Shuvee, 1970

Charles Hatton on 1970 champion older female Shuvee from the 1971 American Racing Manual.


A racemare of unique distinction is the Whitney Stones’ homebred Shuvee, the only one of her sex ever to capture the weight-for-age Jockey Club Gold Cup at 2 miles, for 50 years the ultimate classic on the American turf.

This limns her with an aura of isolated splendor, for this chronicler at least, her feat placing her above history. We have categorized her with “the only” Regret, the great four-mile mare Sotemia, and the phenomenal sprinter Pan Zareta, who won a record 76 races, for one of her sex, as one of the really outstanding racemares we have seen in more than a half-century as a racegoer.

Nearly everything possible in racing seems to have been done before, so that Shuvee’s singular achievement relieved the ennui of routine racing in 1970 as the one exceptional performance it produced.

Witnessed Sotemia’s Record 4-Mile Run

Shuvee’s attempt at perpetual motion is a mnemonic. We were playing hookey to go racing in 1912, but we vividly recall Sotemia carrying 119 pounds and beating Col. Holloway, Star Charter, Duval and other mere males in the Kentucky Endurance Stakes, setting a new American record of 7:10 4/5 for 4 miles which still stands. She won pricking her ears by 30 lengths, while two of the field had pulled up exhausted, and Duval bowed. Curiously, the mark she bettered was set by anothger mare, Lucretia Borgia’s 7:11, established with 85 pounds up and benefit of pacemakers.

Parenthetically, Maj. Algernon Daingerfield was at the Downs when Sotemia won and wrote a relative as follows regarding the mare with the four-mile bottom:

I have today witnessed the greatest race ever won in the history of the world—4 miles in 7:10 4/5—by the chestnut mare Sotemia. She was not in the least fatigued and could have run faster if required. She is of American breeding on both sides. Her sire (Locohatchee) is by Onondaga and her dam Ssarg is a daughter of Blue Grass Belle, by War Dance. The third dam is Ballet by Planet. She goes back to Wagner’s dame Maria West and is a triumph of American breeding.”

Pedigree Full of Heat Champions

Profound students of racing’s glamorous past will know this pedigree rolls with the deep rhythm of the heat champions now seen only in wood cuts.

Shuvee’s success in the Gold Cup was the most distinguishing route race by one of her sex since the advent of the tote, and through her granddam she gets a cross of Stimulus, who was inbred to Boston, ancestor also of Sotemia.

Sotemia was like Shuvee a large mare, almost as big about the girdle as the girth, and with straight hind legs, curvaceous quarters and short cannons. Also she had a breedy neck, coincidentally not unlike Regret’s, Pan Zareta’s and Shuvee’s. She was trained for Mrs. Livingston by Matt Feakes, who used to ride four-mile heats. Unfortunately, she was so indelicate and masculine as to go barren much of her stud days.

It really is nice to be able to report Shuvee descends from the so-called half-evolved American turf heroes Befo’ De Wah. Half-evolved indeed! Some of the moderns should be half so tough. There are even those who want to insist they were half-bred. If true then the underbred turf idols of the 19th century had more bottom than their overbred degenerates.

Perhaps a closer comparison to Shuvee’s Cup was afforded in 1921, when Col. E. R. Bradley’s indefatigable little bay Sunstar filly Bit o’ White, then just three, came to the end of the Louisville Cup, eyes blazing, flat jowls clamping the bit, flaring nostrils wrinkled in a snarl, well ahead of the horses. She ran two miles in new track record time of 3:22 3/5, beating the old mark by seven seconds. Shuvee was timed in 3:21 3/5. Neither was any writing race.

In 1925, the three-year-old filly Deeming beat the males at every pole going 2 ¼ miles in the Latonia Cup. In that lighthearted era, an occasional trainer amused himself tying a $100 bill in his horse’s tail. Deeming ran as if mistletoe were braided in her tail, running the field dizzy. But this was all long ago and far away, in another, more sporting culture.

Shuvee is the sort of mare to inspire confidence she can cope with the horses in almost any year. Add to her Gold Cup her incredible stretch run in the Diana, her resolution in winning the Beldame, the fact many thought her diabolically unlucky to lose the Woodward, and her class is obvious. Indeed, several sophisticated observers felt she merited Horse of the Year honors.

Earlier on, at three she had won the New York Racing Association’s Filly Triple Crown. But she could not cope with Gallant Bloom. The King Ranch filly had a suspect ankle, however, and did not train on after four early races at four.

They were antitypes, Shuvee larger and stronger than most males actually, while Gallant Bloom was relatively light and delicate, albeit a perfect racing tool. Shuvee was the campaigner, Gallant Bloom faring best with a respite between engagements, and pointing for a specific race. Like most of their sex, neither was reliable when she was horsing.

When injury removed Shuvee’s evil genius Gallant Bloom from her path, the Stone mare’s work was simplified, and she went on to take the honors.

Racing lore abounds in parallel cases. The 1925 Kentucky Derby winner Bubbling Over was one of the fastest horses ever seen, gifted with low, shuffling, daisy-cutting action that was thrilling to watch. He broke a track record at every pole in the Blue Grass Stakes, then breezed to Pompey, Display, Crusader, Light Carbine and the others in the Derby.

Proclaimed Super Horse

The Thoroughbred Record calmly proclaimed him a genuine super horse. No sooner said than he bowed, leaving the field to Display, Crusader, Espino and the rest, who worked out the lode of rich stakes.

Recently as in 1969, Majestic Prince could and did beat Arts and Letters, but he forfeited the title to the latter by his inability to stay sound. All racing is a survival, and the moral of this digression stresses the vital importance of soundness.

In addition to being a stakes winner of mark in each of her three campaigns, Shuvee has maneuvered unnoticed into position of posing a threat to Cicada as the world’s richest racemare of all time. Cicada amassed a grand ttoal of $783,674, while Shuvee has compiled earnings of $724,142, and is to continue active at five in 1971.

Ever a filly of amazon proportions, Shuvee emerged from Aiken winter quarters in the spring looking a hyperthyroid case. The dimensions of the average stall did not suit her, and she fit into her Aqueduct apartment like an elephant in a shoebox. She had grown into some 16.1 hands at the wither and was two horses wide.

The chestnut daughter of Nashua and Levee is what turfmen call “a cold weather horse.” She was so gross in the spring, she encountered four reversals before hitting her winning stride, turning the tables on the upstarting Singing Rain in the Top Flight on May 23.

But by then summer was upon her, and she ran distressingly bad races in the Vagrancy and Molly Pitcher. In the cool mountain air at Saratoga, she found her form once more and proceeeded to win a desperate race in deep mud for the Diana. She authenticated this showy performance in the Beldame, then went on to swerve into the fence when she appeared to have the Woodward won, and finally to account for the Cup.

No Need for Blinkers

Personality won many votes along with the Woodward, but we venture to think what Shuvee would have done except for trouble she made for herself. She was probing through inside “where angels fear to tread,” when it seemed suddenly to occur to her she might run up on the winner’s heels and ducked erratically, breaking her stride and interrupting her run. She neither wears nor needs blinkers, if that is what you are wondering.

Usually, Shuvee runs with audacity from any position, but her sire used to resent running behind horses, fielding the clods, and would flinch and sulk.

Shuvee sometimes comes through the stretch switching her tail, like some common jade of her species trying to sulk. She is not unlike But Why Not and some others in that she does this habitually, but runs on heartily and could not be more generous. She is a great favorite with trainer W. C. “Mike” Freeman’s staff, as you might imagine, and while she is feminine enough to be introspective she is not spoiled. Occasionally, when something displeases her, she will bite, especially if she is taut for a race. But she is no trouble really, and indeed, we know trainers of prima donnas who could wish their charges were half so civilized.

Many of her sex are built along pointy, Gothic lines, but Shuvee is early Grand Rapids, massive in all directions. Dr. M. A. Gilman particularized regarding her vital statistics in the chapter devoted to her last year. It was noted she stood 16.1 hands, girthed all of 76 inches, measured 42 inches from hip to hock and had 8 ¼ inches of bone below the knee.

She was a trifle larger at four, and had a breedy neck, so that one might mistake her for a mature male from a distance. Her dam Levee and sire Nashua were big bodied specimens, the former unnecessarily wide in the front fork, thus Shuvee may be said to come by her bulk naturally.

Her color is a golden chestnut, rather light than dark, while she is marked with a distinct star. Her legs are set on admirably and well under her, so that she is always in cadence, as the French would say. The length of her resolute down extended action is extraordinary, and as you might guess there are some rather shifty racing surfaces which do not suit her.

Our subject’s pedigree is an exercise in “breeding the best to the best,” and argues persuasively for “class in the dam.” The Oaks winner and champion Levee is in turn by the champion Hill Prince, a Horse of the Year. The next dam, Bourtai, was got by the fast, trick-kneed Stimulus, son of the inbred Ultimus, but from this family have come Delta, Smart Deb, Escutcheon and other good fillies.

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One Response to Shuvee, 1970

  1. Jim Culpepper says:

    “Half evolved turf heroes from before the war indeed!” Along with the purpose of “gaming, the blood horse of those days carried average sized men plus toys through the wars, across stretches of grassland that would swallow any european nation, and still be required to gallop around in a fire fight. Them that couldn’t stay sound did not breed.

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