The Brooklyn Handicap, 1904

Jun 7th 2013 01:20 pm |

The Brooklyn Handicap will be run today in its new position on the New York racing calendar as a Friday feature a day before the Belmont Stakes. The Brooklyn Handicap, run for the first time in 1887, once stood among America’s most significant stakes races when the concept of “handicap horses” really meant something.

The list of past winners includes a cavalry of this country’s greatest thoroughbreds. While the Brooklyn has lost its once lofty place, a selection of past winners will tell you all you need to know about what it used to be: Exterminator, Discovery, Seabiscuit, Whirlaway, Devil Diver, Stymie, Gallorette, Assault, Tom Fool, Kelso, Buckpasser, Damascus, Riva Ridge, and Forego.

The picture above is of the Gravesend apron on Brooklyn Handicap day in 1904. A horse named The Picket won the race that day, beating the favorite Irish Lad, in front of a crowd estimated as high as 50,000. Here is an excerpt from the May 27th 1904 edition of the New York Tribune:

Ten solid acres of men and women, herded like sheep, within the gates of the Brooklyn Jockey Club’s enclosure at Gravesend yesterday, [and] saw The Picket, winner of the American Derby, win the most sensational Brooklyn Handicap that has been run since the day Dry Monopole, Blue Wing and Hidalgo finished heads apart and saw him win from a field that in brilliancy has never before been equaled on the American turf. [Note: Author is referring to the first Brooklyn won by Dry Monopole in 1887]

Front page of the New York Tribune, 27 May 1904

In winning the most popular handicap the Eastern turf has to offer, this four-year-old son of Falsetto did not cheapen the renown of the great performers he defeated, but rather placed himself — a horse that hitherto has attracted the attention only of the professional element — on an equality with them. Hereafter the name of The Picket will be mentioned with the same reverence the idolater of the thoroughbred has bestowed upon Irish Lad, Hermis, Africander and McChesney…

[Irish Lad] was the choice of a vast majority of the forty-five thousand people who were within the enclosure and of the millions throughout the length and breadth of the country who have been looking forward to Brooklyn Handicap Day and to the meeting of the turf giants which the list of probable starters promised with as much eagerness us they bestow on any of the holidays of church or state…

I encourage you to read the full article at the Library of Congress website. It is a wonderful document that captures a detailed picture of a big race day in New York ninety-nine years ago. The article illustrates the Brooklyn Handicap’s importance as well as the popularity of racing during the era.

Today’s Brooklyn Handicap might lack the significance of days past but the winner will join prestigious company among its roll call of winners.

Belmont Stakes 2013

I will be in New York for Belmont Stakes day and am really looking forward to it. Hope the rain is over by tomorrow morning and the track has time to dry out a bit for the stakes racing later in the day. I wrote two articles for CBS Local with my analysis of this year’s race:

Hope everyone has a great Belmont Day!

Sources, News and Notes

“The Picket’s Brooklyn,” New York Tribune, 27 May 1904

Image of the 1904 Brooklyn Handicap crowd from Charles E. Trevathan, The American thoroughbred (The Macmillian company, 1905) Full text available online

Good luck!

Filed in Belmont Park,thoroughbred racing history

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