Buckpasser, 1966

I resume with Charles Hatton’s description of 1966 Horse of the Year Buckpasser from the 1967 American Racing Manual.


Buckpasser was infinitely the most horse seen during the season of 1966. He swept all before him with fine, dust-spurning disdain for age, distance and tracks. One suspects he would have “done” in any four out of five other seasons, and we can recall a good many since any other was esteemed as highly as Buckpasser is in the present day.

During his tour de force Buckpasser:

(A) Became the first horse to win $1,000,000 and two and three ($1,218,874).

(B) Set a world mile record of 1:32 3/5 in the Arlington Classic.

(C) Beat the best aged horses who could be mustered against him in the Brooklyn Handicap, the Jockey Club Gold Cup, and Woodward Stakes.

(D) Won 12 of 13 races including important stakes.

(E) Was voted the Horse of the Year, champion handicapper, and champion three-year-old.

Missed Triple Crown Events

A quarter crack precluded his starting in any of the American Triple Crown events though he conditioned most racing men to think he certainly would have inscribed his name alongside those of Sir Barton, Gallant Fox, Omaha, War Admiral, Whirlaway, Count Fleet, Assault and Citation could he have started.

He was in that exalted class, but there are quite enough things to render unto this Caesar without any speculation.

Champions there are, every year, but Buckpasser is interesting equally to reviewers, pedigree pundits and the layman. He is highly individualistic, not to say an odd colt psychologically.

We have had a great many rather unwilling and notorious work horses, but Buckpasser was like two different animals in the morning and afternoon. He has been three furlongs in :38 driving in the morning, disgusting his familiars. Then, they have been incredulous as they saw him run down the keenest competition to be found in 3,000 miles in the afternoons.

Jockey Braulio Baeza has declared that if Buckpasser will guarantee to try, he can guarantee his mount can beat any horse he can see.

There seems to be some rapport between horse and rider, considering Buckpasser’s record for regularity. Trainer Eddie Neloy does not usually consult with any riders regarding his prerogative of starting a horse, but he is glad to have Baeza’s suggestions in the instance of Buckpasser. We suppose you will remember, with a shudder, the dismal work Ogden Phipps’ homebred turned in at Rockingham Park for Baeza just before the New Hampshire Sweepstakes Classic last summer. It was largely on Baeza’s sound advice Neloy reneged and did not start Buckpasser.

May Not Have Liked Track Conditions

Buckpasser has not up to now behaved without charm in his races. His reluctance at Salem has been ascribed to a distaste for track conditions. Considering his virtuosity, it seems more likely he was telling his people he had had it for the moment.

He has always been a blinker horse and runs from the whip, though Baeza seems only to use it in order to alert the colt the time has come to get a-go-go as the younger generation would say. Between races, he has depleted several horses employed to simulate a contest for him during working hours. His whimsicality is more becoming a scion of Sickle or of Fair Play than a son of Tom Fool. There never was a more intensely competitive, almost overzealous campaigner than Tom Fool. He ran sans blinkers and used to drag Ted Atkinson to the post and into a stall in the gate well ahead of the others in his eagerness for the conflict.

Buckpasser gets good marks in deportment at all other times, however. He has poise and composure, never turning a hair, in the paddock and on parade, and he has quite an aristocratic air around the training stable.

One can hear almost anything clinical he cares to listen to concerning any horse in training, but the record of Buckpasser’s 1966 campaign insists he is quite sound enough, except for the quarter crack he developed as early favorite for the Florida Derby and which recurred shortly after the start of the ’67 season.

Obviously, he is what horsemen call a good shipper, with his Chicago foray to win the Mid-America Triple in mind, and a good doer, as no delicate, picayune feeder would have maintained his form throughout a campaign of such severity. Also, he seems to handle weight well, for he won the American Derby carrying 128 pounds. Now he is in the hands of the handicappers, this last a weighty consideration.

Usually, one must investigate a pedigree at some length to explain a horse’s class. Buckpasser’s is rather refreshing, almost singular, in the sense that it is unnecessary to look any farther than the breeding line on the program to know the source of his capacity. He is by the Suburban hero Tom Fool out of the Suburban heroine Busanda. Tom Fool was Horse of the Year, 1953, and Busanda beat the mere males again in a Saratoga Cup. Of course, this is the family of La Troienne.

Tom Fool’s Sire Was Futurity Winner

In case you have forgotten, Tom Fool was  by Menow, “Hal Price Headley’s little sprinting horse,” as William Woodward called him. Menow won a Futurity and Massachusetts Handicap and came of another strong female line, that of the durable little chestnut Alcibiades, a descendant of Roi Herode whose dam “Uncle Price” won on the toss of a coin. Menow’s male line runs back through Pharamond II to Phalaris and introduces a cross of Selene, Lord Derby’s noted racemare and the dam also of Sickle and Hyperion.

Pharamond II was a menial, a trial horse in training, while his brother Sickle was a crack miler and Hyperion was their half-brother. Capt. Cecil Boyd-Rochfort years ago saw the end of the Phalaris line in its native island, but it has gone from strength to strength here.

August Belmont and other bloodstock growers have expressed a preference for refined little mares of the most effeminate sort as prospective broodmares, but Busanda marks an exception to the rule. Indeed, there have been many exceptions, remembering High Bid, Traffic Court, Conniver, and others on back to Ann Fieff, the dam of Virgil’s unbeaten and uncaught black son, Tremont. In none of his races was any horse able to show his head before Tremont’s once the flag fell. And yet his dam, a daughter of Alarm, was so large and coarse she was rejected on the premise she could not possibly be a thoroughbred. For that matter, Commando’s dam, Emma C., was such a hulking, vulgar looking brute, J. R. Keene ordered her off his farm.

One finds it difficult to understand this superstition considering the additional roominess and milk that is normally expected from big mares. At any rate, Busanda in training was above 16 hands, rather masculine in appearance and totally unlike her round little sire War Admiral. The last named was out of a typically small, rotund Sweep mare called Brushup.

Busanda’s dam was Businesslike, a daughter of Blue Larkspur, who was horse size, out of La Troienne herself. The pedigree has two crosses of Teddy in the fourth remove, if that matters.

All of which becomes fairly idle when it is noted Buckpasser has two winners of the Suburban, which Jack Campbell considered “America’s greatest race” for his sire and dam.

Physically, Buckpasser is an improvement over either his heavily quartered and rather short coupled sire or his tall and angular dam. He is, in appearance, a classical specimen of the sort one used to see in the Hamptons, on the order of Persimmon, Bay Ronald and Son-in-Law. This is to say he is cast in a tall and elegant mould. One imagines they would hymn his praises at Newmarket.

At the outset of his three-year-old season, Buckpasser was unfurnished and from a distance looked like a filly. It speaks for his constitution and handling that he thrived during his arduous campaign so that he stripped for the Woodward resembling a four-year-old, having thickened and spread out across the hips, while his running gear and the delineation about the head and neck had fined down admirably.

Buckpasser is a true bay, with black points extending well above his knees and hocks.

Someone has said that every horse has 100 faults but he would be a particularly captious critic who would wish to change Buckpasser to any marked degree.

Dr. Manuel A. Gilman measured Buckpasser last autumn and his findingss might be called the anatomy of class. Compared with his two-year-old measurements, the colt’s vital statistics are as follows:

Height                                                   16 hands, 1 3/4 inches     16 hands, 2 1/4 inches

Point of shoulder to point of shoulder              16 inches                       16 inches

Girth                                                                     75 1/2 inches                76 inches

Withers to point of shoulder                             28 1/2 inches                28 1/2 inches

Elbow to ground                                                  40 1/2 inches               40 1/2 inches

Point of shoulder to point of hip                        48 inches                       48 inches

Point of hip to point of hip                                  25 inches                       27 inches

Point of hip to point of hock                               43 inches                        43 inches

Point of hip to buttock                                        24 inches                        24 inches

Poll to withers                                                      43 inches                        43 inches

Buttock to ground                                                58 inches                        58 1/2 inches

Point of shoulder to buttock                               66 1/2 inches                 70 inches

Circumference of cannon under knee                8 1/2 inches                   8 1/2 inches

It will be readily seen Buckpasser’s development was normal and that he was measurably stronger across the hips, in the girth and had lengthened bodily–for his three-year-old campaign.

On this subject of conformation, our early mentor, Billy Walker, who rode Ten Broeck against Mollie McCarthy and won the Derby on Baden-Baden, gave us a few pointers which may be of interest, and even of some value, one hopes.

For instance, he noted that the casual racegoer seems to confuse a large chest with stamina. Often such conformation marks the sprinter. The chest provides room for the heart and lungs, but he horse breathes from behind the girth, with his diaphragm and back ribs, which serve as a bellows.

If the last rib is short, the horse will be slack and weak muscled in the loins, and not well adapted to breathing well at long distances.

Size of Intestinal Mass Affects Speed

If the intestinal mass is great, it will hamper the action of the lungs. It also tends to move the center of gravity far back on the torso and thus increases stability of equilibrium, but reduces speed.

The abdomen should follow the chest’s contour. If it is too tucked up it indicates overwork or too excitable a temperament.

Horses with wide chests are rarely stayers.

A long dock indicates inferior breeding.

Any extraordinary switching of the tail indicates jadiness. Switch-tail mare are of little use, generally.

In order for a horse to propel his body forward to best advantage he requires a humerus not much removed from a horizontal position, and the more upright the femur the better.

The softer the ground, the less sloping the shoulder and pastern need be, but horses with upright shoulders and pasterns cannot act on hard ground and rarely stay sound.

The bone should be subordinate to the muscle in size.

High castle horses have thin tails.

Black or brown horses withstand heat better.

Horses with white pasterns are most likely to have cracked feet.

A wide forehead is very desirable. It indicates free breathing, a large brain pan, a large spine and a good nervous system.

If the ears follow the eyes, the horse is likely to be clever and never put a foot down wrong. If the ears are without side play the animal may be deaf. A bulging eye indicates short sight.

A long neck suggests length of muscle to draw the shoulder forward. The more one seeks speed, the longer the desired neck. (Lucullite and Roseben had great rein length.) A ewe neck affects handiness adversely, but not speed.

A heavy chest overloads the forehead.

Undue length of body is detrimental to speed; consequently, one should seek round chests.

A horse should be like a ballet dancer and move as if he has no knees. The straighter the lead knee, the longer the stride.

Finally, Walker was a firm believer in the credo: “Action means power, time and money.”

There simply is no particular in which Buckpasser is disappointing on the score of conformation. He is larger and better balanced than Citation, his pasterns less lengthy than Count Fleet’s, to make a couple of classical, if heretical, comparisons. He has not the fluency of action one saw in Old Rosebud or Sarazen, but he gets his head lower and has less staggy action than had Man o’ War, who was a far more generous animal.

Whether a good big horse can beat a good little horse has been debated in turf circles. If ever a horse had perfect running gear it was John P. Grier at the time he unwisely challenged Man o’ War in the historic 1920 Dwyer. Grier was a genuine little horse and got his head before Big Red’s a furlong out, forcing Clarence Kummer to draw his whip. But Man o’ War was a hand higher than the H. P. Whitney colt and his superior size and length of stride made him the winner.


Buckpasser actually won 13 of 14 starts at three in 1966. Perhaps Hatton wrote this piece before Buckpasser’s final start of the year, in which he won the Malibu Stakes on December 26 at Santa Anita.

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