Gamely in the Diana

In Roman mythology, Diana is the goddess of the hunt; she is swift, she is chaste, and she is deadly. When the youth Actaeon saw her bathing naked, she transformed him into a stag and turned loose his own hunting dogs to kill him.

Since 1939, fillies and mares have contested the Diana, often at Saratoga, sometimes at Belmont, on the dirt and on the turf. Its present conditions, a mile and an eighth on the Saratoga turf, do well to represent its classical and natural allusions.

Six fillies have won this race twice, and today, Forever Together will try to become the seventh to join the list, to repeat last year’s victory. But for a disqualification, that list of dual winners would be one name longer.

Gamely (Bold Ruler – Gambetta) ran in the Diana in 1968; she crossed the wire first but was disqualified to second for swerving in the stretch of the race. Kenny Knapp, the jockey on second place finisher Green Glade, had filed an objection, and the stewards determined that Gamely’s action “made Knapp check and change course,” and Gamely was thus disqualified. The New York Times noted that “the swerving is characteristic of Gamely. The filly, a tenacious competitor, has shown inclinations to pull up once she gets to the head of the pack.”

Unrelated: Joe Nichols, the writer of the Times piece and/or his editor clearly had a sense of humor; one of Gamely’s rivals in the race was Too Bald, who set the pace and then faded. The sub-headline for the paragraph reads “Too Bald Tires.”

Two months later, Gamely won the Beldame, and in August of 1969, she returned to Saratoga. She’d raced in California for most of the year, finishing second in the Santa Anita Handicap against males and winning the sex-restricted Wilshire Handicap. She easily won an allowance at Saratoga on August 7th before running again in the Diana on the 18th.

She went to the post as the favorite, as she did in ten of thirteen starts that year. She won by two and a half lengths, but once again, the ending of the race was eventful.

Gamely’s jockey, Eddie Belmonte, dismounted after the finish line, handing her to the outrider instead of guiding her to the winner’s circle; Joe Nichols in the Times reported that the jockey said that “she didn’t pull up too good.” A preliminary examination didn’t reveal anything worrying, and Gamely won the Beldame again a month later. She raced twice more, a well-beaten second in the Matchmaker and an eighth in the Vosburgh (won by Ta Wee), before retiring.

Gamely was the champion handicap mare of 1968, and she was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1980. And yes, chart callers with a sense of humor twice wrote that she had raced “gamely.” A bad habit cost her membership in an exclusive club, one that Forever Together will try to join today, as she goes to the post to endeavor to add a second Diana win to her already impressive resume.

Saratogian notes: I did find the Sanford piece on the website, and today you’ll find an article on the horse Jim Dandy, who shocked the 1930 Travers crowd.

Sources for information on Gamely:

Nichols, Joe. “Green Glades Takes Diana Handicap at Saratoga on Disqualification.” New York Times. 20 Aug 1968. 31 July 2009.

Nichols, Joe. “Gamely Takes Lame Step After Winning $44,500 Saratoga Diana Handicap.” New York Times. 19 Aug 1969. 31 July 2009.

2 thoughts on “Gamely in the Diana

  1. Summer in Saratoga researching and writing history — I am officially jealous :)Great work — really enjoying the work in the Saratogian too!

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