Round Table, 1958

Charles Hatton on 1958 Horse of the Year Round Table from the 1959 American Racing Manual.

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Excellence, in any competition, stirs the emotions. The racegoing public’s response to performers of unusual talent ranges from a grudging acknowledgment in those of “nil admirari” bent to the conscientious respect of the blasé and the spontaneous regard of sentimental horse lovers. A champion admits of no indifference. He inevitably molds turfgoers’ opinions, and the more divergent the better at the turnstile and in the tote. In a broad sense, this is his most valuable contribution to the sport. Among Horses of the Year, few if any were a greater asset than was Kerr and Company’s busy and itinerant 1958 American champion Round Table.

Round Table worked hard and heightened the box office appeal of 20 events at nine track in this country and Mexico in a season which saw him making two transcontinental campaigns. In the process, he stirred mixed emotions, even in those sophisticates who strive to be objective in their attempts to intellectualize the form. This ambivalence was a good thing. The iconoclasts tacitly recognized Round Table’s quality even while handicapping against him, as surely as his partisans in finding for him.

In late years racing has been fortunate to develop intense rivals who evoked profound admiration for different gifts and skills. It is a rare generation graced by three such performers as Round Table,, Bold Ruler and Gallant Man, all foals of 1954. The ’57 Horse of the Year, Bold Ruler, appealed irresistibly to those who are most impressed by horses capable of making light of heavy burdens. Gallant Man was the turf’s idol to those who genuflect before a superior order of stamina. Round Table came to symbolize the thoroughbred’s durability and toughness of fibre. He is celebrated most by those who consider “bottom” the quality which his species most lacks. Whether consciously or subconsciously we are prone to value highest those attributes we consider rarest.

Sticklers for a surpassing ability to carry crushing weights successfully in competition with rivals in the top class will doubtless feel that Bold Ruler earned the honors again in ’58 despite the brevity of his campaign. If it is any solace, Round Table’s citation is a certificate of the high caliber of the competition in which Bold Ruler originally won the title, since they are of the same generation. No evidence can be adduced that the understudy has succeeded the star. Rather the mantle fell on his sturdy shoulders when a splintered cannon enforced Bold Ruler’s retirement in midseason. Surely the stoutness which enabled Round Table to carry on should be rewarded.

Even as a three-year-old Round Table was hailed for that quality which the English define with the homely term “guts” in the stable and class in the parlor. His intrinsic soundness and well integrated temperament carried him with singular monetary success through another searching campaign. Whether Round Table could have beaten Bold Ruler or Gallant Man under certain terms and conditions is conjectural and so it will remain. Regarding them dispassionately, there is honor enough for all three in his special province. This is neither an apology, which would be an injustice to all three, nor a sublimation of the result of the poll.

Won $1,336,489 to Top Money Winners

Materialists cite Round Table as the winner of $1,336,489, more money than any other thoroughbred has amassed since Bonnie Prince Charlie and his merrie men let loose the first “running horses” on this planet, at Newmarket centuries ago. This alone would assure him “an individuality in a world of collectivity.” But one cites earnings as a basis for the comparioson of horses’ merit at his own risk. Racing men have been known to be provoked to paroxysms of indignation when it is brought in as evidence. Cynics are fond of saying that Round Table only went shopping in the port’s vast supermarket of $100,000 events on bargain days, when these might be cheaply won. It is for the basic sturdiness which enabled the Kerr colt to compile his unprecedented total that he is celebrated. He has cumulative if not collateral form in his favor.

Your true student of racing is a romantic realist, testing and tasting the life of the tracks with enormous gusto, and these Balzacs of “the form” voted Round Table a place in these profiles last year. He then was classified as the champion turf course performer. This distinction he was awarded, along with handicap and Horse of the Year honors, again in the “final assize” at the end of ’58. Now that his shadow has lengthened to encompass three categories, Round Tables accrues vastly more interest and importance. Nor has his star set, it may be added, since he has continued in training for a fourth campaign before being retired to stud at his birthplace, Claiborne Farm, in the rolling, succulent Blue Grass meadows of Kentucky’s Bourbon County.

No story can be considered complete which does not “begin at the beginning,” as Alice was advised in Wonderland, to make an apt analogy. To abridge reportorial rote in Round Table’s instance would to be deprive him of an emerging fillip of “human interest” as his origin identifies him with the Queen’s Royal Stud. This enhances his appeal to loyal subjects by the millions where the sun never sets. Indeed Elizabeth II is among his fans.

Probes Terse Pedigree

Something of the romance of the sport always lingers behind the terse pedigrees and charts, if only one probes a bit, anecdotage which is the tang of racing, so often missed in this rushing, crowded age. Round Table’s regal quartering derives from his dam, Knight’s Daughter, a mare by Sir Cosmo that A. B. Hancock bought from Her Majesty for about $10,800. This was at bleak Newmarket. “I had just paid a lot of money for the Hyperion mare Hydrangea and had no notion of buying another then,” Hancock recalls. “But I saw Knight’s Daughter led out for the buyers’ inspection and I liked her immediately. She had won three races as a two-year-old and split a pastern in her only other start. She was eight at sales time and the Queen had bred two stakes-class horses from her in Treasure Hunt and Knight’s Commander.”

Knight’s Daughter comes of a fine old staying family developed by the Royal House, one that produced horses of classic order in Aureole, Hypericum and Angelola.

Sir Cosmo’s name in a pedigree is interpreted as a one-dimensional sprinting influence. The Queen had bred him to Feola, Knight’s Daughter’s dam, to “soup up” a line verging on what are called dead stayers. The happy combination of speed and stamina she sought did not result. It rarely does when two individuals of such marked opposite characteristics are mated. Far from oblivious of this, Hancock bred his acquisition to Princequillo, a St. Simon horse who is a renowned sire of classicists. Princequillo is by the French Prince Rose out of the Irish Cosquilla, by Papyrus, and he was bred by Laudy Lawrence, one of the most fastidious and selective of contemporary bloodstock breeders.

By inserting Sir Cosmo’s name in precisely the right juxtaposition to so much stamina in Round Table’s pedigree, Hancock achieved precisely the alloy to equip this product of Claiborne with the dash for our headlong style of racing. Round Table is a felicitous combination of genes. This is always arrived at more by happenstance than design, as simple mathematics attest. The breeder can only make such combinations possible and can never determine them absolutely, which is why men find the mystery of bloodstock breeding so inscrutable and endlessly challenging and fascinating.

Breeders, as Hanock will be among the first to admit, can only minimize the chances of failure through selectivity. The rest is faith, or wish neurose if you will. This is a Metaphysical and nothing can be created nor accomplished which does not imply it. Science works almost entirely on the terrain of faith and only in that degree is breeding scientific. We are prone to think of faith as theological, but it is a condition of life itself. Savants define it as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable and yet it is the talisman which made the jet age possible.

Attracted Attention in Breeders’ Futurity

But we digress. Hancock raced Round Table at two, when he first attracted attention by winning the Breeders’ Futurity rather cheekily with an unexpected show of verve and dash, though his breeder notes, “He was within one-fifth of a second of the track record each time he caught a surface on which he could gain traction. He runs directly off his hocks.”

When Round Table had just turned three in Florida, it chanced that Travis Kerr sent trainer Willie Molter to Hialeah Park to talent-scout Federal Hill, another who “liked to hear his hooves rattle,” for racing in the West, where the tracks are pasteboard. Unable to obtain Federal Hill, the trainer bought Round Table for a reported $175,000 and 20 per cent of his value at stud. He is to be returned to Claiborne the first of October in ’59, to enter the stud in ’60. Meanwhile, Kerr and Company already have purchased prospective mates for him.

Although she sold Knight’s Daughter, the Queen always evinced a lively interest in Round Table’s fortunes and there was much to please her in the record he compiled in 1958. In the course of the season he won $662,780, a new mark for a single campaign. He set or equaled track records seven times. He deployed from California to Florida in the spring, back to New Jersey and newNYork in the autumn, looking in on Chicago tracks. In lengthening his impressive skein of stakes successes he won under 130 or more pounds seven times.

Round Table gave so many splendid performances it would be idle to attempt identifying one as having “set a seal.” But it is questionable whether ever another horse ran a mile as fast as he under as much as 132 pounds when he took Hollywood’s Argonaut Handicap in a showy 1:34 3/5. Only a very comfortable shipper, and adaptable and even-tempered individual, could have withstood such rigorous campaigning. The prerequisite of class is understood in this abridged catechism. In the course of his career Round Table learned to accommodate his bold action to racing in a variety of contexts, so that it is no longer supposed trainer Molter must “carry his track around with him.” Round Table remains a bit partial to firm footing, but only in the degree that 90 per cent of his species runs best in such going. It affords them confidence. The Princequillos often improve as Round Table did, physically and professionally with maturity and racing experience.

Won Fifteen Races as a Three-Year-Old

As a three-year-old Round Table won 15 of 22 races, including the Bay Meadows Derby, Blue Grass, Will Rogers, El Dorado, Cinema, Hollywood Gold Cup, Westerner, American Derby, United Nations, Hawthorne Gold Cup and Malibu Sequet. At four, he accounted for the Hawthorne Cup again, the Arlington Handicap, Laurance Armour, Arch Ward, Argonaut, Caliente, Gulfstream, Santa Anita, Maturity and five other engagements in his arduous campaign of 20 starts.

Toward the close of his ’58 campaign Round Table suffered several reversals, Clem defeating him in the United Nations and Woodward. But he was distinctly the one to beat in any race in which he engaged. Under any and all conditions the onus of proof of even transitory superiority fell upon his rivals. He has been categorized as one of the most sagaciously managed champions of late years, with reference to his avoidance of Gallant Man in California. But few horsemen of the present day are so valorous that they quixotically go about looking for trouble. It is no cynicism to say the aesthetic of Round Table is money, a pragmatic policy of taking the cash and letting the credit go. As it turned out, he was awarded the highest credit for winning the most cash, even idealistic voters, the Utopic classicists, recognizing this is not easy. Round Table’s objective was the same goal established for virtually all the 30,000 horses in training.

Smallest of His Transcendent Class

The anatomy of Round Table equipped him well for the long, rough road down which his monetary muse led him. He will serve nicely to illustrate that the most valuable things often come in small packages. Kerr and Company’s champion is a charming individual and perhaps the smallest specimen of his transcendent class to have graced the racing stage in many seasons. A David if you please. One with the corky and audacious demeanor to suggest that his diminutive frame contains a great heart. Round Table is a scant 15.3 hands at the withers. There are many larger thoroughbreds who have yet to come of racing age. Bur rivals a hand taller have found the Kerr colt an opponent of unremitting courage in stretch duels.

Round Table’s riders agree that he is as steady as a clock, a cooperative racing “tool” uncomplicated by any foibles. Racing is his business and he seems to have almost as much grasp of it as any of his familiars. His manner in the paddock, on parade and at the post is one of poise and composure. In the race itself he is an assured technician rather than one to squander his resources in some needless exuberance. He is at all times sober and controlled, usually conserving his energies for the last, best furlongs.

A dark bay or brown with black points, Round Table’s only marking is a filigree of white around the near white coronary band. He is vaguely like Dedicate and Misty Morn in that they are all fairly typical of the Princequillos and compensate for their economy of size by being balanced like a see-saw. The captious might consider his hocks too far behind him. And yet he handles weight with a facility which denies that this angulation is exaggerated to a fault. His oblique shoulder is a study and he has a round, well-ribbed middlepiece which fuses naturally with a short, sturdy back. He girths 72 inches.

Round Table’s forelegs are set on well. They are neither too wide nor too narrow at the brisket and he has no tendency to tie in at the elbows. This affords him a fine liberty of action and the coordination to accelerate on demand or recover quickly when impeded. His cannons are shot and flat; indeed, they are unusually short in relation to the length of forearm, so there is less tendon to bow. The knees are closely knit and the pasterns at the best approved angle, with length enough to afford a resiliency of action relieving the joints on jarring surfaces. His hoofs are black and appear sound, the coronary bands well formed.

Round Table has good rein length, a neat throatlatch, a bold, brown eye and delicately modeled ears having the inward turn characteristic of the St. Simons. His profile is slightly convex. The jowls are flat and deep, completing a picture of “strength of character” if ever the term is applicable to thoroughbred physiognomies.

Round Table’s forearm, gaskin and the semimembranous muscling about the bow of the quarters are neither overstated, bulging like a sprinter’s, nor remarkably long and stringy. His muscular investiture throughout suggests the middle distance performer par excellence, which is certainly no deceptive. He developed from three to four into a “big little horse.” While it is noted that his format is associated with racing middle distances it would be a mistake to infer he is wanting in stamina. To the contrary nobody has yet written races which are too big for him. We incline to a theory his failure in the 10 furlongs of the Woodward was too bad to be true bill. He won repeatedly at the distance.

Perhaps the Kerr champion’s salient virtue physically is his proportionally deep and well-laid scapula and the density of bone about the limbs. It is often deplored by our breeders that soundness and disposition are becoming increasingly rare qualities in our modern day thoroughbred. Molter is authority for it Round Table has never missed a meal nor seen a sick day. Round Table makes an interesting prospective sire principally because he has these attributes “in excelsia.” He should exert a strengthening influence on the breed when finally he is retired. For all his lack of size he is physically and intuitively a high-class racehorse. There are not many.

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Round Table did indeed “exert a strengthening influence on the breed.” Alas, that “influence” (or “value,” if you will) wanes after awhile.

Round Table ranked 21st (after Damascus) among the most popular sires in the fourth generation of all weanlings, yearlings, and two-year-olds sold in North America in 1999-2002. He showed up 3,614 times among those 54,000+ foals, compared to 3,679 times for Damascus. A synopsis of his results among 3,614 those foals follows:

xxxxxxxxxxxxxP1      P2       P3      P4      P5      P6      P7      P8     Totals

Price Index     0.05   0.69    1.27   0.97   0.75   1.09   0.85   1.31    1.01

PPI (result)     0.00   0.56   0.91   1.06   0.37   0.80   0.87   1.16   0.86

His prices were above average at P3, P6, and P8, enough to be above average overall (barely at 1.01). His results were above average at P4 and P8. P4 and P7 were the only two positions at which his results exceeded the expectations of his prices. His overall results of 0.86 were well below his overall Price Index of 1.01. Pretty much par for the course after four generations.

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3 Responses to Round Table, 1958

  1. fmitchell07 says:

    Interesting to read that Hatton considered Round Table the smallest of this crop. I was under the impression that Gallant Man was smaller, and actually 15.3 isn’t small. It isnt’ big, but 15.3 to 16.1 is pretty much the “average horse.” Oh, well, it was good to read about the old boy and to hear a smidgin’ quote from Bull Hancock. You can nearly count on fingers and toes the number of times he’s actually quoted saying something, rather than just paraphrased from memory or hearsay.
    Nice job.

  2. boojum says:

    I’ll pass on the compliments to CH.

  3. Pingback: Knight’s Daughter Female Line | Boojum's Bonanza

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