What’s in a (Race) Name? Gallant Bloom’s Win Streak

Gallant Bloom after winning the 1968 Gardenia Stakes. (Jim Raftery/BloodHorse photo)

Gallant Bloom was all about extremes. Finishing in the middle of the pack was not something she did with any regularity; she preferred to either win by daylight or finish a huge margin behind the leaders. Fortunately for her human connections, Gallant Bloom chose to win more often than not.

For two years at the end of the 1960s, Gallant Bloom was the champion of her division, asserting her dominance over an excellent crop of fillies that included the future Hall of Fame member Shuvee. Fast, slow, sloppy, good—no track condition could stop her as she traveled from coast to coast winning some of the greatest races in the country.

Her 2-year-old season in 1968 was one of ups and downs. She started off well with three straight wins (though one was a trial that didn’t officially count on her race record), but then she inexplicably lost her next three starts by 11 lengths, 23 lengths, and 18 lengths, beating a total of two horses to the wire. But whatever was bothering Gallant Bloom didn’t last long, because thereafter she embarked on a streak of domination that few fillies in history have matched.

First, she ended the 1968 season by winning four of her last five starts, including the prestigious Matron Stakes and Gardenia Stakes. She was voted champion 2-year-old filly by Daily Racing Form, but Gallant Bloom was just warming up. In 1969, she swept unbeaten through eight starts, winning such important races as the Monmouth Oaks, Delaware Oaks, and Gazelle Handicap against her own age group before crushing older mares (including the champion Gamely) in the Matchmaker Stakes and Spinster Stakes. Even Shuvee—in the midst of a season that included a sweep of the New York Filly Triple Crown—was no match for Gallant Bloom; they faced off twice in 1969 and Gallant Bloom prevailed on both occasions.

After being named champion 3-year-old filly and champion handicap mare by the Daily Racing Form, Gallant Bloom returned in 1970 and started the year with victories in the Santa Maria Handicap and Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap at Santa Anita, extending her win streak to 12 consecutive races. But after some time off, she was soundly beaten when facing males in the Nassau County Handicap and Suburban Handicap, and an ankle chip led to her retirement.

Although relatively few of Gallant Bloom’s career highlights were achieved in New York, her stakes wins at Belmont Park (which included the Gazelle) and her three championship titles made her an obvious choice as the namesake of a prestigious race. In 1994, three years after Gallant Bloom’s death, Belmont Park inaugurated the Grade 2 Gallant Bloom Handicap her honor.

Let’s take a stroll down memory lane and recall the namesakes behind a few other upcoming races …

Grade 2 Kelso Handicap at Belmont Park

Winning a Horse of the Year title requires a race horse of phenomenal talent. Winning it twice requires a horse with both phenomenal talent and the durability to maintain top form over multiple seasons. But winning Horse of the Year five times? To achieve that unprecedented feat requires a horse with the same talents as Kelso, whose speed, durability, consistency, and weight-carrying abilities earned him five straight Horse of the Year titles from 1960 through 1964. A brief sampling of the gelding’s major victories includes five Jockey Club Gold Cups and a sweep of the old “Handicap Triple Crown” comprised of the Metropolitan, Brooklyn, and Suburban Handicaps.

More than 50 years later, we’re still waiting for another horse to equal Kelso’s extraordinary feats. Suffice to say, it could be a long wait!

Grade 3 Gallant Bob Stakes at Parx Racing

When Gallant Bob was at his best, you didn’t want to line up against him in a sprint race. The durable gelding had been bred in Kentucky, but spent most of his racing days at Keystone Park in Pennsylvania, a track now known as Parx Racing. As a 3-year-old in 1975, “Gallant Bob” and “unstoppable” were practically synonymous, for during the course of a busy season, Gallant Bob won 11 of his 15 starts at eight different tracks in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Delaware, and Illinois. This cross-country campaign earned him the Eclipse Award as champion sprinter, and after retiring with a record of 23 wins from 77 starts—26 of them at Keystone—Gallant Bob was eventually honored with a sprint stakes race named for him at Parx Racing.

Kip Deville Stakes at Remington Park

It’s not every day that you see an Oklahoma-bred racehorse winning Grade 1 races across the country, but Kip Deville was far from an ordinary horse. After starting his career racing on dirt in his home state, Kip Deville eventually found his true calling on turf, rising to stardom with an upset victory in the 2007 Grade 1 Frank E. Kilroe Mile. A versatile star that didn’t mind a rain-soaked turf course, Kip Deville also won the 2007 Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Mile over a bog-like course at Monmouth Park and continued to race with success in Grade 1 company through 2009. Sadly, after a determined battle against laminitis, Kip Deville passed away in 2010.

Vice Regent Stakes at Woodbine

Vice Regent was bred to be a superstar racehorse. His sire was the great stallion Northern Dancer, and his full brother was the champion Viceregal. Unfortunately, injuries limited Vice Regent’s career to just five starts, and he achieved little of note while earning just $6,215. But Vice Regent excelled at stud, leading the Canadian stallion rankings for 13 years while siring 105 stakes winners, including the champion Deputy Minister, who also became a successful sire. Thanks to his impact as a stallion, Vice Regent was inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 1989.

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