Comely: “High-Class Speed Tells Its Tale”

April 9—it’s finally here. The race that everyone wanted didn’t quite come off, and Hot Springs may not be quite as full as expected, but Oaklawn Park is nonetheless the center of the racing world today, as Zenyatta seeks to run her unbeaten streak to 16 amid the adoration of fans who have trekked to Arkansas and who are watching from afar.

With slightly less fanfare, the Grade III Comely will be run at Aqueduct tomorrow, named for the filly who excited a fair bit of admiration in 1914, when she was a two-year-old.

In January of 1915, the Daily Racing Form ran a thorough summary of the filly’s impressive campaign.  Ranking her with Regret, the top two-year-old filly by earnings that year, the Form called the daughter of Disguise and Pretty Maiden “a filly of extraordinary merit and promise.”   Her record at two was 14 – 4 – 6 – 1.

She made her first start at Belmont on May 26, 1914 and in the first of what would be many troubled trips, was “cut off and knocked about early,” according to the Form, and she finished second. Five days later, she got her first win, and on June 13th, she started in and won her first stakes race, the Keene Memorial, beating males.

Her talent immediately garnered her high weights, and in the fourth start of her life—all of them within a month—she carried 125 pounds, the high weight in the Laureate Stakes.  She won by three lengths, again in open company.

She started poorly in the Hudson, and was second in the Demoiselle at Empire City, the track owned by the man who owned her, James Butler. She had another bad ride in that race, losing by only inches.

The Form characterized her campaign that summer at Saratoga as “disastrous”; she lost all of her starts, through bad rides or high weight. In the United States Hotel Stakes, she carried 127 pounds and lost to a horse carrying 20 fewer.

Back home at Belmont, she ran in the first edition of the unrestricted Autumn Highweight on September 9. She raced against older males, and the Form tells us that “…when it came to where high-class speed tells its tale, she ran away…in the stretch and won eased up by a length and a half.” 

Information on Comely is hard to come by; she’s listed in dozens of DRF historical charts, but she’s not in the Hall of Fame, nor was she a champion.  When I searched Equibase for past performances…nothing.  Thanks to Pedigree Query, we know that she finished third in the Ladies Handicap.

We will toast Zenyatta later today; win or lose, she has secured her place in racing history, and her magnificence will be remembered a hundred years hence, when, we can only hope, there are still people out there scouring archives in search of good racing stories.  And on Saturday afternoon, we can remember Comely, who, like Zenyatta, took on the boys and took on older, giving them weight…and crossing the finish line first.

A more detailed look at Comely is here in the Brooklyn Backstretch archives.

Excellent Racing of the High Class Butler Filly, Comely.”  Daily Racing Form.  Daily Racing Form Historical Online Archive.  Kentuckiana Digital Library.    7 Jan 1915.  8 April 2010.

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