Sunday’s feature at Saratoga is the Fourstardave Handicap, a Grade II race at a mile and a sixteenth on the turf for three year olds and up. It’s named for one of Saratoga’s most beloved equine citizens, the gelding who won stakes races here for five consecutive years and who won a race every year from 1987 to 1994.
His first win at Saratoga, in the Empire Stakes for two-year-old New York breds, attracted little notice, garnering just a few sentences in a sports wrap-up in the New York Times:
Fourstardave, a winner of his only previous start against New York-breds, drew away from Achenar in the final furlong to score a 2 1/2-length victory in the $73,400 Empire Stakes for New York-bred 2-year-olds yesterday at Saratoga. The winner, a son of Compliance and the Bold Arian mare Broadway John, had won his debut at Belmont Park in June and was second to Endurance in an open allowance race last month. Yesterday, he covered the six furlongs over a sloppy track in 1:12 under Randy Romero and paid $6.60 for $2 to win. Achenar held second by 6 1/2 lengths over De Acuerdo, the 2-1 favorite. Fourstardave is owned by Richard Bomze and trained by Leo O’Brien.
By 1990, Steven Crist was alluding to the Fourstardave’s perennial success at the Spa:
Fourstardave, who won the Empire here as a 2-year-old, the Albany as a 3-year-old and the West Point last year as a 4-year-old, was dismissed at 11-1 but led all the way to win the $95,250 Daryl’s Joy Stakes.
”He loves Saratoga,” said [trainer Leo] O’Brien. ”He stands by the back door of his stall and watches the cars go by all day long.” (New York Times)
In 1991, in his 56th start, Fourstardave won the Daryl’s Joy again, setting a track record in the process. In 1992, Joseph Durso reported, with a touch of the flair that characterized the Times’ racing coverage earlier in the century, on the end of the streak:
It had to happen sometime, even to Super Dave. But it still left the sentimentalists with some regret when the streak ended for Fourstardave, the 7-year-old war horse who had won six stakes races in a row over the last five years at Saratoga. It ended Friday when Fourstardave surrendered the lead after
half a mile in the Daryl’s Joy Stakes and faded to finish fifth and last behind Now Listen and Crackedbell.
“There’s not much of an excuse,” said Mike Smith, who rode the old campaigner. “He broke well. But he just didn’t fire today.”
Fourstardave did win a race at Saratoga that year, and one in each of the next two as well; altogether, he made 99 starts, winning 21 of them and earning over a million dollars for Richard Bomze, the man who owned him for entire race career. Following an injury in 1994, Dave raced in 1995 but never returned to the winner’s circle, and he was retired to Florida that year. Shortly after his injury in the 1994 Bernard Baruch, Governor Mario Cuomo and New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani issued proclamations designating a “Fourstardave Day” before the end of the meet (New York Times).
Though he spent his retirement in Florida, Fourstardave returned to New York in the fall of 2002 to participate in New York Showcase Day at Belmont Park. Jogging around the track in preparation for the big day, the seventeen-year-old gelding died of a heart attack, on a New York track, where he had so often shown his heart to legions of adoring fans. He’s one of only three horses buried at Clare Court, the training track and barn area on the backstretch.
You can read a biography of Fourstardave at Thoroughbred Champions.