The story of Tracery

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In May, you go to Saratoga because . . . well, I don’t know exactly. Sam and I needed a new location to take all these virtual meetings, it couldn’t hurt The Saratoga Special planning to make an appearance and it had generally been awhile. Oh yeah, a friend’s house was empty.

Monday afternoon’s work plan involved spending a few hours at the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. Cate Masterson and Brien Bouyea graciously offered me a spot in the library to record my part of the Jump Racing USA recap show and it was there that I met Tracery. Or a sculpture of Tracery.

Heard of him? Me neither. He’s not in the Hall of Fame, but he was quite the racehorse and sire with a story that goes in a more than a few directions. The tabletop bronze, by artist Jim Wilder, was made in 1914 according to a small card and gifted to the museum by the Estate of Winifred Maddux. From the sculpture, he was regal – a little high-headed maybe, and you could count his ribs but he was an athlete. Some stickler would say his tail wasn’t full enough, but hey. 

Bred in Kentucky by August Belmont Jr., Tracery was a foal of 1909 by Rock Sand and out of the Orme mare Topiary. With racing banned in New York by the Hart-Agnew Law, Tracery was sent to England and trainer John Watson. Tracery didn’t race at 2, and made his debut as a 66-1 longshot in the Epsom Derby of 1912. Third there, he went on to win St. James’s Palace and Sussex stakes. At Doncaster for the St. Leger, Tracery ruled – leading at every step for jockey George Bellhouse and winning by 5 lengths. The win was the first by an American-bred in the St. Leger.

At 4 his main target was the 2 1/2-mile Ascot Gold Cup, and he opened by winning a prep at Newmarket.

And this is where it gets interesting.

Sixteen days before the Gold Cup, the 1913 Epsom Derby was marred by protester Emily Davison, who rushed on to the track at Tattenham Corner and grabbed at Anmer, a horse owned by King George V. Anmer collided with Davison, fell heavily and landed on jockey Herbert Jones. Davison died four days later of a fractured skull. She was a suffragette, known for a series of protests and attacks aimed at obtaining the right to vote for women. Davison was charged with arson and bombing. She set fire to mailboxes, threw rocks through windows at political meetings, was arrested multiple times and went on numerous hunger strikes while in prison.

Her actions at the Derby and her death made her a martyr for the cause and her funeral included a procession of 5,000 women and more than 50,000 people lining the streets. Her coffin was inscribed with “Fight on. God will give the victory.”

Tracery’s role in this came at the Gold Cup, where another suffragette protester Harry Hewitt stepped on to the course as the horse sped for home with the lead. Holding a suffragette flag and a revolver, Hewitt grabbed at the reins as Tracery approached. Tracery, Hewitt and jockey Albert “Snowy” Whalley fell to the ground. The horse and jockey were not seriously injured, but Hewitt needed surgery for a head injury.

The fall did no harm to Tracery as he won the Eclipse at Sandown in July and finished second (while giving 34 pounds to winner Cantilever) in the Jockey Club Stakes in October. Tracery added the Champion Stakes in what turned out to be a match race with Long Set. Tracery won six of nine lifetime starts with a second and a third. His only worse-than-third finish was the fall while leading at Ascot.

At stud, he sired the likes of 2000 Guineas winner The Panther, Epsom Derby winner Papyrus and others. He sold for £53,000 in 1920 to stand in Argentina before being purchased again and returned to England. He died of colic in 1924. 

Tracery’s impact on the breed was minimal, but he appears in the pedigrees of numerous horses you’ve heard of – and plenty you haven’t. Tracery is in the sireline of dual classic winner Tabasco Cat’s third dam Cancelada (foaled in Argentina in 1958). She is bred 5×5 to Tracery through his grandson Congreve) and appears in the pedigrees of Grade 1 winners Yankee Affair, Snow Chief and Bold ’N Determined plus more recent runners Point Of Honor and Wicked Whisper.

In death, Tracery’s story took one more turn. The Yorkshire Museum displayed his skeleton, and that of another racehorse Blink Bonny, for years. A 1979 report said that one skeleton was buried in an archaeological trench on the site. The location of the other was a mystery.

But Tracery’s sculpture is in Saratoga, on a table at the National Museum of Racing.

Note: Women gained the right to vote in England in 1918.

And thanks to pedigree ace Melissa Bauer-Herzog for the insight.