Sliding through history

Aqueduct offers the best of two racing worlds this afternoon, the present and the historical. We’ve got the Grade III Gotham, for three-year-olds with Derby aspirations. The race was first run in 1953 at the Jamaica racecourse and named for the city in which the track was situated, another in a line of races honoring our fair city: the Manhattan, the Brooklyn, the Queens County. I think that perhaps the Bronx and Staten Island get shut out on this one.

No one need ask whom I’m backing in this race: let’s go, Saratoga Russell. We’ll see how he fares in open company, stretching out from six furlongs to a mile and a sixteenth. I’m hopeful that his runaway victory in the mud at Gulfstream is a good harbinger for today, as it’s supposed to be miserable here, and that Saratoga Russell will join the ranks of Gotham winners, which includes Cowtown Cat (2007), Like Now (2006), Saratoga County (2004), and, further back, Easy Goer (1989) and the father-son team of Secretariat (1973) and General Assembly (1979). You can read a New York Times preview of the first running of the race in 1953, when it was run in two divisions; Native Dancer, making his first start of 1953, was the 1 – 4 favorite. Here is the account of his tenth straight victory. You will need to register and possibly pay for the articles; Times subscribers can read them for free.

Prior to the Gotham is the Grade III Toboggan Handicap, at six furlongs for three-year-olds and up. This is one of the great, old, historic, majestic New York races; first run in 1890 at Morris Park in the Bronx, it got its name from that track’s downhill course; in 1896 its name was changed from the Toboggan Slide. Several of its winners went to have their own races: Correction (1894), Affectionately (1965), and Honorable Miss (1975). Attila’s Storm won it last year.

My typical Saturday morning stroll through history took me back to 1893 and the first running of the Toboggan Slide, which Princess Eulalie of Spain favored with her presence. The New York Times devoted many column inches to the royal visit to the races:

Should the charming Spanish Princess Eulalie make up her royal mind to have a
few hours of unalloyed and untrammeled pleasure before she leaves New York
City…she could not find a more delightful spot for solid comfort and enjoyment
just now than at Morris Park. Thither she has been invited to go on Thursday of this week, and it is possible that Commander Davis will allow her to visit this most beautiful of all race courses in the world…

Morris Park, always a delightful spot, seems even more charming than ever this
Spring. The lawns about the clubhouse and in the fields inside the tracks and about the paddocks are a mass of velvet of the nicest and softest green. The track is perfection itself, and fast as any track can possibly be that is soft enough for thoroughbreds to run over. (New York Times)

One can only hope that the Infanta Eulalie found the spot as delightful after losing $40 on a tip:

Howard Carroll advised the Princess to put her money on St. Florian at $40 at
one, two, three, the odds being 3 – 1.

The Princess learned, as many others have done, that the tipster does not always give straight tips, for St. Florian finished seventh. (New York Times)

A complete account of the Princess’s day at the races, including other bets and the luminaries in attendance, is here.

I will venture to say that no royalty will be present on a grey, sopping winter day at Aqueduct, though quite likely, bad tips will be passed and received, and just maybe, a three year old colt will take his first steps to racing royalty in early May.

4 thoughts on “Sliding through history

  1. Yeah, I’m not upset about Visionaire, because I’ve liked him since the Gulfstream race in early January, but I would liked to have seen Saratoga Russell fare a little better. Got an update on him that explains why he stopped; looks like we’ll get to see him again soon.Thanks for the condolences. =)

  2. This post is one of your finest. The princess, the lush green of Morris Park, the great comment about the track being as fast as can be but safe for horses (that writer, back in the 1890s (!) must have really known his stuff). I want to go back into time and go to the races in the Bronx, races royalty would want to attend. Royalty these days consists of Kid Rock and some cheese fries. Maybe, that’s better. I don’t know. – J.S.

  3. Yes, it was a shame not to see Saratoga Russell run a better race. I was there and found it impossible because of the weather to tell what actually transpired. I do hope he has come out of the race sound and that we will see him run again, and well, soon. JL

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