The Outside Rail

WOW. Hoist The Flag. 

That’s what I wrote on the yellow Post-It note I stuck on Hip 203’s page in the 1969 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sales catalog. Fifty years ago, the future 2-year-old champion and star-crossed Kentucky Derby favorite sold at Saratoga as a yearling. He was just Hip 203 then, a bay colt whose pedigree sounds regal now – Tom Rolfe-War Navy, War Admiral (you can read more about him in Tuesday's Special – page 26). Consigned by John R. Gaines and James J. Houlahan, back when each consignor sold most if not all horses brought to the sale on the same night, Hoist The Flag sold for $37,000. 

And made me pause while paging through an old book. The catalog came out of a storage tub given to me by Fasig-Tipton Midlantic’s Paget Bennett and team. Bennett said something to the effect of, “Do you want this? If you don’t, it’s going to the storage unit.” I jumped at it and have, for the last three years, brought a 50-year-old sales catalog to Saratoga. They’re similar to newer catalogs, full of horses and numbers and legal statements. And history. You can’t help but crack the book and flip through pages – and start looking up things.

Besides Hoist The Flag, the 1969 yearlings included:

• Alma North. The daughter of Northern Dancer and the Swaps mare Spaws Arrow was Hip 19 and sold on the first day as part of the Glade Valley Farms consignment. Her sire would soon become the world’s leading sire, but at the time was simply listed as “classic winner” whose first foals were 3-year-olds of 1969. He’d sired stakes winners Viceregal, Eaglesham, Cool Mood, etc. Bred in Maryland by J.I.B. Farm, Alma North sold for $15,500. She won 23 of 78 starts, earned $513,597 and won stakes at Delaware Park, Monmouth, Liberty Bell, Atlantic City, Laurel, Hialeah, Garden State, Bowie and Pimlico. Probably a few others too. There’s a stakes named for her at Laurel. Twelve years after that Saratoga sale, she fetched $1 million from Due Process Stable at Keeneland January while carrying an Alydar foal. Eight years later, she sold for $20,000 at the Due Process dispersal. The Alydar foal raced once.

• Classic Knight. Hip 36 (Knightly Manner-Boisaralla, Bois Roussel) was a Virginia-bred and he won five times in California, the last at Pleasanton in 1977.

• Paper Peddler. Hip 37 wound up with a great name for a newspaper, and also won eight races. By Pago Pago, the colt was part of L. Clay Camp’s dispersal.

• Jig Dancer. Hip 54 (a colt by Summer Tan out of the Native Dancer mare Jig) won 10 races, placed in 17 others and earned $83,000 which probably wasn’t all that easy. 

• Ben’s Best. Hip 59 didn’t turn out to be Ben’s Cat, going 0-for-6 and earning $126 as best I could tell. His brother Chompion, born three years earlier, was a star. He won everything – MassCap, Dixie, Pan American, Quaker, Brighton Beach, Seneca, Stymie and Travers. Chompion was a monster. Ben’s Best, a Maryland-bred by Royal Gunner, was not.

• Hail To Pam. The bay colt by Hail To All ran 147 times. He won 12, finished second 23 times. He was a force at Thistledown, Waterford Park, all kinds of other places.

• Tulpehocken. Hip 86, a colt by Turn-To, must not have sold because he later raced for his breeder William Hackman. Named for a creek in Berks County, Pa., Tulpehocken sired steeplechase great Leaping Frog, who won the 1978 New York Turf Writers Cup at Saratoga for Phyllis Wyeth and trainer Jonathan Sheppard.

• Silver Mallet. The Jacinto gray colt, Hip 94, won 11 races including the 1973 Longacres Mile and 1972 Gravesend Handicap. 

• Friendsville. The name sounds like an upstate New York town, maybe near Lake Placid. Probably great antique shops. The horse started 111 times, won 15, and raced until 1979 at Waterford, Latonia, Churchill Downs, Ellis Park and Detroit among others. Edward Woodhouse trained him.

• Convenience. The Fleet Nasrullah filly, Hip 124 bred by Mr. and Mrs. Samuel K. Martin’s Caper Hill Farm and consigned by J.L. Wiley, became a star with major wins in the Santa Maria, Vanity and Wilshire. But that’s not the half of it. Racing for Leonard Lavin, she beat Typecast in a $250,000 winner-take-all match race at Hollywood Park in 1972. At the time, the event was the richest Thoroughbred match race in United States history. Jerry Lambert rode the winner, a 4-year-old, outdueling Bill Shoemaker on the 6-year-old favorite in a photo. You can listen to it on YouTube. No, really. Willard Proctor trained Convenience, who joined Lavin’s broodmare band and – among other achievements – is still influencing Glen Hill Farm runners now campaigned by Lavin’s grandson Craig Bernick and trained by Proctor’s son Tom. Convenience is the fourth dam of Grade 3 winner Closeout, who earned $458,421, and was second in Saratoga’s Madame Jumel Stakes in 2008. Closeout’s full-sister (they’re both by Repriced) won once for Glen Hill and Tom Proctor and is the dam of Family Meeting, who won Del Mar’s Grade 3 Jimmy Durante. Family Meeting was bred to Kitten’s Joy this year. Her foal will be the sixth generation to descend from Convenience. 

WOW. Again.

There’s more, there’s always more. But what a book. Glad I opened it.