Those words, written by a local racing fan following the 1939 Preakness Stakes, well expressed the feelings of the whole state of Maryland when the locally bred hero pulled off victory in the state's greatest horserace.
Laura Gal was an undistinguished broodmare with royal blood. Her sire was Sir Gallahad III, sire of Triple Crown winner Gallant Fox and the nation's leading stallion on four occasions. His illustrious record as a broodmare sire was still in the future when Laura Gal produced a bay colt in April of 1936 for William L. Brann and partner Robert S. Castle.
Born in Maryland at his breeders' Branncastle Farm, Challedon was sired by Challenger II, and became the first champion by the imported stallion.
When he reached racing age, Challedon raced solely for W.L. Brann, whose partner's failing health had influenced his decision to get out of racing. Branncastle Farm became Glade Valley Farm. He was trained by former jockey Louis Schaefer, who had ridden Dr. Freeland to a come from behind victory over Minatour in the 1929 Preakness Stakes. Schaefer was the subject of the classic race's first claim of foul, but the judges decided in his favor and Dr. Freeland became Walter J. Salmon's third Preakness winner.
At two, Challedon gained attention by winning the Maryland Futurity by a nose. In his next start, he beat Impound and Gilded Knight by two lengths in the New England Futurity. Despite alleged bucked shins, he ran at Pimlico two weeks later, beating Third Degree by a length and a half in the Pimlico Futurity. Gilded Knight and E.R. Bradley's Big Hurry were among the beaten field.
Challedon had earned $67,700 in his freshman campaign, with four wins from six starts. Having not met El Chico, who had scored in the Youthful Stakes, the Dover Stakes, the Great American Stakes, the U.S. Hotel Stakes, the Saratoga Special, and the Hopeful Stakes, Challedon didn't have a shot at the divisional title, but he was acknowledged as among the best of his generation.
In his three-year-old debut, Challedon showed he hadn't quite reached winning form when he ran third in the Chesapeake Stakes, beaten by two colts he had defeated before, Gilded Knight and Impound.
Next came the Kentucky Derby, and while Challedon closed strongly for second, he couldn't catch Belair Stud's Johnstown, who won by eight lengths. Juvenile Champion El Chico was sixth.
A week later Challedon met Johnstown again, in the Preakness Stakes. After the runaway win at Churchill Downs, Johnstown had been hailed the next Man o' War, and few thought Challedon or any of the others in the six horse field could beat the son of Jamestown.
It poured rain on Pimlico that week, turning the track into a swampy mess. As expected, Johnstown jumped into the lead, stalked by entrymate Gilded Knight. Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons trained the pair, and had boldly stated that only Wheatley Stable's Gilded Knight could hold a candle to the undefeated star of Belair.
Johnstown led Gilded Knight down the backstretch, and then failed to pull away. The filly Ciencia, winner of the Santa Anita Derby, made her challenge, and Challedon went three wide to join the battle. The four horses thundered into the stretch, and Challedon pulled away to win by a length and a half. Gilded Knight hung on for second, and as both Johnstown and Ciencia faded, Volitant came up for third.
The crowd was jubilant. They had come to see a great horse, and while Johnstown had failed to prove invincible, the local hero Challedon had proven himself worthy of their adulation. Not since Cloverbrook had a colt bred, owned, and trained in Maryland worn the blanket of black-eyed susans and taken the coveted Woodlawn Vase.
Unfortunately, Challedon wasn't eligible for the Belmont, and he was denied an immediate a rematch with Johnstown, who recovered his defeat and won the Withers Stakes, then took the Belmont virtually unopposed.
Challedon traveled to Keeneland, where he set a new world record of 1:54 3/5 for a mile and a sixteenth in winning the Tranter Purse.
He met Johnstown again in the Dwyer Stakes, and the Belair colt was triumphant. Challedon wound up third behind Sun Lover, who got ten pounds from the two classic winners.
He was third again when he attempted to give weight to Sun Lover and Eight Thirty in the Kent Handicap at Delaware Park. Challedon returned to the winner's circle following the Yankee Stakes, in which he defeated Greentree Stable's Hash, winner of the Kenner Stakes, the Edgemere Handicap, and the Lawrence Realization.
The final match with Johnstown came in Chicago, and this time Challedon was victorious. Johnstown finished third behind Sun Lover, and thus the rivalry ended with two wins each.
Challedon met Santa Anita Handicap winner Kayak II in the Narragansett Special, and beat the older horse handily.
He won the Hawthorne Gold Cup while giving fourteen pounds to runnerup Gridiron, won the Havre de Grace Handicap, and won the Maryland Handicap.
In his final start of the season, Challedon again beat Kayak II, winning the Pimlico Special. Having won nine of fifteen starts, earning $184,535, Challedon was named Champion Three-Year-Old Colt and Horse of the Year.
Other than his Preakness win, Challedon's most famous accomplishment came in the 1940 Hollywood Gold Cup. He shouldered an impressive 133 pounds and set a new track record of 2:02 for a mile and a quarter. George Woolf was in the irons for the triumph, and therefore successfully remained the only jockey to have ever won the young racetrack's biggest prize. He had ridden Seabiscuit to victory, also under 133 pounds, in the inaugural running, and had triumphed the following year on Kayak II.
In addition to the winning jockey and the winner's hefty weight assignment, the 1940 Gold Cup shared another similarity with the 1938 running. Specify was once again second.
Returning east, Challedon was third in the Massachusetts Handicap. He was giving four pounds to the outstanding Eight Thirty, who won, and fifteen pounds to Greentree Stable's talented Hash. Hash also beat Challedon in the Narragansett Special, this time the recipient of eight pounds.
George Woolf again rode Challedon when he won the Whitney Stakes at Saratoga in stakes record time. After taking the Havre de Grace Handicap, Challedon finished off the year with another victorious Pimlico Special. He was again named Horse of the Year, having earned $70,625 with five wins in seven starts, and was also named Champion Handicap Horse.
As a five year old, Challedon suffered a tendon injury and was plagued by quarter cracks. He failed to bring home any purse money in three starts. He managed a couple of wins at the age of six, but grew sour and unwilling to extend himself. Challedon retired to stud, having earned a lifetime total of $334,660.
He stood at Ira Drymon's Gallaher Farm, and sired thirteen stakes winners including Ancester, winner of $237,956, Gigantic, who brought home $217,230, Tenacious, who won $213,095, and Shy Guy, who earned $170.425.
His most successful offspring was the gelding Donor, who campaigned for years, with some of his most notable successes including the Champagne Stakes, the Jerome Handicap, the Butler Handicap, and two runnings of the Narragansett Special. Donor retired with earnings of $367,560.
Challedon also sired the good broodmare Flitabout, dam of Spinaway Stakes winner Flirtatious and the filly Funloving, winner of the Black Eyed Susan Stakes and the Mother Goose Stakes.
The hero of Maryland passed away at the age of twenty-two, after breaking a leg in his paddock. He entered the Hall of Fame in 1977, beating old rival Johnstown by fifteen years.
|Challenger II||Swynford||John o' Gaunt||Isinglass|
|Sword Play||Great Sport||Gallinule|
|Flash of Steel||Royal Realm|
|Laura Gal||Sir Gallahad III||Teddy||Ajax|
|Laura Dianti||Wrack||Robert le Diable|
|Lady Errant||Knight Errant|
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