The Affectionately Story: Part I

The three-day holiday weekend means Monday racing at Aqueduct—perhaps not something to which to look forward, given the forecast, but with stakes races each day, it’s not going to be hard to be convinced to head out there…provided, of course, that the weekend cards don’t go the way of today’s, which is to say, out the window, due to the cold weather.

Sunday features the Affectionately, at a mile and a sixteenth for fillies and mares, three and up. Named for Hirsch Jacobs’s remarkable mare who was a three-time champion, researching the race has sent me down a delightful road of racing history, to be presented in at least two, and possible three, parts over the next few days. (I know, I know—you can hardly wait.)

In addition to being a record-setting trainer, Hirsch Jacobs owned and bred horses with his wife, Ethel, and Affectionately raced under his wife’s name, as did many Jacobs horses. Hirsch and Ethel’s daughter Patrice also got in the game: Jacobs horses raced in her name, and she married Louis Wolfson, with whom she bred and raced Affirmed.

So racing in the Jacobs household was a family affair, and in a 1961 Sports Illustrated article, Gerald Holland tells the story of the family’s reaction to the breakdown of Derby hopeful Hail to Reason:

After dinner John Jacobs showed some films from the family library. There was Stymie winning his greatest race, the Gold Cup at Belmont in 1947, and Patrice’s Hail to Reason winning his last race before breaking down in a workout, the $135,065 World’s Playground Stakes at Atlantic City.

After the Hail to Reason film, the talk turned to the great colt who, experts agree, would have been a prime contender for the Triple Crown this year. Mrs. Jacobs recalled the awful day when John called from the barn and sobbed, “Hail’s broken down and he’ll never race again.” When Mrs. Jacobs broke the news to Patrice, she started to cry and couldn’t stop for two days. Tommy, in the Army at Fort Knox, Ky. got the news in a telegram from Patrice and he cried “for the first time since I was 5 years old.”

“He was the greatest horse I ever had,” said Hirsch Jacobs. (Sports Illustrated Vault)

Though his race career was over, Hail to Reason recovered and went on to a successful stud career; in 1970, he was North America’s leading sire.

But before Hail to Reason there was Searching, dam of Affectionately; she too raced in Ethel’s colors, and she’ll be the subject of tomorrow’s post.

This post doesn’t begin, and doesn’t try, to do justice to the Hirsch Jacobs legacy; those are stories for another time. Before we move from the Hirsch humans to the Hirsch horses, though, a few more words on Ethel Jacobs, these from Victor Ryan, in her Thoroughbred Times obituary in 2001:

[Ethel Jacobs] made one final outing to the track this summer, on Travers Stakes (G1) day at Saratoga Race Course. As had been her custom throughout her life, she made copious notes on her racing program and dutifully registered the top three finishers and the time of every race on the card.

Age 91, last visit to the track, Travers Day at the Spa. We should all be so lucky.

Holland, Gerald Holland. “sex, Slaughter and Smoke!Sports Illustrated. 26 June 1961. 15 Jan. 2008.

Ryan, Victor. “Owner Ethel Jacobs dies in Florida at 91.” Thoroughbred Times. 10 Nov. 2001. 15 Jan. 2008.

3 thoughts on “The Affectionately Story: Part I

  1. Nicely written and appreciate the footnotes.Age 91 and still at the track. Adding that to my “bucket list”!

  2. I loved listening to all the stories the members of the Jacobs family told us over the years…. Syl and Eugene, in the box, trying to teach poker to us. Just don’t seem to have that amibence anymore…Have lost track of Sandy Hirch and her thick stack of betting slips for each race. Watch out if she had anything running in the triple !

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