Tim Tam, 1958

Charles Hatton on 1958 champion three-year-old Tim Tam from the 1959 American Racing Manual.


The season’s three-year-olds included some of the most admirable colts that have graced the racing stage in years, regarding their performances “in the round.” The best of them strutted a brief hour, however. Nor did they include a Horse of the Year, as Bold Ruler proved as a three-year-old the preceding season. Mrs. Gene Markey’s resolute Tim Tam and Joseph O’Connell’s Irish-bred Cavan appeared with great eclat in campaigns abruptly terminated by unsoundness, but not before they gave good if rather fragmentary evidence of being the best of their generation. They shared the American Triple Crown honors. Tim Tam captured the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, after which Cavan won the Belmont rather lengthily when Tim Tam cracked a sesamoid in the stretch. In the “press” Tim Tam was accorded the highest order of rank, appropriately, it seemed, and with but the single dissenting vote cast for the dark horse, Nadir.

Tim Tam Is at Stud

Tim Tam already is at stud. Investors in nominations to him have searched his title clear, so to speak, though his record is nothing to make the National Museum of Racing turn the portrait of his sire, Tom Fool, to the wall. He ran only once, unplaced as a two-year-old, and the Belmont Stakes in midseason marked his final appearance under colors. But between January 17 and June 7 he won ten of 13 starts at three, avoiding no issues, and accounting for the Flamingo, Florida Derby and Derby Trial, as well as the Derby itself and Preakness, earning $467,200 for about four months’ work.

Trainer Jimmy Jones regarded Tim Tam with some ambivalence before the Derby, questioning whether he could be categorized with such noted Calumet performers as Citation, Twilight Tear, Coaltown and others of a mighty company. Ironically, the furlongs ran out for Tim Tam in the Belmont, just when he convinced the skeptical Missourian that he “belonged.” In this observer’s often-humbled opinion, Tim Tam was intrinsically a cut above the quality of Ponder, Fervent, Iron Liege, Mark-Ye-Well and their sort, and he appeared more genuine than Coaltown. Probably he was meant to be “one of the ones.”

The esthetic of Tim Tam was extreme cleverness. Though he was an indifferent breaker, he was so shifty, once in stride, it was nearly impossible to trap him. He responded beautifully to his riders’ wishes, accelerating or retarding his speed on demand, weaving inside one rival, outside another, or thrusting through between them in making his run, and with such facility that he sometimes appeared in low gear on one stride, in high on the next. This dexterity is a rare quality and one, incidentally, exhibited also by his [broodmare] sire, Bull Lea. He was always “in cadence,” as the French say. His constancy, class and courage, which are corollary attributes, are implicit in his series of classic successes. All tracks and distances apparently looked alike to him and as a son of a Horse of the Year, Tom Fool, and a Filly of the Year, Two Lea, he was often referred to as a “triumph of breeding,” a compound of the best American plan, blue plate bloodlines.

Tom Fool was perhaps the most aggressive champion of late years, intuitively a race horse, full of integrity and pluck that was absolute. He liked a fight. Tim Tam is one of his first crop, numbering only nine and notable for quality rather than quantity, including also the Futurity winner, Jester. He is in high vogue with breeders and was syndicated by Greentree for $1,750,000. So resonant a judge as Eddie Arcaro is not sure whether Two Lea or her stablemate, Real Delight, was the best of the many championship contenders of their sex he rode. But he is sanguine Two Lea would have compared herself favorably with Citation and Noor in a Santa Anita Handicap except that she was employed as a foil and her speed was blunted. With two such genuine and uncomplicated parents it is not surprising that trainer H. A. “Jimmy” Jones should say:

“Honorable is the word for Tim Tam.”

Tim Tam is a Tail-Male Phalaris

In terms of genetics, Tim Tam is a tail-male Phalaris (sire also of Pharos) and is line-bred to Teddy, Bull Dog recurring in the third stirps of his pedigree. Though a certain decadence is noted by the perceptive Capt. Cecil Boyd-Rochfort in the Phalaris line in its native England, and it is questionable whether Bull Dog will breed on, Tim Tam’s own branch of the line is in the ascendancy. His sire, Tom Fool, was an improvement on Menow who in turn was superior to Pharamond II.

Two Lea is by Bull Lea out of the Kentucky Oaks winner, Two Bob, by the excellent mud horse The Porter. Two Lea descends from the mare Reel, a relationship which still stirs romanticists of American racing in the long ago of heat competition. In fact, the pedigree of her family is a tapestry of the sport’s history. Reel was sired by Glencoe out of Gallopade and was a foal of 1838. She won every race in which she appeared except the last, in which she broke down, and at stud she produced Lexington’s arch rival, Le Compte, the noted sire, War Dance, and Two Lea’s ancestress, Fanny Wells. Thus Two Lea is a sort of “DAR” of the Stud Book. Her breeding is a nostalgia.

Two Lea won nine stakes and $309,250 and finished in the disputd territory of the winner’s enclosure in 15 of 26 starts. Tim Tam is her second foal. Her first is Two Lea’s Girl, unraced, who is one of Mrs. Gene Markey’s broodmares. Tom Fool was chosen for Tim Tam’s sire when a season to Nasrullah could not be obtained.

Two Lea Represented by On-and-On

Two Lea now is represented among Calumet’s three-year-olds by the colt On-and-On, who is by Nasrullah.

Of such expediency is the “science” of breeding.

Tim Tam was an eye-catching foal. Mrs. Margaret Glass, the efficient Calumet Farm secretary, notes that when the ’58 Derby winner was delivered, J. Paul Ebelhardt, then the stud’s general manager, described him as “a very good strong-bodied colt. He has a strong resemblance to his sire.”

Robert Moore, the yearling trainer, said of Tim Tam: “The best Tom Fool I have seen, of many. We will agree he is one of the top four (of our colts foaled in ’55).” Later that year, in November of ’56, Moore amplified his remarks, advising the Joneses: Tim Tam was “nice mannered. Easy to work with in the barn. Eats everything we give him. Goes perfectly on the track. I like him more each time he gallops. He has all the looks and action of a top colt. Will be expecting great things from him if he trains sound.”

Tim Tam did not disappoint his handlers. When they were embarking upon their careers as three-year-olds in the winter of 1957-58 in Florida, Kentucky Pride was nimbler. But this colt, marked like a Hereford, was a less relentless stretch runner and was fragile. The Everglades was a romp for Tim Tam. The Turf fraternity were divided in their opinion whether he or Mrs. Elizabeth Graham’s 1957 two-year-old champion, Jewel’s Reward, was most likely to succeed in the Flamingo. In a stretch run that had all the abandon of a lease-breaking party, Jewel’s Reward was inches in front of Tim Tam at the wire. Upon examination of the films the stewards at length gave pride of place to Tim Tam. Behind him was Nadir, who had been critically ill but in an allowance race and the Derby Trial, Tim Tam repeated the dose with interest. In the Derby itself he compared himself very favorably with Jewel’s Reward, who is straight in front and something less than fundamentally sound.

In both the Derby and Preakness, Tim Tam came from far back, following his field to the stretch like a fast express following a fleet of hand cars, then opening the throttle and moving inexorably to the front. By this time, his ankles were attracting clinical attention. But it was a cracked sesamoid that betrayed him in the Belmont, the colt gallantly wobbling home second to Cavan after appearing all over a winner on the crucial stretch run.

Tim Tam’s was a serious loss to the decimated three-year-olds and handicap division, but it was conjectured that the sport’s loss was the stud’s gain. The fault-finding say that he tends to be rather straight of shoulder and kitty cornered behind the saddle, with a weak flank, but Tim Tam is a nice enough individual. Asked how big he was, trainer Jones replied, “I really don’t know, but his heart is big enough.” Measured at Calumet Farm in December, he stood 16 hands and girthed 73 1/2 inches. Naturally he girthed slightly less than when thoroughly fit in the spring.

Has “Four Feet in the Bucket”

Tim Tam is atypical of the Phalaris tribe in appearance. He is bay, verging on brown, with no conspicuous marks, just a bit of white about his off hind fetlock. His back is of moderate length and his limbs are set on well under him. “Stands with all four feet in a bucket,” as veteran turfmen say. He is neither wide in the brisket, or front fork, nor do both forelegs appear to come out of the same hole. And except for his ankles and upright scapula, he is flawless in front, with beautifully modeled knees, closely knit, broad and flat. The muscle of the forearm, like that of the gaskin, is rather long than bunchy.

Tim Tam’s hind legs are a study in correct angulation, or rather the lack of it. He is straighter than most his species though his hocks and these, like his knees, are bony, broad and flat. Charley Whittingham, Hirsch Jacobs and other discerning horsemen who inspected him closely remarked on this attribute. It is small wonder he could gallop on heartily in his races, and, as jockey Milo Valenzuela remarked, “go through instantly if you spotted a hole.”

The champion’s head is far better than Tom Fool’s or Two Lea’s. It is distinctly Arabesque, exquisite as a cameo, with delicate penciling and fine modeling. The ears are thin and pricked, the forehead broad with a slight bulge at the brain pan, the eyes large, luminous and intelligent, the jaw plates flat and widely spaced, the profile slightly concave and with “a muzzle that would fit into a pint cup.”

One leaves Tim Tam with the thought that he has good references as a prospective sire.

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