Alfred G. Vanderbilt sure knew a Good Thing when he saw her, especially when it came to breeding.
In 1946, he bred his Discovery mare, Good Thing, second in the Gazelle at age three but with an otherwise undistinguished race record, to Rosemont. And what do you get when add a Good Thing to Rosemont? A Bed o’ Roses, of course.
This little filly—described in the New York Times as “tiny,” an inch over fifteen hands—didn’t seem to realize that she wasn’t supposed to run like a big horse; she made 21 starts at age two, racing in seven states and winning seven stakes races, including the Matron and the Demoiselle. She was named champion two-year-old filly.
Finishing second in that Demoiselle was Bed o’ Roses’ stablemate Next Move, a formidable filly in her own right who reversed that order of finish in the 1950 Gazelle, beating Bed o’ Roses by a length. Later in the year, she unseated Bed o’ Roses as champion, but in 1951 it was Bed o’ Roses’ turn again, as she was named champion handicap mare on the strength of wins in the Comely and the Vineland, and seconds in the Beldame and Ladies Handicap.
Bed o’ Roses’ Demoiselle win came during the Empire City at Jamaica meet in November on 1949 (shades of Oak Tree at Santa Anita?); Empire City was James Butler’s race track in Yonkers, site of the current harness track, but when the track closed in 1942 because it could not longer handle the crowds (!), the meet was moved south to Jamaica.
An injury prevented Bed o’ Roses from making her three-year-old start until June of 1950; she ran in twelve races and won five of them, including her final start of the season, defeating colts in the Lawrence Realization in September. She had raced once at Saratoga that summer, but a lofty start it was; she ran in the Travers, finishing second by three lengths to George Widener’s Lights Up. After she won an allowance and ran dismally in the Beldame (“Dull effort”), Vanderbilt and trainer Bill Winfrey put her in against the boys again, and their faith in their little filly paid off, as she beat a field of seven, including the Travers winner, by four and a half (“Easily”).
At four, Bed o’ Roses hit the board in eight of ten starts, and she won her first start at five, in the Santa Margarita. She was retired after only three starts that year and returned to Maryland to be bred the following year. She died before that could happen, in January of 1953, and she’s buried at Sagamore Farm in Maryland, home of the Vanderbilt horses.
On Saturday at Aqueduct, the Bed o’ Roses Handicap—the penultimate graded stakes of the Aqueduct spring meet—will be run for the 55th time. Now a part of the Breeders’ Cup program—its official name is the Bed o’ Roses Breeders’ Cup Handicap—it offers $150,000 in purse money, not quite enough, probably, to land its winner in a bed of roses, but enough certainly, to be a good thing.
“Bed o’ Roses.” National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, Saratoga Springs, New York. 16 April 2009.
“Bed o’ Roses Past Performances.” Champions. New York: Daily Racing Form LLC, 2000.
Roach, James. “Bed o’ Roses Takes $56,925 Demoiselle Stakes by Length and Half.” New York Times. 9 Nov 1949. 16 April 2009.
Roach, James. “Vanderbilt Filly Beats Greek Ship.” New York Times. 28 Sept 1950. 16 April 2009.
Robertson, William H.P. The History of Thoroughbred Racing in America. New York: Bonanza Books, 1964.