Shuvee, 1971

Charles Hatton on 1971 champion older female Shuvee from the 1972 American Racing Manual.


Shuvee was among the stoutest racemares ever seen on the American turf in this century, and some of her achievements have a challenging singularity. Uniquely, she is the richest thoroughbred of her sex in history, having amassed $890,445 in four spot-resistant campaigns during which she was 16 times first, 10 times second and six times third in 44 starts. Again, none of her sex had won the two-mile, weight-for-age Jockey Club Gold Cup, this country’s premier test of stamina, until she brought it off at four in 1970.

Authenticating this feat she “blazed her name on a shining hour,” concluding her career with a second Cup triumph in smashing style on October 30, 1971. When it was seen Shuvee had her field in trouble keeping in touch swinging for home, the crowd rose to its feet and cheered her home in a Niagara of sound that made trainer Mike Freeman glad he had packed his ears with cotton. The fans were always devoted to her, many had backed her, and all were delighted with the poetic result of her finale.

In the course of her last campaign the Whitney Stones’ golden chestnut Amazon won the Top Flight and Diana as well, both also for the second time. Earlier on, when she was three, the aristocratic daughter of Nashua and Levee with the nonstop pedigree had carried off the NYRA’s Triple Crown for Fillies.

The most blasé sophisticate among racing men of taste must concede Shuvee was “one of the ones,” memorable enough to be categorized with Busher, Twilight Tear and Gallorette of the tote era. Actually, the mere mention of her names takes us back 50 years to the only Regret and the four-mile champion, Sotemia.

Turned in Several Sparkling Efforts

This is not fulsome praise, more subjective than objective, but in the interest of giving credit where it is due. It is expressed on behalf of all who admire an exceptional thoroughbred, we are sure. All racegoers must be profoundly grateful for the many absolutely riveting performances she afforded, and we cheerfully acknowledge the indebtedness.

Shuvee now has congratulated herself through warranting notice in these studies in a third edition of the American Racing Manual. Few of her species have the character, toughness of fibre and good fortune to command interest in a profile one season. Her reappearance is a testimonial to her class and in turn speaks eloquently for her sound breeding and thoughtful handling.

Personality is perhaps malapropos applied to any equine. The purists term this temperament. And yet veteran racing men are aware the species are almost unalike as people in their natures. There are the gentlemen and ladies among them, while others are full of low cunning and just plain common, given to all manner of evil tricks. Some are mettlesome and gay, others phlegmatic and even morose. They may be overbred and complicated, or underbred and degenerate.

In very many instances, the thoroughbred’s behavior patterns reflect the patience or want of it on the part of their familiars. A handler may spoil his charge by bullying, whipping and snatching him about, or again by indulging one who himself wants to be a bit of a tyrant.

Obviously, a plucky competitor has spirit. But there is no inflexible corollary between bad temper and racing capacity, though a neurotic and spooky animal or a sulker poses problems which often adversely influence his form.

If we may cite a few of the more bizarre specimens without being accused of treachery and character assassination, Dr. Fager occurs to us as horse who could easily have been made a difficult customer. Impetuous, imperious, conceited and hard-mouthed, he was also prodigiously strong. Willie Shoemaker with his light hands found him unmanageable. Mad Hatter was an arrant rogue and sulker, while Display was berserk at the barrier, if not quite mad. Conversely, there was Eight Thirty, who was galloped by a 90-pound man of 60. And old Peter Pan, who was ridden to town for the mail as a stud horse, and who was trustworthy as any babysitter.

Remember that many otherwise quite civil animals will become a bit irritable when tightened for a race.

It was never a question when progeny of Bull Lea were ready to run, for they became so tense they would reach over the bar of the stall to snap at bypassers. Always, they told Ben Jones when they wanted racing, as if he hadn’t got the message and needed prompting.

Good Racemares Often Tenacious

There is a quaint tradition of misanthropy among good racemares. It is a tradition Artful did nothing to controvert when she broke her Mexican groom’s arm, or when she was shipped to England to be bred to a celebrated stallion, and preserved her chastity tearing up the hobbles and clearing the breeding shed.

At length, this brings us to Shuvee. She is a daring and absolutely unflappable mare in the heat of conflict, almost literally tearing down the fence to get to Personality and bring him to terms in the 1970 Woodward. Her every fibre exudes self confidence and poise. But only when she is drawn for a race does she become the least bit snappish.

Actually, Shuvee was a great favorite with trainer Mike Freeman and his aides throughout her career. She showed only one or two little idiosyncrasies. She found the stretch run a wall of noise that could be distracting. She ran equipped with no prohibitive gear, but her ears were stuffed with cotton.

Many masculine type mares show no marked deviation from their best form when they are horsing, but Shuvee is not among them. Not to be indelicate, but she comes in season regularly in warm weather. As her form lapsed at such times, Freeman adopted a policy of affording her summer vacations.

Also, she was given to switching her tail in a drive, like a horse ready to sulk or beat a retreat. But she never turned it up, really. She had far too much competitive instinct for that. “Flagging” can be terribly disconcerting if one has a ticket on the horse, but it meant nothing ominous in the instance of Shuvee. Nor, one might add, in the case of But Why Not, who won an Arlington Classic in rather flamboyant style.

Shuvee is at once aware and composed, thus one does not wonder the stable entourage were so fond of her and found handling her so much good fun. She trained alone, and raced with no inhibitive equipment. Also she was a splendid doer, and retired perfectly sound, while fit enough to win a Jockey Club Gold Cup.

It is tempting to keep one such in training, but her people resisted, and in any case she had done quite enough. We should think it would have been impossible for her to improve on her striking Gold Cup success as an encore.

The will to win was obsessive, and rarely did she run a sorry race. As previously noted in these “petite histoires,” the only filly or mare of Shuvee’s time who appeared to be more capable was the King Ranch’s Gallant Bloom. A superb racing tool, Gallant Bloom repeatedly debited our heroine with defeat. But she was far less robust, less a proven stayer, and unsoundness rudely terminated her brilliant career.

They were antitypes. A fastidious doer with a suspicious ankle, Gallant Bloom required the most solicitous handling, but she could run with telling effect when pointed for a specific race. Shuvee was perhaps a bit less speedy and clever, but a far more durable campaigner and seemingly indefatigable. Gallant Bloom was wirehung, graceful as a ballet dancer, and with catlike agility. This was to her advantage when opposing Shuvee, enabling her to get the jump on the Stone filly.

Match them every week end, and we dare say Shuvee would have won the most races, and we wonder if the delicate Gallant Bloom could have come to taw a third time. This may seem cavalier, but it states the case fairly.

Shuvee is unexceptionable on the score of individuality and constitution, and her physique and breeding are equally recherche. She is a massive golden chestnut. To particularize, Dr. M. A. Gilman measured her at 16.1 hands, while she girthed a phenomenal 76 inches, measured 42 inches from hip to hock and boasted 8 ¼ inches of bone below the knee.

She is a big mare without being at all vulgar or coarse in any particular.

Head of Marvelous Refinement

Her neck is arched and breedy, so that she is readily mistaken for an entire horse from a distance, and she has a head of marvelous refinement, reflecting her high breeding. The jowls are deep and flat, the forehead prominent, the muzzle delicately modeled, the throatlatch clean and arching. A fairly prominent star is her only marking.

She forks up narrowly enough for a mare of such magnificent middle, has a deep, well-placed scapula, good length from elbow to knee, flat bone, fair pasterns and feet, and smooth coupling. There is no hint of weakness in the flank. On the contrary we should say. She emerged each spring looking like a mare heavy in foal and required considerable legging up.

Shuvee has formidable muscular investiture, of the long-staying sort, about the quarters, implementing the built-in propulsive thrust of her length from hip to hock.

Her action is head down, low and determined. She is the antithesis of the highflier. She has less verve than her ancient rival Gallant Bloom, but goes with relentless, pendulistic strokes and has won frequently by pulling out that little bit extra right on the post. As you might imagine, Shuvee prefers the traction afforded by glib, dry surfaces. She went swimmingly and lost her action on shifty surfaces at Delaware and Liberty Bell the year before last. But she negotiated mud with astonishing facility, as also did her dam.

Shuvee’s genealogy is a fascinating exercise in breeding the best to the best, and argues for class in the dam, if any further argument were necessary. As most know, her sire Nashua was a millionaire racehorse of the Nearco tribe through Nasrullah. He won the Hopeful, Futurity, Preakness (in record time), Belmont, a match against Swaps, the Gold Cup and other distinguished events. Mr. Fitz reckoned him “a natural stayer.”

Nashua had speed on demand, but disliked fielding clods racing inside, while his illustrious daughter would run through a wall. Levee was an Oaks champion, and is a champion producer.

Levee is a half-sister to Delta, Bayou and Banta and her own foals include a sister to Shuvee in Nalee, who was in the best class, not to mention the useful Royal Gunner and the clever turf course performer A. T’s Olie.

This family was bred up from humble origins through shrewdly selective breeding. It has improved from generation to generation, Shuvee marking its apogee.

Hal Price Headley used to say, accurately, that “a good mare is better than a life annuity.” And he would add, “In the old days, families fortunate enough to have one of these ‘blue hens’ would as soon part with one of their daughters as one of the mare’s fillies. In fact, the only way one could get one of these fillies was to marry into the breeder’s family.” As a postscript, he gave fillies from Alcibiades’ family to various of the Headley family as wedding presents.

Excellent Production Record

Levee’s production record challenges comparison. As we recall, Jersey Lightning had five foals, all of whom won, four of them stakes winners, including Regret and Thunderer, who won the Derby and Futurity the same year.

Fairy Gold had 11 foals, nine winners and five stakes winners, among them Fair Play, Friar Rock and Flitter Gold. Frillery had 11 foals, seven winners, four of them stakes winners, including Bunting. Miss Kearney produced 12 foals, 10 winners, and included Zev among her four stakes winners. Marguerite had nine foals, five of whom won, four of them in stakes company, including Gallant Fox. La Troienne dropped six winners in six foals, four of them stakes winners, among them Black Helen and Bimelech. Rose Leaves produced nine foals, six winners, and five stakes winners, including Bull Lea. Margaret Lawrence had nine winners from as many foals, five of them stakes winners, including Lawrin. And Filante had 16 foals, nine winners, seven of these, including Fenelon, in stakes races.

But we digress. Since the grand idea is to improve the breed, our compliments to A. B. Hancock, who developed Shuvee’s matriarchy, and to the Whitney Stones, who bred the dual Jockey Club Gold Cup winner.

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