Bold Ruler, 1957

I resume with Charles Hatton, this time describing Bold Ruler in 1957 from the 1958 American Racing Manual.


The season of 1957 was graced by a vintage crop of three-year-olds and handicappers. Signally successful among the three-year-olds were Bold Ruler, Gallant Man and Round Table, while the galaxy of mature performers included such luminaries as Dedicate, Bardstown and Nashua’s old rival, Summer Tan. This abundance of talented entertainers, whose capacities gave them a certain “box office,” was hailed by associations and public alike. If there was no horse of outstanding superiority, as in the seasons of Citation and Count Fleet, there were no stakes whose allure was contingent on the appearance of some certain individual. The sport was intensely competitive and zestful throughout the year, and it stirred and sustained widespreading interest. Nor are you to infer from the statement there was no such standout as Citation or Count Fleet that Bold Ruler, who emerged as the three-year-old champion and Horse of the Year, was merely the best of a moderate lot. Quite the contrary. His was no empty honor, for among the more than 25,000 horses in training he dominated were several who  might conceivably have shown in unmitigated perfection in a poorer year.

The breed of horses surely improves as the bloodstock industry thrives and competition to produce a better performer than one’s neighbor becomes more demanding and difficult of achievement. Americans may reflect, if it is not vainglorious, that it is one thing to develop the best horse among several thousand, as in some other countries and quite a different matter to breed the champion from approximately 10,000 foals. The enormity of the task racing men assume in their efforts to breed a “Horse of the Year,” which is to say the best from among several generations, involves the surmounting of odds ranging into figures Einstein only dimly foresaw. The imponderable laws of chance, the highly imprecise “science” of genetics, and man’s cumulative knowledge of horsemanship all must combine their favorable auspices to produce a Bold Ruler. Our warmest congratulations to Mrs. Phipps and Mr. Fitz.

Bold Ruler’s dominion of his own generation, and what remained of preceding generations, was not incontestable until near the close of the season. Indeed, it still is the subject of controversy in many quarters. And one wonders what tangent the balloting might have taken had Dedicate unwound following the Woodward, or Gallant Man after the Jockey Club Gold Cup, or yet Round Table, with his consummate success in the Hawthorne Gold Cup. But Bold Ruler had the mettle to progress as the fall approached, and many authorities will think it a conservative estimate that he was five pounds better at Jamaica’s autumn meeting, when he conceded the Realization winner Promised Land 23 pounds and beat him pointless, than at the same course in the spring, when he repulsed Gallant Man’s surprise attack in the Wood.

Defeated by Effective Relay Teams

At any rate, it took a real team of the best horses to bring him down when he was at the apex of his form. He trounced Gen. Duke and the eventual Derby winner, Iron Liege, in the Flamingo, the former returning the compliment in the Florida Derby with an assist from Federal Hill. In the Kentucky Derby, he stopped when Arcaro attempted taking too much hold on him early. His tongue, somehow cut almost in two as a yearling, was extremely sensitive, and he resented restraint, for this reason, if not also because he is by nature a headstrong, impetuous performer who likes running on the pace, a la his kinsman, Nashua.

Arcaro commented, “Bold Ruler knows more about racing than I do.” He condescended to allow him to employ his own technique in the Preakness and there Bold Ruler took the track at the outset and won from end to end in bloodless fashion. In the Belmont Stakes, Gallant Man’s stablemate, Bold Nero, a brother to Tulyar, prompted him over the early furlongs, Gallant Man administering the coup de grace in the straight. In the fall, Bold Ruler reappeared “a giant refreshed,” after resting on his oars in the sylvan Saratoga horse retreat, during which interval he recovered from possible ill effects of the “sleeping sickness” vaccinations and a minor cardiac condition. Following the Woodward, in which the Phipps colt yielded to the combined harassing of Reneged, Gallant Man and finally Dedicate, Mr. Fitz seemed to be resigned to thinking his flashy charge did not stay, and pointed him for engagements of less than 10 furlongs. With a rather disparaging gesture, the Wheatley logicians now set about making the utmost of his gift of extraordinary speed, with the result that he smothered his opposition in the Vosburgh, Queens County and Ben Franklin, winning in a breeze under imposts ranging from 130 pounds to 136.

Easy Victories in Late Campaign

During this latter phase of Bold Ruler’s campaign, all the venturesome three-year-olds and older horses alike who had the audacity to oppose him were summarily dismissed with the same short shrift, and when he won the Benjamin Franklin in the slop by 12 lengths, carrying 136 pounds a mile and a sixteenth, it was decided to afford him the opportunity to redeem himself for his dismal Woodward showing in the Trenton. In this mile and a quarter, Bold Ruler carried 122 pounds to 124 on Gallant Man and Round Table. He made a virtual sprint of the race, romping home in 2:01 3/5 in going no better than “good” and neither Round Table nor Gallant Man, collectively and individually, could cope with his compelling burst of sustained speed. He simply devastated them. Handicapper Jimmy Kilroe promptly advanced him to 139 pounds in the weights, and the voters experting the Horse of the Year aspirants were relieved that Bold Ruler now had resolved the subtle nuances of the season’s rather equivocal form. At least, most of them felt themselves unburdened of a vexing problem.

Speed, per se, is at once “of the essence” and the gay deceiver in racing circles, and Mr. Fitz attaches no very great importance to it. But Bold Ruler did some shocking things to clockers’ watchers at almost every turn. Perhaps his most challenging mark came with the running of the Vosburgh, when he carried 130 pounds in the mud and won with impressive elan at 7 furlongs into 1:21 2/5, eclipsing a time-honored Belmont record established by the mighty sprint specialist Roseben 50 years earlier. But weight rather more than speed is the great leveler among horses–that and stamina. Future generations of turf historians, appraising the records of our contemporary champions, may readily enough make some deductions that might strike the friends of Citation, Count Fleet and Nashua as somewhat strange. Actually, Bold Ruler won under imposts they never attempted, though he may be less universally lionized by present day experts. The imposts which he carried are a cachet of his quality.

Bold Ruler then must be acknowledged, and deserves to be hailed, as a very good horse, for all the ambivalence with which he was received by the rank and file. The tall, seal brown son of Nasrullah and Miss Disco, by Discovery, gave all the usual evidence from which promise is adduced from the very beginning of his career. Mr. Fitz recalls he already was going “quarters in :22” at Hialeah Park in the early spring of 1956, before he came to the races on Long Island. He won the Futurity, but his campaign was punctuated by a series of setbacks. Impulsive at the post, he damaged his left hind hock and suffered an injury to his hip muscles which shelved him during the Saratoga season. He goes in rather crabbed fashion at the slow paces, and Mr. Fitz notes that “he never could trot.” It seems the muscles over the coupling and pelvis are joined in a somewhat devious way, and turfmen watching him jog to the post are prone to dismiss him as a palpably sore horse.

Boldly Enters Heat of Competition

A fast breaker, phenomenally fast for one of his leggy conformation, Bold Ruler is very bold going in the heat of competition, bounding along like a stag, his action fluent and collected, a kinetic pleasure to the racing man. As a matter of utmost importance, it was this that attracted the author to him the first time we saw him, breezing over the deep Oklahoma track at “The Spa” as a two-year-old. One only associates such grace with those performers who can “do things,” to borrow an expression from the lexicon of shedrow.

In his sleek banker’s brown coat, and in the lyrical quality of his action and his generosity, Bold Ruler somehow recalls artists’ and racing journalists’ descriptions of the popular Hindoo of the Dwyer dynasty. There is something distinctly “old-fashioned” like a daguerreotype, about him, as if he stepped from a Currier & Ives print into the vibrant present. It is a delightful sense of nostalgia that old-time horsemen feel when suddenly they come upon a colt who is most reminiscent of the racing-like champions of “them days” than the foreshortened, rumpy little horses of modern times. Bold Ruler has a sister, Explorer, now at stud, who is even more an antique piece, a stripped-down “racing machine” having no excess lumber, but withal so perfectly made and full of quality as to be a joy to the practical turfman. She had the misfortune to break a pelvis at two, and became “touched in the wind,” which seriously compromised her as a racing tool, but Mr. Fitz speaks of fondly as her as any filly he has ever trained, saying, “She is so honest–and she tried so hard to be a great race mare. I believe that she will make a fine producer.”

Bold Ruler, Explorer and their brother, the good steeplechaser Independence, all derived something of their genuine natures and exceptional conformation from their dam, Miss Disco, a large bay mare of such elegance that she looks as if she stepped from a canvas by Stull. Miss Disco raced for Sydney Schupper, who had obtained her as a yearling from Alfred G. Vanderbilt, and won a number of important sprint stakes for him before her sale privately to Mrs. H. C. Phipps for her intrinsic worth as a broodmare. Miss Disco may or may not have done well racing the distances of the richest stakes had she been trained for them, but her people knew she had speed, and, as often happens, concentrated on racing her in events throwing this talent into bas relief.

Bold Ruler’s is an old and honorable family, long indigenous of American racing. The second dam, Outdone, won a stakes and the third, Sweep Out, by the sprinter Sweep On was herself a winner of three sprint stakes and produced a brood of half a dozen good class winners. The family descends from St. Cypria, by St. Gatien, a mare imported by James R. Keene and who was traceable to Beeswing, through Woodbine. W. R. Coe and Vanderbilt developed and exploited several generations of the tribe. But it was not until Mrs. Phipps bred Miss Disco to Nasrullah, who represented the catalytic influence of a vigorous outcross, that the family gained any distinction for such a horse as Bold Ruler.

Has the True Poise of a Champion

The Wheatley champions “picks to pieces” well, regarded either as a race horse, prospective sire or as an individual. He is a sober, well-mannered animal, full of self confidence and resourcefulness. Never have we seen him display any of the “cussedness” ascribed to many of Nasrullah’s progeny. In the Jamaica paddock, before the Queens County Handicap he looked and acted as keen and composed as any horse we can recall. Every muscle was as perfectly attuned as the strings of a fine Stradivarius, and his thin coat glistened in the gloom of his stall, while he conducted himself like a Chesterfield of his species as his attendants picked out his hoofs, adjusted the tack, removed his bandages and flexed his knees.

Bold Ruler has an intelligent expression, but his head lacks the exquisite, cameo quality seen in his dam and his sister Explorer. It is rendered almost plain by a decidedly convex profile like that of Zucchero and other Nasrullahs. He is a full 16 1 1/2, indeed he approximated that height as an unfurnished two-year-old, when he was already as tall as his older and more robust stablemate Nashua. At a glance he is a trifle “on the leg,” though obviously not to a fault, and his middle is marked by its well-sprung ribs. There is no tendency toward a weakness of the flanks, though when he was two he looked rather like a filly.

It is about the quarters that Bold Ruler is exceptional. He owns two of the straightest hind legs in training, and his hocks are far nearer the ground than most horses; affording him remarkable length from hip to hock and astonishing leverage. He has a long pelvis. The muscular investiture of his propulsive parts is that of a middle distance runner par excellence, an homogeneous implementation that is esthetically more appealing than the muscle-bound aspect of the one dimensional sprinter.

The Wheatley champion’s bone is light, broad and flat, the tendons well fluted, with good definition of the knees, ankles and hocks and fore pasterns of the right length and angulation. His pasterns behind are a bit longer and lower than some might wish, which is said to be a recurrent family characteristic, to be seen in his kinsman Loser Weeper, a brother to Miss Disco who won the 10 furlongs Suburban Handicap. His knees are wide and closely knit viewed from the front, his hocks broad regarded from the side. The hoofs are black and sound. The croup slopes less abruptly than in many descendants of Nearco.

Humphrey Finney, equipped with a tape and standard, made some interesting comparisons of Bold Ruler and his arch rival, Gallant Man, last summer. He found that at 16 1 1/2 Bold Ruler was precisely a hand taller than the Belmont winner. Bold Ruler girthed 74 inches, Gallant Man 70 inches. The Wheatley colt’s length of rein is 52 inches, Gallant Man’s 46. Bold Ruler measured 48 inches from hip to hock, “The Man” 44 inches. The Nasrullah colt was 8 1/2 inches of bone below the knee, Gallant Man 8 inches. Those are the dimensions of “a good big horse and a good little horse.”

We have no hesitancy in saying Bold Ruler will one day furnish out into a slashing looking “stud horse.”


Bold Ruler raced one more season and was champion sprinter that year (Round Table was Horse of the Year in 1958). More importantly, Bold Ruler was the leading sire eight times, 1963-1969 and 1973 (Secretariat’s Triple Crown year).

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