Red blinkers was Gallant Fox’s calling card
An all-night rain had promised to muddy the Saratoga track. When the steady rain continued on until past noon the next day, the 1930 Travers Stakes would be contested on a deep and clinging course that just might cause an upset of huge proportion.
[cleeng_content id="800390276" description="Read it now!" price="0.49" t="article"]Only three thoroughbreds were entered in the race.
Gallant Fox was the Triple Crown champion of that year. He had won seven straight times and was still his usual robust self coming into the late August test.
Whichone had given Gallant Fox a lump or two when both were two-year-olds the year before and his handlers believed him capable of thumping the Triple Crown kingpin again.
The third thoroughbred in the Travers that year was Jim Dandy. He had been last in fully one-third of his lifetime starts.
Jim Dandy had odds of 100-1 on the tote board next to the long pond in Saratoga’s infield.
Mud was everywhere. On the track, it was ankles-deep and ready to cause havoc with its thickness. And it was going to play the significant role in the race’s outcome.
Gallant Fox was the second horse in history to win the Triple Crown. He did it in 1930. Later, he sired another Triple Crown winner in Omaha.
Jim Dandy won the 1930 Travers. Neither Gallant Fox nor Whichone could handle the hindering effects of the ooze.
The loss in the Travers was about the only misstep Gallant Fox took that year.
He would finish that racing season with nine wins in 10 races and would have set the all-time earnings mark with $328,165 in his two years of competing.
In 1930, the term “Triple Crown” had just been phrased by the New York Times. Only one other thoroughbred — Sir Barton — had ever won the Preakness Stakes, Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes.
Gallant Fox and out-of-retirement jockey Earl Sande would pull off the hat trick for only the second time in history.
Sande had retired in 1928, leaving as the most decorated and most successful rider of his era. But like too many others of his time he had invested much of his money in the stock market. His savings were swallowed whole by the crash of the New York stock market in October of 1929.
Sande was nearly broke. Retirement had to wait. He had to make money in order to survive.
When approached by William Woodward, well-heeled owner of Belair Stud in Prince George’s County, Md., Sande agreed to leave retirement and ride Woodward’s tall and dashing bay whose 17-hands dimension made him a candidate for many a photographer’s camera.
During the 1930 racing season, Sande aboard Gallant Fox in his white silks with the large red polka dots and his bright red cap, the horse with his cherry red blinkers became the most-viewed picture in thoroughbred racing.
Gallant Fox also had a very wide white blaze that ran the length of his well-shaped head. That blaze further enhanced his image and made him even more of a matinee idol.
The Fox’s racing career began with a ho-hum two-year-old campaign. Sande wasn’t his rider and his wins came only in stop-and-go fashion. He lost more often than he won and his two claims to fame were successes in the Flash Stakes and the Cowdin Stakes.
He finished off 1929 with a third-place to Whichone in the Belmont Futurity Stakes.
That last try in 1929 led many persons in racing to believe The Fox could be a real contender in the three-year-old series of classic races that began at that time in history with the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore.
After he won the Wood Memorial in New York, Gallant Fox was installed as the betting favorite in the Preakness. He held off the late-stretch surge by Crack Brigade to win by three-quarters of a length.
Eight days later in the Kentucky Derby a throng of some 50,000 wormed their way into Churchill Downs where The Fox would entertain challenges from Alcibiades and Gallant Knight.
Long-lasting rains had thickened the track for the race. But despite getting away slowly from the mechanical starting gate, Gallant Fox moved to the lead on the backstretch by passing the filly Alcibiades and then holding sway over Gallant Knight by two lenghts at the end.
It was the first time the Kentucky Derby had ever been run with the use of a mechanical starting gate instead of the previous run-up start under an elastic band.
It was jockey Sande’s third Kentucky Derby win.
Because of the large red blinkers he wore, Gallant Fox had been given the nickname “Red-headed horse” by some in the media.
Three weeks after the Kentucky Derby The Fox and rider Sande defeated Whichone in the Belmont Stakes to complete the just-christened “Triple Crown” run.
Even before the month of June had evaporated The Fox had won as the 1-10 betting favorite in the Dwyer Stakes. Leaving New York state where he accomplished eight of his 11 lifetime wins, Gallant Fox attracted a crowd of over 55,000 at the Arlington Classic, run just outside Chicago. He triumphed over Gallant Knight by a neck after a stirring stretch duel.
In the fall wins also came in the Saratoga Cup and the Jockey Club Gold Cup, both in the state of New York.
In late October, owner Woodward announced he would retire Gallant Fox to stud at the famous Claiborne Farm in Paris, Ky.
For one of the few times in history, a Triple Crown winner was as much a Goliath as a stud as he had been while racing.
One of his sons, Omaha, won the 1935 Triple Crown, the only time a Triple Crown champion sired another Triple Crown winner. Another son, Granville, was named the 1936 Horse of the Year. Flares, a full brother of Omaha’s, became only the second thoroughbred bred in the United States to win the Ascot Gold Cup in English racing.
His career at stud lasted 22 years.
The “Fox of Belair” was an impressive sight. Whether just standing peacefully while eating grass in a paddock or flashing throught the homestretch of a race track with his jockey’s red cap bobbing along above his signature red blinkers, Gallant Fox was a sight to behold.
And as his out-of-retirement jockey Sande once said: “As long as there is a horse in front of the ‘Fox,’ you can ride him backwards. He’ll use his competitive spirit to find a way to win.”