Neither a champion nor a Hall of Fame inductee, Busanda nonetheless lives on in two ways: through her bloodlines and one of those Aqueduct winter races that, when I first started following races, sent me to the archives to figure out who those eponymous horses were. I don’t know whose idea it was to name a race after Busanda, but I’m awfully glad he did.
In addition to compiling an impressive race record, she puts the lie to the idea that accomplished race mares make lousy broodmares. Busanda beat males in the 1951 Suburban and twice in the Saratoga Cup (1951 and 1952); she also won the Alabama, the Top Flight, and the Diana. And when she was finished racing, she headed to the farm where she foaled…Buckpasser, in addition to other stakes winners.
She was bred and owned by Ogden Phipps, who drew upon his naval experience in naming his filly:
The name is an abbreviation for the Navy’s Bureau of Supplies and Accounts. It’s highly appropriate because the filly is by War Admiral and out of a mare named Businesslike. Phipps learned Navy lingo during World War II, when he was a three-striper. (New York Times)
Trained by Brooklynite Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons (he hailed from Sheepshead Bay), Busanda was ridden in the 1951 Suburban by 18-year-old Bermudian Keith Stuart, who was also on board for Busanda’s win in the Alabama the previous year. She carried less weight than any of her competitors, two dozen pounds less than the favorite, Brookemeade Stable’s Greek Ship.
A crowd of nearly 54,000 turned out to see the Suburban on that May day in 1951, betting a season-high $3,478,034. Check out the photos of the packed apron (New York Times).
Busanda had raced the previous week and won at 13–1, prompting her connections to enter her in the Suburban; the crowd were not believers, letting her go at 15–1. She paid $32.60 to win; Lone Eagle, finishing second, paid $65.50 to place.
Busanda ran in 65 races and won ten times—not a particularly distinguished record, but she seems to have showed up when it counted. In addition to her wins in the Suburban, Saratoga Cup, Alabama, and Diana, she was second in the Delaware Oaks and Saratoga Handicap; and she was third in the Manhattan and Coaching Club American Oaks. Altogether, she hit the board 28 times.
I love that these winter stakes races can introduce us to horses with which many of us might not be familiar; they give us an opportunity to recall them, both the horses and the long-ago races. In addition, Busanda reminds us of days when fillies and mares regularly raced against males, and that striking performances on the racetrack didn’t necessarily mean failure in the breeding shed.
Originally published in 2009, most recently edited Jan. 31, 2016.