Looking Back

This month in mid-atlantic thoroughbred history! For Looking Back archives click here.

Paul Mellon’s Fort Marcy won the Washington, D.C., International for a second time, which also pushed him over $1 million in earnings and nailed down Horse of the Year. The 6-year-old Virginia-bred won over a boggy course despite trainer Elliott Burch noting “Marcy likes it soft, but not this soft.”

Mellon also campaigned 1969 Horse of the Year Arts and Letters and said “The only trouble with owning a horse like Arts and Letters is that people forget my old favorite, Fort Marcy.”

Mellon’s stable of Virginia-breds included rising 2-year-old stars Mill Reef and Run the Gantlet, recent stakes winners in England and the U.S., respectively.

  • The Colonial Cup at Camden, S.C., America’s first $100,000 steeplechase, attracted horses from around the world, but the top three were all American-bred and -based. Mrs. Ogden Phipps’ Top Bid won over Stephen Clark Jr.’s Shadow Brook, with Phipps’ Jaunty third. Ridden by Joe Aitcheson and trained by Mikey Smithwick, Top Bid clinched the championship title.

  • Milton Polinger and his wife Helen transformed their Olney, Md., property in a year’s time into a major commercial breeding farm, complete with stalls for 80 horses. The new five-stall stallion barn was home to recently purchased royally bred What Luck and Aristocratic.

    A self-described gambler who “loved the tracks” and had been an owner for nearly 20 years, Milton Polinger noted “It was something I always wanted to do, and I decided now was the time to do it. As to the money it has cost to get what I wanted, I’ve always felt that you should either do something completely or not do it at all.”

    Polinger died six years later, just as his homebred filly What a Summer, a daughter of What Luck, wrapped up her 3-year-old season. The future Eclipse Award-winning champion sprinter was a Maryland-bred champion from 1976 through 1978, and was Maryland-bred Horse of the Year in 1977. Helen Polinger stayed involved in racing as an owner and a breeder until she died in 2018.

  • A court ruling in Kentucky declared Peter Fuller’s Dancer’s Image the winner of the 1968 Kentucky Derby and awarded him the winner’s share of the purse. Judge Henry Meigs criticized the testing equipment and procedures, thus deciding the Kentucky Racing Commission had not proved its case.

    The Kentucky Supreme Court overturned Meigs’ ruling in 1972.

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