Charles Hatton on 1950 Horse of the Year and champion three-year-old Hill Prince from the 1951 American Racing Manual.
Virginia’s 200-year-old bloodstock industry produced the Horse of the Year in 1950 in Hill Prince, who had been voted the champion of the previous season’s two-year-olds. It was the first time the Old Dominion State had achieved this distinction in 15 years of balloting.
Christopher C. Chenery reared Hill Prince at his 2,000-acre farm, The Meadow, near Doswell, and it was there, also, that the colt trained for his brilliant three-year-old campaign. Whether future Turf historians will regard Hill Prince as a truly great horse can only be guessed. But it is a rare performer who domnates his age division at two and at three is esteemed not only the best of his age, but the best of more than 20,000 of all ages in training. Only Whirlaway, Count Fleet, and Citation among past Horses of the Year projected their leadership from the two-year-olds to the three-year-olds and older horses.
Winner of six of his seven races at two, Hill Prince was subjected to a much more ambitious campaign in 1950. Beginning at Jamaica in April, he won eight of 15 starts and $314,265, at distances ranging from six furlongs to two miles, and his itinerary took him to new York, Kentucky, Maryland, Illinois, and California. Unlike most horses, he proved completely impartial in the matter of track conditions.
Hill Prince’s progress to Horse of the Year honors may be divided into two phases. In the first, or spring half, he ran like a stout colt, but it wasn’t clear that he was the best until he was put aside in the early summer to mend a foot, after which he was “Hawkins’ Horse,” in the vernacular of the tracks.
Trainer J. H. “Casey” Hayes was able to have Hill Prince ready to win the first Experimental of six furlongs in his initial venture. A slow beginner, he was in trouble in the second Experimental and finished unplaced but, in the Wood, Arcaro sent him up with a run that overpowered Middleground and Next Move. Shipped to Louisville for the Derby, the Virginian developed a temperature, but recovered in time to work a mile through the mud as fast as the Derby Trial field ran a few minutes later.
In the Derby, he followed Middleground like a shadow while the Texan worked his way forward in the first mile. Some people thought Arcaro hesitated atop the stretch, momentarily undecided whether to move inside or outside Middleground, who bears in. But Hill Prince was within striking distance for the length of the stretch and finished second. In the Preakness, he caught a muddy surface, went to the front the first quarter, and held Middleground safe. He again beat his rival in the Withers. But, then, some untoward things occurred. Hill Prince opposed the older horses in the Suburban, forced a fast pace, and bled. In the Belmont, he went to the front soon after the start and faded on the last turn. In the Dwyer, Greek Song beat him.
So Hill Prince was stopped. It developed that when he was turned out after his two-year-old season, the colt had grabbed a quarter on his left fore foot, and he had been running in spring engagements with a slight separation in the hoof. This was cut out and drained of sand and the foot allowed to grow out. Hayes returned Hill Prince to work at Saratoga for his engagement in the American Derby on August 26, and the Chenery colt came back to the races better than ever. He ran down his field in the Derby with a tremendous rush and won off in 2:01 1/5. Returning East, he stumbled out of the gate in the Jerome and then uncorked another remarkable and successful run.
Having decisively declared himself the best of the three-year-olds, Hill Prince now met the handicap leader, Noor, in the two miles of the Jockey Club Gold Cup. He made most of the running and won as Arcaro pleased. Noor was utterly unable to cope with him under the weight-for-age terms. With this in mind, the voters made Hill Prince the Horse of the Year. A bit later, in the Hollywood Gold Cup, Noor reversed the order of finish. But Hill Prince gave him six pounds on the scale, was himself set an unprecedented task for a three-year-old with 130 and, on an analysis of weights and margins, he did not suffer a six-pound beating. Hill Prince concluded his campaign as he began it, with a victory, in the Sunset Handicap. In this event, he met and defeated the champion filly, Next Move, at a weight disadvantage.
Hill Prince was a slashing big colt at two and improved materially in his muscular equipment from two to three. Only a horseman is likely to think Hill Prince a good looking specimen. It is not that he is at all coarse, but he hasn’t the stylish lines and markings that appeal to crowds at horse shows and hunt meets. At the same time, there is much about him for the connoisseur to admire. He is a burly bay, a full 16 hands, with black points. A small, indecisive star, a strong, breedy neck, and a certain looseness about the ears. His tail still is rather scanty, as a consequence of bandaging it so tightly the hair follicle was damaged when he shipped to Saratoga as a two-year-old.
The first impression of Hill Prince is one of a tremendously strong horse. He has a barrel chest, must girth easily 75 inches, with great depth through the heart, a fairly short back with good coupling, a pelvis of extraordinary length and a sloping croup. He appears a bit taller than long, and his big middle piece rescues him from being on the leg. His bone is smaller than usual in a colt of his substance, and he has short cannons, flat knees and hocks, good definition of tendons and pasterns of the right length and angle.
Hill Prince is a larger, stronger horse than his sire, Princequillo, and his undepinning is reminiscent of the deerlike limbs of his blind dam, Hildene. If there is any softness about his anatomy, perhaps it is in his feet. He wears a felt cushion between his size six plates and his hoofs.
The Horse of the Year is a big doer and apparently requires more work than most horses, even of stakes caliber. He is well behaved at all times, in his stall, the saddling paddock and at the post. He does everything with the self assurance of a genuinely good horse, works cheerfully alone, though he wears blinkers, and seems to be able to move at any stage of a race Arcaro chooses.
Hill Prince jogs and gallops fluently and has a long, extended action. It is characteristic of him that when he is extended, he carries his head lower than most horses. Phalanx, Pilaster and other routers carry their heads a trifle low, but Hill Prince does not paddle as do some of them.
Hill Prince’s origin is an interesting mixture of French, English and American strains, the composition to which the noted French breeder, Marcel Boussac, attributes his success. His sire, Princequillo, was a stayer of the rare sort who have early speed. He won the Saratoga and Jockey Club Cups and could shade 1:12 for six furlongs. Apparently Princequillo has the faculty for siring speed and more speed, for, in addition to Hill Prince and Prince Simon, he sent up a fast filly in How.
Princequillo is by Prince Rose out of Cosquilla, by the Epsom Derby winner Papyrus, and he is perhaps the only tail-male St. Simon horse now at stud in the United States. He represents a strong outcross for almost any American mare. Hildene was a very indifferent filly in training, but is a good individual of the thin-skinned, refined type of Beaugay, and is by the good broodmare sire, Bubbling Over. The next dam, Fancy Racket, was by another good broodmare sire, Wrack. Before foaling Hill Prince, Hildene gave Chenery a first rate sprinter in Mangohick, who is easily the best horse ever sired by Sun Beau. She is now in foal to Princequillo and was bred to him again this season, for obvious reasons.
It is understood that when Hill Prince has concluded his racing career, he will serve in the stud in Virginia. They are naturally proud of him in that state.