Ta Wee, 1969

Charles Hatton on 1969 champion sprinter Ta Wee from the 1970 American Racing Manual.


William L. McKnight’s homebred three-year-old filly Ta Wee is an ingratiating individual. Even as a yearling she impressed her blase developer, John Nerud, as a filly who might turn out to be of superior quality. This is not easy. Nerud named her Ta Wee, which is Sioux for Beautiful Girl, then asked her to vindicate his judgment, which she did with gusto as she proved the champion sprinter of ’69.

That Ta Wee is limited as to stamina is cheerfully conceded on all sides. Sheer, blinding speed is her forte. Also, she is intensely competitive, and had fun working off her aggressions on others of the equine fast set, winning eight of 10 races and $170,663.

Eight Stakes Triumphs in Campaign

Her stakes conquests included the Jasmine, Prioress, Comely, Miss Woodford, Test, Fall Highweight (under 130 pounds), Interborough and Vosburgh. She liked to hear her feet rattle, as they say on the mall of shedrow. But it didn’t seem to make much odds what weight the handicapper could think of burdening her with, and some of her imposts appeared sardonic if well warranted. She dispatched her fields with Rabelasian gusto. Nor was she awed by the opposite gender of her division, and if some of them were older than herself she made them feel downright superannuated.

Breeding pundits assure one thing was all written in the stars, or rather by the stars in her pedigree. As even the tyro knows, the blocky bay daughter of Intentionally and Aspidistra, by Better Self, is a half-sister to the impetuous Dr. Fager, not to mention that the astonishing producer Aspidistra also foaled the stakes winners A. Deck and Chinatowner, and the winners Perplexing, Aforethought and Captivate.

Dam Had Little to Recommend Her

It is perhaps debonair of us to lift the portcullis on grim reality, but Aspidistra turned out infinitely better at stud than she had any right to be, based on either her unfashionable pedigree or dismal racing record. For the sake of candor she could not beat a fat man kicking a barrel up a hill and was a workaday plater who won two little races and $5,000 in 14 chances. In fine, a performer of staggering medicority.

But then the Stud Book contains many analogies, reflecting Sarazen’s kitty-cornered little dam Rush Box cost $30, Wise Counsellor’s dam Rustle was auctioned for $100 while carrying him, Alsab’s dam brought about $70 at auction, and Escutcheon could not be given away.

As the charming anecdote goes, McKnight’s office staff hit on some notion of pooling their money and claiming a horse to present him as a birthday gift. Their agent did not get the plater of his choice and the mare was an alternative. Nobody saw any championship foals in her horoscope, and indeed the late Max Hirsch seemed to recall she originally was a King Ranch cull. Nevertheless, Aspidistra came equipped with some curious combination of genes which made her a carrier of the factors for speed. Her granddam Tilly Kate is recalled as a fast mare who ran on the top. But she never made anybody turn La Troienne’s picture to the wall and to pretend there was much back of her in pedigree would be insupportable.

After Wise Counsellor, Carry Back and so many of their ilk, one would think pedigree pundits could accept nature’s little pranks. Certainly Ta Wee’s sire, Intentionally, had every right to get runners on the score of pedigree and performance. He was the cleverest miler of his day, an agent of Man o’ War in tail male, and came of the wonderful Balancoire II family of Equipoise, Seabiscuit and all that crowd.

Intentionally Get Want to Run Long

Except that while Intentionally liked the first 8 furlongs best and Ta Wee has a short tether, Nerud notes, “Most all the Intentionallys I have had wanted to run long. That is their inclination.” Ta Wee’s emergence as a sprint champion does not place her above history, recalling Affectionately, Pan Zareta and Maskette. But one may say she is exceptional. And nature cast her in the mold of precisely the sort of performer she has proved. She is built along the underslung, muscular lines of a sub chaser. From a distance, her dam looks like a fat little stallion. Physically and temperamentally she is quintessentially the flier, a bay with black points. She will mature at about 15.3 and is two horses wide. A star and short stripe are her only conspicuous markings.

Dr. Fager buffs will look in vain for any physical resemblance to that comparatively leggy specimen in Ta Wee. She is feminine about the head, with a bulge between her kind eyes, and a placid disposition to match. Dr. Fager wanted to be a bit of a bully. Her neck is of moderate length and conjoins with the wither and scapula fluently. While she is not loaded about the shoulders, the muscular investiture is pronounced. We have seen more upright and less angulated humerus.

Fore Ankles on Large Side

The withers are rather low than high and she is broad of back and loin. . . . Her fore ankles are on the biggish side, as are those of most extremely fast horses. The development of her overstated hind quarters is phenomenal, more accustomed to those who habituate the quarter-horse meetings. There is a guarantee of tremendous thrust or “dig,” as they say in turf circles, about her loins, stifles and gaskins.

She sometimes neglects to break with quite the elan one would expect, and is spectacularly out of touch early. But once on stride, she “can run so fast you can’t see her legs,” as Uncle Billy Walker said of Old Rosebud’s sire Uncle. Her action is rather collected than long. Some of her familiars thought she was striding farther in the fall than earlier in her campaign, and cherish a hope she will return to colors to eventually prove somewhat more than “a mere sprinter.” But very possibly the wish is father of the thought.

She races without blinkers and is thoroughly genuine. In fact, both manager Nerud and trainer “Scotty” Schulhofer find her an enormous pleasure to have around the barn. It is a question who shall have her in the future, the stud manager or the conditioner. She has run under a great deal of weight in the course of her tour de force, and it is conceivable a healthy foal from her would assay more than she might earn training on another season “waiting for Arts and Letters’ retirement.”

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