was a lock. He coasted at better than 10-1. After the race a black came up to us and thanked us and told me I couldn’t not bet on Clem after listening to you guys all afternoon. John Sellers rode him that day but I think was under contract to Harry Trotsek so he may not have been able to go east to ride him again. Clem 3 for 3 against Round Table in Sept of 58.

    My opinion is that the midwest was quite a bit below the east in 58 and Round Table couldn’t match up with BR and GM but because of their shortened careers RT got HOY.

    In 59 BR and GM were gone from the scene and the little remembered Hillsdale became Round Table’s nemesis beating him twice and then losing HOY by a head to Sword Dancer in the Woodward with RT running 3rd.

    Racing was so great then.


  3. Great write-up!
    I sometimes tend to forget about Round Table when I’m talking about racing’s greats but he was pretty incredible!

  4. Round Table was arguably the greatest grass performer in the history of U.S. racing. I saw him race numerous times including a race called the Washington’s Birthday Handicap, on Feb. 23, 1959 at Santa Anita. I recall going to the track that day with my father and older brother as Round Table was slated to carry 134 lbs. over a treacherously deep (“soft”) course at a mile and one-half. Throughout the afternoon, it was debatable whether or not the handicap event would be moved to the main track. It was not until approximately one hour prior to post time that management decided to keep the big race on the grass.

    Round Table (racing as part of an entry), never got untracked that day, floundering over the deep going to finish 16th and last. It was later discovered that he injured an ankle shortly after the start of the race (he would be sidelined for several months thereafter.)

    So, to correct your facts, Round Table did, indeed, suffer TWO losses on turf—the U.N. (when he gave Clem 17 lbs.) and the 1959 Washington’s Birthday Handicap at Santa Anita.

  5. Kevin says:

    Hi Ron:

    Thanks — I corrected the error. Poor job reading his PPs and bad fact checking on my part. What a great memory to have — really appreciate the contribution!.


  6. crb says:

    What a wondrous “sport” that punishes superiority into defeat.

    “Round Table gave the terrific Clem 20, 21, 21, and 17 pounds in their first four meetings in which they ran 1-2 each time.”

    “I recall going to the track that day with my father and older brother as Round Table was slated to carry 134 lbs. over a treacherously deep (“soft”) course at a mile and one-half.”

    Thank you ZATT and Ron Wasserman for omitted details.

  7. Helene Conway says:

    Could not agree more with crb. Weight for age, period….
    Did we not just see Gio Ponti defeated by a Winchester who was carrying way less weight? And this made Gio Ponti’s race very impressive but truely annoying – he was carrying a bag of bricks! Ditto for Mine that Bird vs RA in the Preakness (5 lbs!!)

    Kevin, thank you for your continued research into these important races. And as always, I applaud you for your erudition to correctly zero in on the importance these races had.