Looking Back

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

Frank Alexander, a 34-year-old native of Long Island, was celebrating one year as Sagamore Farm’s manager. Not originally from a horse family, Alexander got his start with horses when he was 16 working in a hunter stable and later broke yearlings on Capt. Harry Guggenheim’s Long Island farm, before joining the Air Force in 1957. After a few years running his own business of buying and selling horses, he switched paths and began galloping horses for Alfred Vanderbilt’s trainer Mike Freeman, later taking on the role of his assistant trainer.

“I was always having offers from other people to train their horses while I was working for Mike, but he kept telling me to wait. I got kind of tired of waiting for five years. Now I see how worthwhile it was. I think Mike kind of put the bug in Mr. Vanderbilt’s ear. We worked together closely, and we work together closely now. He’s been a big help to me since I’ve been [at Sagamore].”

  • G.F.T. Ryall wrote about Bowie in the 1920s, as he shared an “apocryphal account of its beginning,” started with Gad Bryan, Jim O’Hara, and Carter Hall out rabbit hunting and stopping for a rest in a clearing about halfway between Baltimore and Washington. “As the tale goes, someone suggested this would be a good place to build a race track,” he wrote.

    And in October 1914, Bowie presented its inaugural meet. “A list of the top horses that ran at Bowie would be as long as your arm. Equipoise made his first start there as a 2-year-old,” Ryall wrote. The most important race of the autumn meet was the Bryan and O’Hara Memorial Handicap, and among its winners were Lucky Hour, Sarazen, Misstep, Bateau, Sun Beau and Chase Me.

  • The way Frank A. Bonsal Jr. looked at the Maryland Hunt Cup, the race was an extension of the foxhunting season and should never base its appeal on a large, whopping purse. A 35-year-old investment banker, a general partner in Alex Brown & Sons, Bonsal was a past winner (1956) of the 4-mile timber classic, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, who were both Maryland Hunt Cup riders.

    “If money is a man’s goal, he has no place in timber racing,” he said. “You’ve got to want to do it for the fun you get out of it.”

    Bonsal wanted to avoid a big purse that would attract horses who were specialists in steeplechasing, rather than bringing in top-class hunters who were concluding their seasons in the world’s most difficult timber event.

  • Gaining her sixth stakes victory, Alma North won Hialeah’s $50,000 Black Helen under top weight of 120. Bred by J. I. B. Farms, Alma North, a daughter of Northern Dancer, was the defending Maryland-bred Horse of the Year.

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