May 20, 2022

Saratoga Special started out like the Pegasus World Cup, 1901-style

Saratoga Race Course (c) NYRA/Susie Raisher/Adam Coglianese Photography

by Teresa Genaro

The stakes schedule at Saratoga at the turn of the last century was already robust. Announced in February in the New York Times for the 1901 season, it featured 25 races worth a total of $85,000. Among those to be run were the Adirondack, Spinaway, Travers, Alabama and Saratoga Cup.

The racing meet that year was 22 days, but apparently one stakes a day wasn’t enough, because in that same February article was the announcement that the Saratoga Special, “a thoroughly sporting event,” would be added to the schedule.

Its purse would be funded by subscriptions by owners at $1,000 each. It would be run at 5 1/2 furlongs, with a subscription deadline of March 4, or five months before the Saratoga meet began. Subscribers could nominate up to three horses, but run only one, and $500 of each subscription fee would be forfeited if a subscriber didn’t run anything, resulting in a minimum purse of $6,000. Kind of like the Pegasus Cup, 1901-style.

Nominations for the August race would close May 1, and in July the Daily Racing Form reported that 68 horses had been nominated, guaranteeing a value of $34,500, including the $500 trophy provided by the Saratoga Association.

“Of the other stakes opened,” wrote the Times in an article called “Novelty at Saratoga,” “all are of values that are so much greater than in former years at Saratoga that the famous old track jumps at one bound to a place abreast of the greatest of the metropolitan race courses.”

One man who must have been particularly pleased to read that characterization was William Collins Whitney, the president of the Saratoga Association who rescued the race course from the nefarious clutches of Gottfried Walbaum, who had nearly run the track into the ground. Whitney had nominated three horses to the Saratoga Special, electing to run his bay colt Goldsmith, who won that first edition of the race by a head.

But that was just the beginning of his story.

Goldsmith was an impressive two-year-old: he won the Flash Stakes at Saratoga and the Junior Champion Stakes at Gravesend, running second in three other stakes races, including the Grand Union Hotel at Saratoga.

According to a 1910 Daily Racing Form article, Goldsmith—“one of the splendid band of two-year-olds raced by William C. Whitney”—fell ill in the winter after his début, and was “so affected by it that he was not able to fulfill the promise of his brilliant two-year-old racing.”

He was winless at three from just four starts; he raced four times at four for a record of 1-1-1.

At some point, the DRF tells us, Goldsmith was sold: After being sold from the Whitney stable (Goldsmith) was in obscurity for a time, but turned up at New Orleans in 1905-6 and ran respectably. Last winter he was raced at Tampa and won three little purses. He is a grandly-bred horse and should be in some breeder’s possession.”

And then, it seems, Goldsmith became one of those horses that today puts us on alert: a former stakes winner, dropping down in conditions, passing from hand to hand. A February 1910 article reports that Goldsmith returned to racing after a season at stud, observing that he showed “more than a flash” of his “first greatness.”

Racing reports placed Goldsmith mostly in Florida, with an occasional foray to another track. In April of 1910, he appears to have been claimed by an E. Corrigan for a higher price than the one for which he was entered. A month later, he was purchased by James R. Hand. The notice of the sale refers to Goldsmith as a “highly-regarded stallion” who would be shipped to Oklahoma for stud duty.

If you’ve lost track, that would be Goldsmith’s third retirement. After the first one, when he was four, he returned to the track at age six in 1905, racing 19 times, more than his first three years on the track combined. He raced until he was eight, when he entered a second retirement. Then, after being off the track at ages nine and 10, he came back at age 11, making 16 starts for a record of 3-1-2, earning $360.

By the time of his third, and final, retirement, he’d raced 80 times and earned $52,151, from a record of 12-15-14 (DRF)

Goldsmith’s record

By February of 1912, nearly two years after his last race, Goldsmith left Oklahoma for Hand’s farm in South Dakota, where he was scheduled to be bred to about 35 mares.

Mr. Hand expects great things of Goldsmith as a sire…Trainer J.R. Hand…has an idea that South Dakota will some day figure as a center in the Northwest for high-class Thoroughbred stock. Mr. Hand says that the Slade ranch near Hudson, South Dakota has as much to recommend it for the successful breeding of Thoroughbreds as a bluegrass farm in Kentucky.  (DRF)

Unfortunately, it seems that neither of Hand’s expectations – of Goldsmith as a great sire, or of South Dakota as a breeding center – came to pass.

Hand died of accidental asphyxiation in Chicago in February 1913, and his obituary in the Racing Form notes that Goldsmith was still at the South Dakota farm.

Goldsmith’s trail ends there, other than a Pedigree Query notation that he died in 1928, when he was 29. He lived a long life, and we can hope a good one, tortuous though it may have been, and likely unacceptable to the modern racing observer. The DRF called him an “equine aristocrat,” even if he wasn’t always treated as one.

Quoted and consulted

“Earnings of eight veteran equine aristocrats.” Daily Racing Form, August 7, 1910.

Goldsmith at Pedigree Query.

Goldsmith Bid Up By E. Corrigan.” Daily Racing Form, April 1, 1910.

Gossip From Kentucky Training Grounds.” Daily Racing Form, February 13, 1910. (Goldsmith’s comeback)

“Horses Recently Retired From Racing.”  Daily Racing Form, April 24, 1924 (Goldsmith’s race record)

Injury Takes Moctezuma Stakes.” Daily Racing Form, February 27, 1912 (Goldsmith’s stud career)

James Hand Dies In Chicago.” Daily Racing Form, February 22, 1913.

Newcomers Enliven Things At Tampa.” Daily Racing Form, February 20, 1910. (Goldsmith as “medium of a betting coup.”)

New York Circuit Harness Races; Colts In The Futurity.” New York Times, August 13, 1901.

No Extension of Tampa Meeting.” Daily Racing Form, February 23, 1910. (mention of Goldsmith at the meet)

Patronage Is Generous.” Daily Racing Form, May 24, 1910. (purchase of Goldsmith)

Racers ‘Come Back’ Only Occasionally.” Daily Racing Form, October 1, 1910.

Whitney Colt Was First.” New York Times, September 18, 1901. (Junior Champion Stakes win)

Whitney Won Big Stakes.” New York Times, August 11, 1901. (Saratoga Special win)