Ocean Bound and the Alabama: Saratoga 1910

Tomorrow is the 130th running of the Alabama Stakes, and an opportunity to continue to look back at Saratoga a century ago.

1910 brought the 32nd running of the Alabama, and it was won by an impressive filly named Ocean Bound.

Who?

Ocean Bound. Owned by Woodford Clay, Ocean Bound was, according to the New York Times, champion three-year-old filly in 1910, but for a filly that accomplished as much as she did, she seems to have attracted remarkably little attention.

True, racing minds in 1910 were somewhat preoccupied—after all, the very existence of racing was in peril because of anti-gambling laws, and in fact, an apocalyptic announcement completely stole Ocean Bound’s thunder on the day of one of her most significant accomplishments.

The headline in the August 6th New York Times read not: “Ocean Bound Takes Alabama.” Not “Impressive Clay Filly Wins Important Stakes.” Not “Champion Two-Year-Old Continues Winning Ways.”

No, the headline read: “New York Racing Ends August 31st.”

On the weekend of the Alabama in 1910, the Jockey Club stewards announced that the Brooklyn Jockey Club, the Coney Island Jockey Club, the Empire City Racing Association, the Metropolitan Jockey Club, and the Queens County Jockey Club (and yes, all of them, along with the Saratoga Association, oversaw racing in New York. You think that having 39 separate racing jurisdictions is tough? How about seven separate organizing bodies in the same state?) had declined the fall dates that they had been allotted, and would not race when Saratoga ended.

So poor Ocean Bound, who had won the Spinaway and three other stakes races as a two-year-old, and who had as a three-year-old already won the Swift at Sheepshead Bay (beating Dalmatian, the eventual Travers winner); the Ladies Handicap; and the Gazelle, barely got a mention in the Times on Alabama weekend. Only the chart of the race was posted.

The paper did post an extensive wrap-up of the Saratoga meet, which sounded rather like a wrap-up of racing forever in New York, given the grimness of the situation. The writer did find room to acknowledge Ocean Bound’s accomplishment, saying that she “was possibly the best three-year-old filly…and her return to the track was gratifying. At the close of her two-year-old season it was feared that she was hopelessly broken down.”

The story of her alleged injury and her victory in the Spinaway the previous summer are worthy of a post of their own, which they will get as we head towards the end of the meet.

This year’s Alabama features the match-up of Blind Luck and Devil May Care, worthy fillies with impressive résumés of their own. Fortunately, this year’s renewal of the Alabama did not fall victim to the vagaries of New York politics, as one might have feared earlier this year.

Ocean Bound was not so lucky. Her accomplishments were overshadowed by the demise of New York racing, so here’s a little century-old love for a multiple champion who couldn’t even grab the headline when she won the country’s oldest and most prestigious race for three-year-old fillies.

Sources cited and consulted

Filly Ocean Bound Beats Dalmatian,” New York Times, June 21, 1910

New York Racing Ends August 31st,” New York Times, August 6, 1910

Ocean Bound” at Pedigree Query

Racing Review of Season Just Closed,” New York Times, September 4, 1910

Turf Stars Victors in Classic Stakes,” New York Times, May 19, 1910 (Ladies’ Handicap win)

3 thoughts on “Ocean Bound and the Alabama: Saratoga 1910

  1. Dear old Ocean Bound’s run-in with her Hughes Law obstacles reminds one of the current anti-steeplechase racing attitude that seems to permeate NYRA’s inner circle. ‘Tis a shame neither is adequately recognized for important contributions to the game; the enduring significance of both is exactly 100 years old!

    Great piece, Teresa!

  2. Partly.

    Steeplechase racing in New York probably predates flat racing in the “organized” sense because spontaneous steeple-to-steeple races (chases) — that is, jump on your pony and race neighbor John “to that there steeple we can see in the next town” — would have been natural displays of competitive fun contested everywhere. Therefore, they were probably a fact of rural life long before formal racetracks ever appeared, in this country at least.

    My 100-year reference details steeplechase racing’s In Your Face defiance of Governor Hughes’ nasty-gambling antipathy in the two or three years surrounding 1910. The Up-And-Over crowd enthusiastically ignored his politically motivated clampdown on that day’s rowdy sport of horseracing — Thank Goodness!

    Each call to the post Bugler Sam blows for Thursdays’ steeplechase races ought to be followed by a hearty Thank You! from the announcer booth, I might add.

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