Bowl of Flowers, 1960

Charles Hatton on 1960 champion two-year-old filly Bowl of Flowers from the 1961 American Racing Manual.


“I am simply mad about my Sailor fillies,” Mrs. Dodge Sloane confessed, smiling as she thought of them, while making light conversation about her horses under the cathedral elms in Saratoga’s pleasant paddock last summer. The gracious Brookmeade lady did not particularize, but when New York racing returned to the city from its resort holiday, one surmised she might have been thinking of Bowl of Flowers.

At season’s end, Bowl of Flowers was voted unanimously, like Hail to Reason, the Triangle Publications’ champion of the two-year-old fillies. Four of the partisans of the lovely chestnut who won the National Stallion, Gardenia, Frizette, $198,706 and six of eight starts were inspired to rate her over Hail to Reason when it came to a question of the best two-year-old of the year irrespective of the sexes. This was a bit thick, perhaps, but one can understand the sentiment and confidence she evoked, and we think that nobody will care to deny she might have beaten many more colts than might beat her, though she played only with the girls.

Comparison to Other Champions

In considering the champions of the various divisions from year to year, the question is always one of how he or she would have compared with those of the recent past. It is one which arises quite naturally. While the sentimentalists compare impressions, and the realists the record, we all know it is idle and the question is unanswerable. To each his own champion.

William Woodward Sr. and P. A. B. Widener perceived that the thoroughbred sport is in a sense an art form, and William Somerset Maugham, discussing art, tells us, “We should not worry if the art works which we enjoy are not universally approved as masterpieces by the critics. It is enough to admire the canvases for what they say to each of us as we see them. It is a a matter of personal taste.”

So it is regarding the relative merits of two champions who never met, and on whom there is no collateral form. Even when evidence may be brought in, it is often dismissed as unsatisfactory, and the symposiums continue “full of sound and fury.” Opinions differ according to different tastes.

Regret was the most famous race mare we have seen in our comparatively brief time. Not only is she uniquely “the only filly to win the Kentucky Derby,” she was the unbeaten champion of all the 1914 two-year-olds, defeated three other Derby winners and indeed was off the lead only twice in her life, when riding instructions inhibited her jockeys and encompassed what no rival could. This is just our opinion, of course, and of others prefer other mares, welcome. As Voltaire one said, “I disagree with everything you say, sir, but will defend to the death your right to say it.”

Suffice it to say that Bowl of Flowers made one of the most satisfying two-year-old filly leaders of late years, even though she did not, like Regret, Top Flight, First Flight and Anita Peabody, venture to meet the colts. It might be added, sotto voce, that the 1960 colts were no better than they should have been after Hail to Reason quit the class struggle. What with the Gardenia, Frizette, Matron and other valuable two-year-old prizes exclusively for fillies, there now is less incentive for horsemen to race them against colts. As time goes on, we will have fewer fillies who are demonstrably superior to the colts. Thus fewer will be hailed “Two-Year-Old Champion.”

Bowl of Flowers was exciting to watch and contributed much to the thrills which made for a memorable season on our turf. Her technique emulated Hail to Reason and Berlo’s devastating stretch runs. As for her disposition, Arcaro, Ycaza, Shoemaker and Boulmetis all won on her and she did not wear blinkers. Very casual leaving the slips, Bowl of Flowers’ rider had only to pull her to the outside atop the stretch and let her roll. She could be “nowhere” leaving the backstretch and win with her long ears flopping. Usually, Mrs. Sloane’s resolute big filly slammed her fields in one breath-taking furlong, “running so fast you couldn’t see her legs,” as Billy Walker said of Uncle.

Ran Only on Fast Tracks

She ran only on fast tracks, but perhaps that was due to meteorological happenstance rather than a studied avoidance of going it was questioned she could negotiate.

Individually, Bowl of Flowers is distinctive rather than merely pretty, in this way recalling Rose of Sharon, the huge, loose-eared brown granddaughter of the brown Hindoo who swept the boards of the Oaks a few years ago. Except that Mrs. Sloane’s filly is an almost wholly colored golden chestnut, as is her sire Sailor, and almost all others of his progeny. Sailor is by George D. Widener’s great racehorse and sire Eight Thirty, and he has several infusions of Fairy Gold, whom August Belmont imported for $12,000 and John E. Madden proclaimed “the most valuable broodmare brought to America in this century,” after she foaled Fair Play and Friar Rock. Sailor could scarcely be anything but chestnut and is almost a pure dominant for that color, though it is considered recessive. His own coat answers the sun’s rays, refracting shafts and glints of purest gold. . . .

Sailor was by Eight Thirty out of Flota, by Jack High, the next dam Armada, who introduces more Fairy Gold through Man o’ War. Armada was the dam of the CCA Oaks winner High Fleet, also by Jack High, and a filly our Jockey Club president considers the best he ever bred or raced.

Sailor was a good racehorse, comparing favorably with the smartest sprinters in the Toboggan and Fall Highweight of ’55. Originally underestimated by his trainer, he was confined to sprints early but showed a new facet of his repertoire when he debited Nashua with defeat in the ’56 Gulfstream Park Handicap then won the Campbell on “three legs and a swinger.”

Mare an Offspring of Alibhai

Bowl of Flowers is out of the Alibhai mare Flower Bowl, another whose light was hidden ‘neath a bushel until she was produced to win a Delaware Handicap quite comfortably if unexpectedly, form she authenticated by winning the Ladies of 12 furlongs. Flower Bowl was a capital race mare in appearance, a tall, clipper-rigged bay notable for the exquisite quality about her hocks, gaskins, stifle and croup. Propulsive power rose from every rippling muscle. In fact, we should say she was the best mare, behind the saddle, in late years.

Flower Bowl, in turn, is out of Flower Bed by the Australian Beau Pere, and the next dam was a smallish Irish daughter of Mahmoud called Boudoir II, who won stakes across the Atlantic before being imported by L. B. Mayer to foal Your Host, sire of Kelso. Flower Bed raced briefly in the colors of the late Herman Delman, set two track records at two and rather anticlimaxed this form later. . . .

As a matter of the utmost unimportance, it might be added that in the 1957 edition of the American Racing Manual, chronicling Flower Bowl’s Delaware success, we ventured to say: “Faster mares there were, but none suggested herself more strongly as a future producer of high class performers.”

Dr. Manuel A. Gilman kindly measured Bowl of Flowers for us last November and she shaped up, rather impressively, as follows:

Height, 15.3 hands

Point of shoulder to point of shoulder, 14 1/2 inches

Girth, 71 1/2 inches

Withers to point of shoulder, 27 inches

Elbow to ground, 39 inches

Point of shoulder to point of hip, 46 inches

Point of hip to point of hip, 24 inches

Point of hip to buttock, 24 inches

Poll to withers, 39 inches

Buttock to ground, 56 1/2 inches

Circumference of cannon under knee, 7 1/2 inches

It will be noted that Bowl of Flowers is a hand less tall at the wither than is the two-year-old colt champion Hail to Reason, but she is extremely well grown as fillies go, conspicuously larger and of more scope than most of those who were seen on the post parades with her. Also, we suspect, it will be noted that Bowl of Flowers is comparatively light below the knee. Her ankles were a fairly constant source of anxiety throughout 1960 and may be treated over the winter in an effort to tighten them against the time she will, in the normal course of events, be required to carry her weight classic routes in the Oaks.

Beauty, someone has said, is in the eye of the beholder. Bowl of Flowers hardly would take the blue at Madison Square Garden. But there are many sleek fillies who might inspire a sculptor to breathe life into dead clay, or an artist to caress their lines as he paints, who “cannot beat a fat man kicking a barrel up a hill.” In the practical horseman’s eyes, Brookmeade’s is a fine-looking filly.

Sizing her up, we would say the critic is drawn, and drawn back again, to her head. It is quite distinctive, remarkable for the width of forehead, deep jowls, large mild and expressive eyes, square muzzle, with a pronounced “dish face” concavity in the middle of the bridge of the nose. Thus far we have a perfect Arab’s head. All that would spoil it, for the esthetes, are her long, loosely carried ears. But Sceptre had ears like that, and as we recall so had Handy Mandy, Little Visitor, Nellie Custis and the aforementioned Rose of Sharon. Horses do not run on their ears, else Sysonby would have been unheard of, and Ormonde as well, we are told.

Bowl of Flowers has unusual rein length, as Dr. Gilman’s notes suggest. But her neck is graceful and muscular, rather than “upside down,” with a soft curve at the throatlatch and deep enough where it joins the front fork.

Bowl of Flowers’ top line is truly a thing of beauty, from the wither to the ilium and the end of her long pelvis. It recalls the thrilling vertebral fluency of Lexington’s skeleton in the Smithsonian Institute at Washington, D.C., and is possibly her chief virtue physically, ornamental in its very utility. Nature constructed it to carry a saddle, with just enough rise at the wither, a back scarcely any longer than is necessary to accommodate the rider, a strong and arched loin and the pelvic structure to afford “a lot of dig,” as Linus McAtee would say.

There is no suggestion of the slab-sided nor light-in-the-flank individual about the two-year-old filly, though she is not in any imminence of being over-topped. She has a good rib cage and to the eye is perhaps a trifle taller than long, rather more like Gallant Fox than the almost perfectly square Man o’ War. Also like “The Fox of Belair,” she goes long and low as a timber wolf. We always thought Mr. Woodward’s horse had the best action of any we saw since Old Rosebud, and Capt. Boyd-Rochfort has well said: “Action makes the race horse.”

Bowl of Flowers has length of radius and tibia, consequently the long muscles which encourage thoughts of staying, while her cannons and pasterns are of medium length. The gasteocnemius externus muscles at the curve of the quarters and extensor pedis muscles about the gaskin are well developed without giving her the aspect of a musclebound sprinter. The flexor pedis perforatus above the hock indicate drive and together with her good coupling the ability to handle her weight. The muscle over the scapula is extensive.

She was inclined to be a bit growthy at two and was stopped in midsummer to afford her some time to develop. She is also to be given the winter, or the better part of it, and it will be surprising if we have heard the last of her.


The turf had not seen the last of Bowl of Flowers in 1960. She reigned again as champion three-year-old filly in 1961. At stud she produced six foals, five starters, and three winners, including G2 winner Spruce Bouquet (by Big Spruce). In contemporary pedigrees she is most often seen as the dam of Whiskey Road, sire of Strawberry Road.

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