February 1913: “The King of the Sprinters,” and a pari-mutuel plea

The graded stakes run earlier this month at Aqueduct have been around for a while: the Toboggan was first run in 1890, the Withers in 1874. When racing came back to New York in 1913, both were renewed, both at Belmont Park.

The Withers was run on May 31, the day after racing returned for the first time since 1910. It was won by Rock View, a three-year-old owned by August Belmont, a colt that, says Pedigree Query, was that year’s divisional champion.

Though racing was back, gambling was not, and police patrolled Belmont Park to make sure that no betting-starved punters were breaking the rules.

In front of the grandstand throughout the afternoon groups of men were kept on the move by the track police in their endeavors to preclude any possibility of evasions of the law relative to bookmaking.  (“Withers Stakes…”)

The Daily Racing Form reported that two men from Brooklyn, Herman R. Sinkerstein and Samuel Kornblum, were arrested by a county detective alleging that Kornblum placed a $10 bet with Sinkerstein.

The ban on gambling was supported by the man who owned the Withers-winning horse and for whom the track was named; Belmont, chairman of the Jockey Club, pledged in print his support of the law, which allowed “personal wagers between friends,” but, according to the Times, “bookmaking must not be revived.”

The Chairman of the Jockey Club says the bookmaker and plunger can be disposed of with one stroke of the pen, by the adoption of the French “pari mutuel” system of betting, which, he asserts is keeping the sport clean in Kentucky and other States…

It would be decades before Belmont’s vision would come to New York.

Rock View went on to win the Lawrence Realization and the Brooklyn Derby later that summer, and the following year, he’d win the Toboggan, run earlier this month on the same card as the Withers.

In 1913, that race was won by the five-year-old Iron Mask, bred by James R. Keene (who had died earlier in the year); Iron Mask was owned by Keene and then by Harry Payne Whitney.

This five-year-old sprinter had made quite a splash at two at Saratoga, in 1910 winning the Grand Union Hotel Stakes and placing in the Saratoga Special, Hopeful, and Adirondack.  Alas for poor Iron Mask, racing in New York ended at the end of that Saratoga season, leaving him unable to challenge in that fall’s racing.

Like many other New York horses, he was sent to Europe to race, where he won the Challenge Stakes at Newmarket. He returned in 1912, and in addition to winning the Toboggan in 1913, he finished second in the Paumonok. His Toboggan win, said the Times, “demonstrated that he is the king of the sprinters”; the DRF called him “an exceedingly easy winner.”

At age seven, Iron Mask was setting sprinting records, running six furlongs in 1:09 and 3/5 seconds at Juarez in 1914. Both Pedigree Query and Robertson report that later that year, carrying 150 pounds, he ran 5 ½ furlongs in 1:03 2/5, more than a full second faster than Pan Zareta’s U.S. record.

These are the last stakes races at this Aqueduct meeting that had 1913 winners, and most of the racing taking place was happening well south of here (though a match race was held at Sheepshead Bay on January 12), but racing nonetheless made plenty of news in the winter of a hundred years ago, as the city, the state, and the industry prepared for racing to return in May.

Throughout 2013, Brooklyn Backstretch will re-visit the racing events of 1913, the year that racing returned to New York after a nearly three-year absence.

Quoted, consulted

Ban on Gambling at Races.” New York Times, May 6, 1913.

Belmont Park Again Crowded By Racing Enthusiasts.” Daily Racing Form, June 1, 1913.

Elnar Wins Match Race At Sheepshead.” New York Times, January 13, 2012.

Iron Mask First in the Toboggan.” New York Times, June 18, 1913.

Iron Mask’s Pedigree Query page.

Robertson, William H.P. The History of Thoroughbred Racing in America.  Bonanza Books, 1964.

Rock View’s Pedigree Query page.

Shane Case Appeal Is Dismissed By New York Court Of Appeals On A Technicality.” Daily Racing Form, June 18, 1913 (Iron Mask’s Toboggan win)

To Bar Bookmaking At Reopened Races” New York Times, May 7, 1913.

Withers Stakes Won By Rock View.” New York Times, June 1, 1913.

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