I would like to meet the person who had the good sense, in 1945, to name a New York race after Comely. I recognize that that’s probably not possible, but in this season of talking about racing history, that man (and yeah, had to be a man, right?) truly did preserve this filly’s place in history by recognizing her accomplishments and naming a race after her.
Comely was never a champion. She’s not in the Hall of Fame. None of my racing history books mention her. Were it not for her race, last run in April of this year, she likely would have faded away into racing oblivion.
This week is a particularly good time to remember Comely, because the New York stakes calendar has aligned to present in the same week the two races that represent arguably her greatest finishes.
On Thursday of this week, the Fall High Weight will be run for the 97th time. It’s been won by Ta Wee (twice, at three and four), Honorable Miss (twice, at five and six), King’s Bishop (at four), Carson City (at three).
Comely won it in its inaugural year, 1914, the only horse to ever win it at age two. The race was run that year in September.
Later this week, on Saturday, the Demoiselle will be run for the 89th time. In June of 1914, Comely finished second in the third renewal of that race.
There was, apparently, no shame in Comely’s runner-up position in the Demoiselle:
It was not Comely’s fault that the Demoiselle Stakes for two-year-olds that was run for at the Empire City track yesterday was not put to the credit of [owner of Comely and Empire City] James Butler. Even with the seven pounds weight she gave Coquette, which beat her by a nose, she was the best horse in the race. That she did not win it was due to the strategy of Buxton, who rode Coquette, and showed himself as good a general as he is a jockey.
…when he got to the head of the stretch the Board of Strategy, of which Buxton was the chief member, got in its work. He swung wide enough to leave a place through which it would have been possible for Comely to squeeze, and take the pole from her. It was a trap laid for [Comely’s jockey] Kederis, and he fell into it without a thought that Buxton might have brains as well as his mount had speed. Kederis tried to drive Comely through the opening Buxton had invitingly made for him. Just as it seemed certain he was to get the place he had been playing for, Buxton drew Coquette sharply across to the rail position, to which she was entitled by right of leadership in the race, and Kederis found himself caught in a trap. The consequence was that he had to pull Comely up and go around on the outside of Coquette. This cost him valuable time and lost him the race.
Two months later, Comely’s accomplishments on the track brought her to the inaugural Fall High Weight, about which I wrote extensively here two years ago. A noteworthy line from that 1914 report of her victory:
As this was a test at the longest distance a two-year-old is asked to go [six furlongs], and against a horse a year older, it stamps her as a wonderful filly, particularly as at the end of the run she showed no signs of distress, and could apparently have run at least a furlong, and perhaps a quarter of a mile further, had it been necessary.
Comely caught my fancy as soon as I began to read about her. A two-year-old filly (or colt, for that matter), beating older, giving them weight, is not something that we’ll ever see again; nor is her near-miss in the Fall High Weight/Demoiselle double. The rest of Comely’s career was apparently not enough to warrant historical honors, but thanks to the 1945 mystery man, Comely lives on in her race, and in the annals of New York Racing as the first winner of the Fall High Weight.
You can find my other posts on Comely here.
“Comely Beaten by Jockey’s Strategy,” New York Times, July 14, 1914.
“Comely Easy Victor in Autumn Handicap,” New York Times, September 10, 1914.