Concern's (blue and yellow checkered silks) biggest win undoubtedly came in the 1994 Breeders' Cup Classic (Photos courtesy Horsephotos.com)
A well-traveled, ambitiously raced horse before the 1994 Breeders’ Cup Classic, Concern was one of the most seasoned horses in the field with 13 races at nine different tracks that season and 20 career starts.
Concern had raced more times than all but three horses in the 14-horse field, including four elders, before stepping into the Classic starting gate at the end of his 3-year-old year. His record included a win in that year’s Arkansas Derby a third-place finish in the Preakness and a close second to rising star Holy Bull in the Travers Stakes. While he had won only three lifetime races before the Classic, Concern had consistently been near the winner at the wire, only finishing off the board twice at that point in his career.
Concern made it an exciting edition of the Breeders’ Cup Classic, racing in dead last for the early stages of the race. But as the field worked its way into the turn and the stretch, Concern picked off horses and passed the dueling pair of Tabasco Cat and Dramatic Gold to win by a neck.
The win was the first Grade 1 for Concern, who had arrived at Churchill Downs from Pimlico Race Course only the day before the race. Trainer Richard Small had traveled with the horse, taking part in driving duties for the 12-hour trip. Small explained to the Chicago Tribune that Concern’s attitude not only played a part in why they entered the Classic but also why they showed up as late as they did.
“A lot of those races the horse thought he won,” Small said. “There wasn't a race all year we could be discouraged about. … We found he does better coming in late. We got to the Travers at 4 o'clock in the morning the day of the race, and that was his best race until today.”
After his victory, Concern was turned out for a few months to recover from his busy schedule and came back swinging in the New Orleans Handicap. With a new jockey, Concern won the race by three lengths, again winning in his come-from-behind style. But Concern was about to run into a monster of a horse on the cusp of stardom.
Cigar already had won three Grade 1 races by the time Concern met up with him in the Oaklawn Handicap, and it seemed that the 1994 Classic winner didn’t go into the race with his best foot forward, finishing third, 6 ½ lengths behind Cigar. A month later, the result was the same in the Pimlico Special when he finished third again, this time five lengths behind Cigar.
While Cigar decided to stay on the East Coast to prepare for the Hollywood Gold Cup, Concern shipped to Southern California a month early to run in the Grade 1 Californian Stakes. Concern moved to the front earlier than usual, taking the lead with a little more than three-eighths of a mile remaining and winning by 2 ¾ lengths. It was only the second time Concern had been in the lead at any call before the finish. The first time resulted in a four-length maiden breaking win for the colt.
But Concern’s race was over before it began in the Hollywood Gold Cup when he hit his head on the starting gate prior to finishing sixth of eight horses in a disappointing performance. He proved dull in his next start in the Pacific Classic Stakes, where he went off as the favorite. Racing near the back of the pack with jockey Gary Stevens, he ended up finishing fifth of six in the race, prompting his connections to give him almost two months off.
Reunited with jockey Mike Smith for the Meadowlands Cup Handicap, it looked like a great opportunity for Concern to get back to his winning ways. He went off as the favorite as part of a coupled entry and was moved to a midpack running style for the race. But Concern made it obvious he was nearing the end of this career, getting beat by 4 ½ lengths to finish a disappointing third.
JERRY BAILEY CELEBRATES AFTER WINNING THE BREEDERS' CUP CLASSIC ON CONCERN
His connections decided to make another run at the Classic at the end of the year, returning to the Breeders’ Cup for his next start in an attempt to become the first horse to win two Breeders’ Cup Classics. Concern again raced from the back of the pack, a move that was successful the previous year, but instead of making a huge move to get up to the front like he had in 1994, he could only manage an eighth-place finish, 14 ¾ lengths behind Cigar.
After handily winning an allowance a month later by 2 ½ lengths as the even-money favorite, Concern said goodbye to the track.
The Maryland-bred became the state’s first $3 million earner with career earnings of $3,079,350 made in 30 starts with seven wins. He returned home for the beginning of his stud career, standing at Northview Stallion Station for $10,000 in 1996.
In 2003, Concern moved to Oklahoma Equine Hospital for the 2004 season after breeding 35 mares at a fee of $3,500 during his final year in Maryland. The move proved to be useful as Concern’s first crop of Oklahoma-breds came with 14 winners, earning him the number six spot on Oklahoma’s sire list in 2007. Concern earned a top 10 spot again in 2008 but slowly fell down the list and he was pensioned in 2011 when he didn’t get any mares in foal.
While Concern didn’t turn out to be as good of a sire as he was a racehorse, he has produced 58 percent winners with 10 of his foals winning stakes races. From only 268 registered foals, he sired two-time champion steeplechaser Good Night Shirt and Lisselan Gardens, a champion sprinter in Spain. Ironically, many of Concern’s biggest successes as a sire came in the four years after he moved to Oklahoma.
Concern’s influence as a sire may not be well spread but his bloodline has the possibility to be felt around the world through his daughters. His most successful daughter in the breeding shed, a mare named Difficult, is the dam of Testa Matta. Testa Matta, by Tapit (a grandson of another Breeders’ Cup Classic winner), has made a big impression in Japan winning seven of his 34 races, including the Grade 1 February Stakes in 2012. As a broodmare sire in the U.S., Concern is most known for Sir Greeley, a two-time graded stakes winner whose dam is Concern’s second-highest money-earning broodmare.
Concern’s career record was weakened by running into some of the monsters of his generation in Holy Bull and Cigar, but in an era that saw the top horses start to race more selectively, Concern was one of the last iron horses. The stallion retired with 30 starts, only taking one break longer than three months during his three-year career, a record you now rarely see at the elite levels of racing.