Once upon a time, there was a horse called Spinaway. She was a chestnut, and she was born in 1878. Pedigree Query says that she raced nine times and won seven races, and that her career ended when she was three, in 1881. That year, someone in Saratoga named after a stakes race for her.
Spinaway had a daughter, also a chestnut, in 1892. She was called Handspun, and she was owned, in part, by Harry Payne Whitney, son of William Collins Whitney, the man who had rescued Saratoga at the turn of the last century. She won the Kentucky Stakes and Willow Handicap at two, and she was second in the Matron. At three, she won the Tennessee Oaks.
In 1902, she, too, had a chestnut filly, this one with “white feet and a strip.” Her name was Tanya, and in 1904, she won the race named after her grandmother in its 15th renewal.
“Tanya has,” wrote the New York Times in August of 1904, “proved herself worthy of her ancestry.”
And so she did, winning not only the Spinaway that year, but also the Hopeful. In 1905, she became the second filly to win the Belmont Stakes, and the last until 2007, when another chestnut filly, Rags to Riches, won it.
Tanya was bred by Williams Collins Whitney, who died in February of 1904. His horses were leased to H. B. Duryea, in whose green and white colors she raced and won as a two-year-old.
Dominant by the time she got to Saratoga, Tanya was a popular filly at the Spa, for both her speed and her pedigree. The Times said that her “[Spinaway] was so one-sided that there practically was no betting on it,” and went on,
The victory of Tanya appealed strongly to sentiment among the older turfmen, Tanya being the granddaughter of the great race mare for which the stake was named, Spinaway, the best filly of the memorable year in which Hindoo began his turf career.
Ten days after her Spinaway victory, Tanya came back in the Hopeful, carrying 127 pounds, conceding weight to the 10 other horses in the field, and winning by a length and a half. She was of the same foal crop as the remarkable Sysonby, before the Hopeful considered the best two-year-old in training. But…
The best of the remarkable lot of fillies trained in the stable of H.B. Duryea…has caused horsemen to revise opinions formed when Sysonby of the James R. Keene stable was fresh from his triumph in the Saratoga Special. Even the enthusiasts among Sysonby’s admirers now are willing to admit that Tanya is the Keene colt’s most formidable rival.
Her race to-day was the most remarkable run by a filly in the memory of turfmen, and her success left not the least room for question that Tanya ranks with the best of her age and sex that the American turf has ever produced. (New York Times)
In October, Duryea dispersed the stock he’d gotten from Whitney at an auction held at Madison Square Garden, an auction that reportedly drew 10,000 people (a New York Rangers sell-out is 18,200). Whitney’s son, Harry Payne Whitney, bought many of the horses, including Tanya for $7,000 and her dam Handspun for $22,000. The never-hyperbolic Times called the auction “the most remarkable horse sale ever held in America or probably in the world…”
Tanya ran in the Belmont for Harry Payne Whitney, winning the first Belmont Stakes held at Belmont Park; she finished second the next month in the Lawrence Realization to Sysonby.
Her Pedigree Query page says that Tanya made 12 starts, with a record of 6-2-1, and that she was sent to France in 1912, returning to the United States in 1918. She died in 1929.
She’s not in the Hall of Fame, and she’s not a champion. But she was the first to win both the Spinaway and the Hopeful, something only one other horse, Bee Mac in 1943, has done, and in winning the Hopeful and the Belmont, she joins just 12 other horses in the 120-year history of the two races. The most recent horse to win the Hopeful-Belmont double was Afleet Alex in 2005; before that, it was Affirmed in 1978. Other notable winners of the two races: Man o’War, Whirlaway, Native Dancer, and Secretariat.
Heady company, that. But in a summer in which we saw Winter Memories win for the second year in a row a race at Saratoga that her mother had won, we might appreciate “most strongly,” like those 1904 older turfmen, Tanya’s victory in the Spinaway, the race named for her mother.
Quoted and consulted
Hotaling, Edward. They’re Off! Horse Racing at Saratoga. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1995.
Tanya’s Pedigree Query page
Spinaway’s Pedigree Query page
“Tanya’s Spinaway Stake,” New York Times, August 4, 1904.
“Tanya Won Big Stakes,” New York Times, August 14, 1904. (Hopeful win)
“Whitney Horse Sale Draws Crowd of 10,000,” New York Times, October 11, 1904.
“Tanya Won Belmont By A Neck From Blandy,” New York Times, May 25, 1905.
“The First Belmont at Belmont Park,” Belmont Stakes blog, June 8, 2012.