On June 13, 1953, Alfred G. Vanderbilt Jr. watched his homebred Native Dancer win the Belmont Stakes, eking out a nose victory to complete the third leg of Thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown. He’d won three weeks earlier, too, at Pimlico, but had lost the Kentucky Derby.
One might have forgiven Vanderbilt for a bittersweet sadness at his colt’s Belmont victory, for wondering what might have been, for wondering whether Native Dancer’s rough trip in the Kentucky Derby five weeks earlier had cost him a chance to be the ninth winner of the Triple Crown. It was the only defeat of the Grey Ghost’s 22-race career.
Thirteen years later, a son of Native Dancer went to the Belmont, to try to do what his father didn’t have the chance to, and in the stands was the son of Alfred Vanderbilt Jr.
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Photo of Kauai King courtesy of Maryland Horse Breeders Association
2 thoughts on “Native Dancer and Kauai King: two generations of Triple Crown near-misses”
Teresa – Enjoyed the article. When you said on a tight dead-line, kinda’ figured you were writing something for this weekend’s Belmont.
Corrections – Mother of Kauai King – Sweep In, not In Sweep.
Kauai’s name – Daughter of Mike Ford, told me that the island of Kauai was where her parents honeymooned, and that was the reason for the name. But, what was reported from the NYT sounds just as plausible to me.
Not completely sure about this – will have to check some records later, but I seem to remember that KK was syndicated after the PREAKNESS, not the Belmont, and I have here, when I can lay my hands on it, a list of several men who were in this, not just two (other than Mike Ford). Had some years home, as you said, then to Newmarket, then Japan for the remainder of his life – sixteen years. As for “an unremarkable sire”, I do know he had two daughters while in Japan that had some quite good success at the track, but could that be considered “remarkable”? – I suppose not.
Have been researching Kauai King and all others connected to him, for several years. Writing a book on his life. Wrote nothing for last three years – husband’s illness and subsequent death. Am just now returning to it.
My best to you, Teresa, in your teaching, your writing, your life.
Hi, Shelby — I relied primarily on NY Times reports for the article, with some supplemental resources. I’ve found that most historical records have an error here and there, but in the absence of anything else definitive, I included the information with sources. I hope that we get to have that conversation at some point–my condolences on the loss of your husband and best of luck on the work with your book. He sounds like a fascinating horse, and I will look forward to reading it.