What’s in the bin? History

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The kind folks at Fasig-Tipton Midlantic called me about a bin full of sales catalogues they were taking to a storage unit. Would I care to have a look? Apparently, I guess I’m the resident community historian or packrat or goofball who really might have an interest in some 50-year-old paperback books. I jumped at the chance.

"bin"The bin looks like Thoroughbred history, smells like Thoroughbred history and includes sales catalogues of every shape, size and description. Some apparently belonged to legendary Mid-Atlantic trainer Henry Clark. Others were once thumbed by former Fasig-Tipton executive Humphrey Finney (for whom the Saratoga sales pavilion is named). Some have penciled notes in the margins. One has some great long-division problems where Finney tried to figure out the average sales price I think – he divided 340,000 by 45 and came up with 7,111. I hope someone checked his math (it’s actually 7,555). And statistics matter to sales companies.

Regardless, I’m now the proud possessor of a bin full of sales catalogues – I have to give them back eventually, but I’m going to keep them for a while. Imagine what’s inside. The sales were at Saratoga, Del Mar, Belmont, Park, the Warrenton Horse Show Grounds, Timonium . . . other locales perhaps, I haven’t reached the bottom yet.

Let’s take a look. I’ll make this a regular feature – diving into the bin, pulling out a catalogue and seeing what’s inside. You get to come along, without the musty smell.



Catalogue: The Estate of A.B. Hancock Jr.

On the Market: Yearlings and Horses of Racing Age.

Location: Belmont Park.

Date: Nov. 20, 1972.

The yellow booklet includes 26 pages of biographical information on “Bull” Hancock, his family, Claiborne Farm and the Kentucky stalwart’s impact on Thoroughbred breeding and racing. There are great photos of Dell at a horse show and Arthur and Seth at the races. There’s also a one-page tribute written by Finney, which spells out that Hancock directed in his will that the racing string be dispersed and that the farm return to commercial breeding. The catalogue also devoted 12 pages to Hancock’s obituary, written by Kent Hollingsworth for The Blood-Horse. It’s a history lesson, and a writing lesson including this gem of a paragraph:

He was a bull of a man, 6-foot-2, heavy-set, with a deep voice. The guest house at Claiborne, where he played gin in earnest, was called the Bullpen. He was a fierce competitor, in racing, at the card table, shooting doves, or playing golf. A low-handicap golfer, he once shot a 69, which ruined his temperament for blowing putts and failing to break 80.

Hancock also crafted some of the best horses of his time. Claiborne stallions had produced the winners of 40-odd divisional championships from 1947-71 including Hoist The Flag, Sir Ivor, Round Table, Bold Ruler, Nashua, Hill Prince and so on. Secretariat (a son of Bold Ruler) was a hot 2-year-old at the time of this sale. Of course, the trend continues today.

The sale at Belmont, just 36 horses, included a few future big names too:

Hip 18 (Buckpasser-Reveille II, Star Kingdom) was Breakfast Bell. The 2-year-old filly ran twice, poorly, for Claiborne before the sale. She later won four times and placed in a Grade 3. As a broodmare, she produced Wood Memorial winner Believe It (third in the 1978 Kentucky Derby and Preakness behind Affirmed and Alydar) for Hickory Tree Farm.

Hip 29 (Round Table-Regal Gleam, Hail To Reason) was Royal Glint. The unraced 2-year-old colt was six weeks off a race according to the catalogue. He won 21 races and earned more than $1 million for owner Dan Lasater.

"sham"Hip 30 (Pretense-Sequoia, Princequillo) was Sham. The 2-year-old had run three times, finishing second twice and third once for Claiborne and trainer Woody Stephens. Purchased by Sigmund Sommer, Sham may have been the best runner-up in racing history -chasing home the great Secretariat in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.

The yearlings were by Sir Gaylord, Damascus, Bold Ruler, Dr. Fager, Round Table, Buckpasser and the like.

Hip 6 (Damascus-Face The Facts, Court Martial) grew up to become Judger, who won the 1974 Florida Derby and Blue Grass for Seth Hancock and Woody Stephens. They didn’t want to let that one go.

Hip 12 (Buckpasser-Rose Bower, Princequillo) became Hopespringseternal. She never raced, but produced Group 1 winner and leading sire Miswaki among others.

I could keep digging, but reality – and the rest of my day – calls and there are plenty of more catalogues in the bin.