What’s in a (Race) Name? William Woodward and Belair Stud

Legends
William Woodward Sr. and Gallant Fox (Blood-Horse Library)

To breed and campaign a winner of such a prestigious race as the Kentucky Derby – or in England, the similarly-coveted English Derby – requires a significant commitment to that country’s racing industry. The fact that William Woodward Sr. came within inches of completing a Kentucky Derby/Epsom Derby double with his own homebred horses is a testament to his remarkable success and dedication to horse racing on both sides of the ocean!

To condense Woodward’s achievements and impact on the sport to a few paragraphs borders on the impossible, for the lists of champions and stakes winners that Woodward bred and raced are lengthy. The silks of Woodward’s Belair Stud – white with red polka dots – were routinely seen in the winner’s circle following major races in both North America and Europe from the 1930s through the 1950s.

There was Gallant Fox, winner of the Triple Crown in 1930, and there was his son Omaha, who matched his sire’s feat five years later, meaning that Belair Stud is responsible for two of racing’s 12 Triple Crown winners. There was Faireno, Belmont Stakes winner and champion 3-year-old colt in 1932. There was Granville, Belmont Stakes winner and Horse of the Year in 1936. Vagrancy and Happy Gal were champion fillies, and Johnstown – though not bred by Woodward – carried the Belair silks to victory in the 1939 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes.

William Woodward Sr. (Blood-Horse Library)

Yet all of these memorable horses were merely Woodward’s champions in North America. Across the Atlantic Ocean, Woodward enjoyed the success of his homebred champions Foxbrough (winner of the 1938 Middle Park Stakes), Hycilla (winner of the 1944 English Oaks), Black Tarquin (winner of the 1948 St. Leger Stakes), and Prince Simon. The latter colt nearly completed Woodward’s long-held dream of winning both the Kentucky Derby and the English Derby, for Prince Simon ran a tremendous race in the 1950 English Derby to fall just a head short of victory. Nevertheless, he was deemed the best 3-year-old colt in England by the end of the year.

In addition to his racing success, Woodward also made an invaluable contribution to the U.S. racing industry when he helped import the talented Sir Gallahad III from Europe. Sir Gallahad III would prove to be a huge success as a stallion, siring Gallant Fox and becoming a major influence on the breed. Woodward also served as chairman of The Jockey Club for 20 years.

Woodward passed away in 1953, shortly before one of the best horses he ever bred came to the races. Named Nashua, the exciting colt would win the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes en route to Horse of the Year honors in 1955, adding one more name to the list of champions bred by Woodward.

In 1954, the Grade 1 Woodward Stakes was inaugurated in Woodward’s memory. Originally held at Belmont Park, in 2006 the race was moved to Saratoga, where it remains one of the most prestigious races in the country. Let’s take a look back through history and recall a few other unforgettable racing legends …

Colin Stakes at Woodbine

Just as neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night can stop the U.S. Postal Service, no weather conditions could stop the great racehorse Colin, who won races on tracks labeled fast, good, muddy, sloppy, and heavy. Actually, nothing at all could stop Colin, who went 13-for-13 during his racing career to retire with an unbeaten record. After scoring 10 impressive wins as a 2-year-old in 1907, Colin went 3-for-3 during a brief campaign as a 3-year-old, which included an unforgettable victory in the 1908 Belmont Stakes. The race was conducted during a severe rainstorm that obscured the horses from view for most of the race; when they came into the stretch, Colin was leading the way, but his longtime rival Fair Play was closing fast on the outside. Colin’s lead evaporated quickly in the final furlong (various theories proposed that he was struggling with the track, had suffered an injury, or that jockey Joe Notter had misjudged the finish line), but the game colt nevertheless held on by a head to keep his perfect record intact.

Susan’s Girl Stakes at Gulfstream Park

Much like the sensational Beholder, Susan’s Girl was the type of mare that raced on for years while competing at the highest level of the sport, adding to her legacy with almost every race. After winning a couple of stakes races as a 2-year-old in 1971, Susan’s Girl rose to the forefront of the sport in 1972 when she won the Kentucky Oaks, Acorn Stakes, Beldame Stakes, Gazelle Handicap, Cotillion Handicap, La Troienne Stakes, Santa Susana Stakes, Pasadena Stakes during an amazing championship season. She could have retired right then with a reputation as a very special filly, but instead Susan’s Girl competed on through 1976, winning two more championships and such major races as (get ready!) the Spinster Stakes (twice), Delaware Handicap (twice), Beldame Stakes, Matchmaker Stakes, Long Beach Handicap, Apple Blossom Handicap, Falls City Handicap, Susquehanna Handicap, Santa Barbara Handicap, Santa Margarita Invitational, and Santa Maria Handicap.

One Dreamer Stakes at Kentucky Downs

One Dreamer was supposed to be a turf horse, and as a 6-year-old mare in 1994, she spent most of her racing time on the grass, winning a couple of minor stakes races and placing in a few larger ones. So when One Dreamer showed up in the entries for the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Distaff on the dirt at Churchill Downs, few people expected her to be a factor – not against the likes of such well-known stars as Heavenly Prize, Sky Beauty, and Hollywood Wildcat – and One Dreamer was sent off as a huge longshot at 47-1.

But the bettors had evidently forgotten One Dreamer’s four-length win in the Grade 2 Louisville Budweiser Breeders’ Cup Handicap earlier that year … achieved over the dirt at Churchill Downs. Returning to the site of her biggest victory, One Dreamer posted an astonishing gate-to-wire upset in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, holding off a late run from Heavenly Prize to win by a neck.

Earlier in her career, One Dreamer had won the Rachel Jackson Stakes at “Dueling Grounds” (now Kentucky Downs), earning herself a stakes race named in her honor at the unique Kentucky turf track.

Tourist Mile Stakes at Kentucky Downs

Less than one year ago, Tourist earned his place in racing history with a thrilling victory in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Mile at Santa Anita. The talented son of Tiznow had taken his time rising to the highest levels of the sport – he didn’t win a graded stakes race until he was 5 years old – but he put everything together in the second half of 2016, when he scored a win in the Grade 1 Fourstardave Handicap at Saratoga. Two starts later came his impressive win in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, in which he defeated defending champion Tepin in the brilliant time of 1:31.71, missing the course record by just 0.02 seconds. He now resides as a stallion at WinStar Farm.

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