War Admiral’s 1937 Triple Crown Campaign and no FLAIR for the Belmont
The Riddle colt did not emerge from winter quarters until April 14,1937,when he won the six-furlong Calvert Purse at Havre de Grace in gate-to-wire fashion. Next came the Chesapeake Stakes, Havre de Grace’s main prep for the major spring events. War Admiral won by six lengths over Flamingo Stakes winner Court Scandal and shipped to Churchill Downs as the early favorite for the Kentucky Derby.
War Admiral had never raced farther than 81/2 furlongs, and the Derby was his third start in 24 days. Yet trainer George Conway was not afraid to work him hard to get him fit, sending him out for a lO-furlong spin four days before the Derby. On a sloppy track, the Admiral covered the distance in 2:08, finishing up eagerly.
The track was fast at Churchill Downs on Derby Day, May 8 – the colt was fractious at the post but got away cleanly and spurted to the lead. That was the last his rivals saw of anything but his tail as Pompoon ran gamely through the stretch, shaving the Admiral’s three-length margin to 1+ lengths, but War Admiral was in hand as he sailed under the finish line.
The time was 2:031/5, the second-fastest Derby up to that point.
The Preakness fell only a week after the Derby in 1937, and War Admiral and Pompoon both worked nine furlongs four days before the race, with War Admiral going in 1:56 and 2 and Pompoon in 1:57. In the Preakness, War Admiral again proved faster, but it was a much closer deal. Battling the length of the stretch, the Admiral outfinished Pompoon by a head, with third-place Flying Scot eight lengths astern. The time was 1:58 2/5over a track labeled “good,” just one-fifth of a second off High Quest’s stakes record.
War Admiral’s margin of victory was more decisive than it looked, as jockey Charley Kurtsinger never touched his mount with the whip during the drive. Next up was the June 5 Belmont Stakes – the colt’s fifth start in 52 days. That was not considered a particularly grueling campaign at the time, so just to be sure that the Admiral was ready for the 1 and 1/2-mile trip, Conway worked him not once but three times over the Belmont distance during the three weeks between the Preakness and the Belmont. He won the Test of Champions in a record tying time of 2:28 and 3/5, again leading wire to wire despite slicing a quarter off his right heel breaking from the starting gate.
-The above courtesy of Earl Ola, who adds:
“I have personally watched Australia’s TJ Smith, the worlds most successful trainer ever, anywhere. In the 14 months I worked for him; he took moderately performing USA imports from leading USA stables, improved them over 10 racing lengths and got them sounder by breezing them 3 times a week, plus they became contented, easy to handle and ride racehorses for the first time in their racing lives.
TJ Smith developed the basis for his training methods watching (then improving) on the methods of USA trainer Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons. Our modern day horses are not weak, what is weak is our modern so-called training methods and legal drugs that weaken our horses.”
My comment: the absurdity of today’s environment is highlighted when New York bans I’ll Have Another from wearing the FLAIR nasal strip, yet allows the diuretic Lasix and pain killer Bute to course through his veins on raceday. If I remember correctly, it was about this time 3 years ago when NY also outlawed any hyperbaric oxygen therapy within a week of post for NY racers as well.
In perhaps the most pigheaded statement of our times: “If a horse needs hyperbaric oxygen therapy to get from the starting gate to the finish line, it shouldn’t be in the race,” NYSRWB chairman John Sabini said in a statement. “Purified oxygen does not exist naturally in a horse.”
But Lasix and Bute do exist naturally in all horses, right Mr. Sabini?