Fort Marcy–1970

The vote was 4-0 in favor of more Hatton. So here is Charles Hatton on 1970 Horse of the Year Fort Marcy (minus digressions already posted) from the 1971 American Racing Manual.


Fort Marcy’s appearance here as not only a turf course champion for the second time, but on this occasion in the ennobling role of 1970 Horse of the Year as well, is entirely supportable on the basis of the record, if that is what you are wondering. It is also highly fraught with significance, though of what, precisely, depends upon individual tatses and interpretations.

It is sometimes construed as millennial, marking the recognition of the enormously popular turf course competition as a phase of American racing important as that on the sandy loam. It also has been construed as a sweeping indictment of the general character of the vast majority of performers on the main tracks, if you please. Possibly it is a little of both.

Fancies Running Over Grass

Paul Mellon’s homebred Virginian, a gelding of six years in ’70, is quintessentially “a grass horse.” He is not utterly devoid of ability on the main courses, but nobody ever got all spaced out about his capcity in that context. Performing on the turf, he terrified trainer Elliott Burch’s rivals from coast to coast, planing back and forth for a campaign of 13 starts during which he won five races, finishing four times second and twice third for earnings of $388,537.

Fort Marcy acquired added luster and lucre winning the Dixie, Bowling Green, United Nations, Man o’ War, and Washington, D.C., International. Further, he was beaten three unsanitary noses for the San Juan Capistrano, Century, and Kelly-Olympic, and a thrusting neck for Hollywood’s Invitation.

It is conjectured there may have been an element of good luck in his Man o’ War success, considering that the elegant French filly Miss Dan II put him on his mettle to beat her at Laurel, while mighty Nijinsky II, a colt of uncanny muscular development for a three-year-old, had beaten her off in the Arc de Triomphe. You see, Nijinsky II’s people entertained some notion of running him in the Man o’ War. But then he trained off and the adventure was abandoned. In any case, The English Triple Crown here made a gawdy fool of himself in the Champion Stakes after the Arc, thus it is equally conjecturable Fort Marcy would have taken his scalp had he ventured to Belmont.

Fort Marcy has rather an expensive foible of relaxing once in front. He is gregarious and likes company. His people could wish he were more misanthropic, but it is a habit he can well afford now he is by the way of becoming a millionaire. Of course he is a blinker horse, and intelligent jockey Jorge Velasquez guilefully does everything legal to rivet his attention on the business at hand, timing his moves tactfully. But he is a bit of a rail runner, not unlike True North and Discovery of old, and occasionally he has found himself in rather democratic quarters. He might better emulate Fiddle Isle, his foil in the race for turf honors, who “don’t get beat no noses.”

Handles Weight, Distances Well

Fort Marcy handles weight with admirable facility, though he has never made much point of inviting high weights; runs all distances and in any weather it seems. Some have permitted themselves to compare Fort Marcy with Volcanic, but that is not an evaluation, it is sheer idolatry. Except that Volcanic’s length of stride boggled the observer and staggered the opposition and he was understandably not a wet weather performer. A horse’s instinct is self preservation, and when he finds the going tricky he shortens stride. . . .

Fort Marcy may yet attain Care Free’s charisma [see two posts back], though not the mystique which made him so psychologically interesting. Owner Paul Mellon intends he shall continue campaigning as long as the idea appeals to him at all. What else?

Of course, it is with horses as with humans. Life is something what happens to one while one is making other plans. A Thoroughbred is a terribly fragile property, and the Care Frees and Tippity Witchets run very few to the acre. But belonging to Paul Mellon is a good thing for a horse.

Classicists in Pedigree

Fort Marcy is by Amerigo out of the mare Key Bridge and his second dam is Rokeby’s lovely Blue Banner, a stakes winner by War Admiral. Sticklers for classicism will be pleased the names of Nearco, Hyperion, Princequillo, and other notables are close to the surface in his pedigree. His family evolved in America at A. B. Hancock’s Claiborne Farm. The ill-fated Skylarking and those nice fillies Risque and Little Risk come out of this matriarchy.

Fort Marcy was a coarse, vulgar looking brute at three, but has since assumed some refinement and when tightened to race appears quite capable and athletic. He is 16 hands, with a girth providing ample heart and lung room, fair length overall, a slightly sloping pelvis, and a tendency toward a weak flank.

Fort Marcy’s cannons are rather longer than the hypercritical would approve, but springy pasterns at the 45-degree angle are among his accessories. He has fair rein length, not too much daylight under him, and a nice way of going at the extended paces. There are times he has seemed a reluctant work horse, others when he flashes extreme speed for short spins across the loam.

Action makes the racehorse, considering it made all the difference to such slight individuals as Old Rosebud, Roamer, and Sarazen. Citation never struck anybody as another Exterminator or Discovery when it came to packing heavy weights, and he had a long flat loin and sickle hocks. But he was a tremendous mover, accelerating like a Rolls Royce, as the cerebral Eddie Arcaro remarked.

Grass Also Sire’s Specialty

Fort Marcy comes naturally by his gift for handling grass surfaces. That was Amerigo’s specialty, though almost any going met his conditions. He is recalled as a stout, red horse combining the blood of Nearco and Hyperion in an alchemy that hoped for speed and stamina. Amerigo inherited his share of diablerie from Nearco, to a degree that amused paddock habitues.

In the British Isles, yearlings are lunged at breaking time, and Amerigo was very good at this. Apparently thinking it great fun, he gave Harris Brown some jolly afternoons saddling him, rearing and plunging like a bronco. It was a kick for the fans to watch, and long after Amerigo was domesticated, his groom used to lunge him for them in the walking ring.

Amerigo was not merely a good show, but a good sire, and his untimely end was a tragedy for Virginia breeding. He became what is known as “a filly sire,” one whose fillies are of generally better quality than his male progeny. Bull Lea’s first crops included Harriet Sue, Durazna, and Twilight Tear and it was believed he would prove a filly sire. But then came Coaltown, Citation, and the rest. Conversely, Fair Play’s offspring included numerous championship colts, almost no racemares worth mentioning.

Mellon, international turfman, financier, and entrepreneur of the economy, hardly can help hoping to develop a family from Blue Banner.

It will not be through Fort Marcy, of course, but Mellon’s friend James Cox Brady achieved this with a mare of less distinction on the turf in the matriarchal War Feathers. This mettlesome daughter of Man o’ War, a one-time record-priced yearling at $50,500, was too highly bred to be useful in training. She was frightfully nervous, and the nearer she approached to racing condition the more flappable she became.

War Feathers worked sensationally for the Alabama, impressing the most blase sophisticates among the clockers she could not lose, then bucked and the whole thing had to be abandoned. But she was one of the most highly organized physical specimens ever seen. Even the late, fastidious John “Salvator” Hervey concurred. And she was out of the English mare Tuscan Red, dam of nine winners and herself a daughter of William Rufus traceable directly to Ormonde’s sister Ornament, the dam of Sceptre.

Rtaher than a lemon, War Feathers proved a treasure at stud, indeed founding Brady’s highly select haras. Bred intelligently to less hot-blooded sires, this family has given him War Plumage, War Minstrel, War Magic, the English Oaks winner Long Look, and in the present Meritus [champion two-year-old filly of 1969]. . . .

What Brady has achieved with War Feathers and her tribe is an inspiration and example for all American breeders. Planned parentage involving several generations is almost unknown in the present, when even the first cross is often an ill-considered expediency.

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