"Well, if Stymie was not the product of a pedigree manipulation, where did he come from?" Joe Palmer had often asked, baffled as to how a horse like Equestrian, who had earned only $1,580 in his entire career, could sire the world's leading money winner. Yet C.W. Anderson explained the phenomena by stating "Both his sire and his dam were out of Man o' War mares."
While he won only two starts, Equestrian was well bred, sired by former Horse of the Year Equipoise, and out of a Man o' War mare. Stymie's dam, Stop Watch, had also done nothing to distinguish herself on the racetrack, despite the fact that she carried the royal blood of Man o' War. She was sired by On Watch, a colt by the unbeaten Colin.
On June 9, 1919, two promising young colts, both running in stakes company for the first time, had met in the Keene Memorial. The meeting was watched with some interest, as the two young colts were sired by former rivals, and had each shown talent in their maiden races. One of the promising colts was Colin's son On Watch, the other was the Fair Play colt Man o' War, who quickly avenged Colin's five victories over his sire by putting On Watch in his place, beating him in both the Keene Memorial and, the next time out, in the Youthful Stakes. On Watch himself went on to be a stakes winner, once he was allowed to race without the company of the legendary horse, and also ran third in the 1920 Kentucky Derby, behind Paul Jones and Upset.
As a sire, On Watch may not have led the nation, but he got the champion filly War Plumage, who was out of a Man o' War mare, and as a broodmare sire he was responsible for not only Stymie, but also Market Wise. (Interestingly enough, both Stymie and Market Wise were from the male line of Peter Pan, who like Colin was sired by Commando.)
So despite the unglamorous careers of both his sire and his dam, Stymie did have distinguished enough ancestors to grant genetic potential, and was in fact inbred to Man o' War himself, as well as to the great Broomstick.
Stymie was a high headed chestnut colt bred by Robert Kleberg, Jr.'s King Ranch, technically in the name of trainer Max Hirsch due to a paperwork delay in the sale of Stop Watch. He was foaled April 14, 1941 at the immense Texas property.
On May 7, 1943, Stymie ran seventh in his career debut at Jamaica, beating only two horses in a $2,500 claiming race. He was eleventh of twelve at Belmont Park, and he was finishing seventh of fourteen in his third career start, a $1,500 claiming race for maidens, when he was claimed by Hirsch Jacobs, who had been the leading money winning trainer in the country eleven of the past twelve years, without handling a single stakes quality horse.
Jacobs conditioned a large string of claimers, and although he treated each of them like royalty, he raced them often. With Stymie he made no exception, and the chestnut colt went to the post fifty seven times over the next two years.
The first time Stymie ran for Jacobs was six days later at Aqueduct. He again faced maidens, and again carried a claiming tag, this time of $2,000. He gave a good performance, making two seperate moves in the race and finishing a strong second despite bearing out on the turn. The place finish didn't move him out of the maiden claiming ranks, but the next time out, only four days later, it was with $3,500 maiden claimers.
In this effort, he again closed strongly, getting within a neck of the winner before running out of ground. Five furlongs was just not long enough for the horse that was to become one of the greatest stretch runners in history.
Five days later Stymie's price jumped to $5,000, and he had the benefit of Ted Atkinson in the saddle. He also had an additional half a furlong to run, but it still wasn't enough, and Stymie was once again second. Four days later he carried Steve Brooks and ran second in a maiden special weight, missing by only a length.
Four days later Ted Atkinson was in the irons again when Stymie scored his fifth consecutive place finish, this time missing by a mere neck.
The high headed chestnut ran fourth three days later, when racing moved to Jamaica, and Jacobs gave him a couple of weeks off. When he went to post again, he was out of the money in three straight efforts before running third in claiming race at Belmont.
It wasn't until Stymie's fifteenth start that he broke his maiden, but he did it with some style, galloping off to win by five lengths. He was second a week later, then suffered four bad starts in a row, running seventh, third, fourth, and fifth, before winning again, scoring by a length and a half in an allowance race at Aqueduct.
After another pair of bad starts followed by strong finishes, Stymie won an allowance race at Jamaica by a nose, and then the distances finally stretched out. He was second in an allowance at a mile and seventy yards, then tried stakes company for the first time three days later.
The Ardsley Handicap at Jamiaca was divided into two divisions, and Stymie went to post for with the second group. While he couldn't catch the winner, a horse by the name of Bel Reigh, he did give it a game try, finishing second.
A week later Stymie ran in an overnight handicap, this time at six furlongs. He closed strongly on the far outside, and ended up third in a blanket finish, beaten only a neck by the winner. He was only beaten a neck again in the T K Lynch Memorial Handicap at Pimlico, again finishing third in a tight finish.
In Stymie's final race at two, he won an overnight handicap at Jamaica by five lengths, giving ten pounds to the runner up. He had $15,935 in earnings that season, with four wins, eight seconds, and four thirds in twenty eight starts.
Jacobs, realizing that Stymie was afraid of people, spent a great deal of time calming the horse down, and worked the chestnut colt himself, on a lead rope, rather than submitting him to the inconsistent handling of exercise riders. Slowly, Stymie improved.
The chestnut son of Equestrian didn't waste time getting to the races for his sophomore campaign. He went to post on January 1, running second in a six furlong allowance race at Tropical Park. He was fourth a week later in the Hialeah Stakes, sixth in an allowance race, and seventh in the Bahamas Handicap.
After a pair of thirds in allowance company, Jacobs sent Stymie out against some of the nations top three-year-olds in the Flamingo Stakes. One might wonder what inspired that move, but Stymie closed impressively to finish third behind Stir Up.
He won next time out, taking an allowance event by a head, then ran second in an overnight handicap upon his return to New York. A week later he drew off to win an allowance race by four lengths. He then tried the top three-year-olds again in the Wood Memorial. In a truly game effort, the former claimer managed a second to Greentree Stable's Stir Up, strong early favorite for the Kentucky Derby.
Stymie did not go to Churchill Downs, but after finishing fourth in the Chesapeake Stakes he went postward as a supplemental entry in the Preakness. Jacobs must have thought his colt was improving enough to have a chance, because he paid fifteen hundred dollars to start him, a sum equal to the amount he had paid for the horse. The field included Pensive, Calumet Farm's upset winner of the Kentucky Derby; Flamingo Stakes and Wood Memorial winner Stir Up, who was looking for revenge; Cheasapeake Stakes winner Gramps Image; and George D. Widener's talented Platter, who as a juvenile scored in the Pimlico Futurity and Walden Stakes.
The longer shots included Gay Bit, who had been third in the Chesapeake, Alorter, who had enjoyed success in his home state of Ohio, and of course Stymie. While Pensive repeated his Derby performance and won the race for Calumet, Stymie was unable to offer a challenge, finishing sixth.
After a full month off Stymie was again sent out against the best in the business, this time in a seven furlong overnight handicap at Aqueduct. He finished a strong closing third to By Jimminy and Lucky Draw. Five days later the distance stretched out to a mile and a sixteenth, and Stymie was closer, although still third behind By Jimminy, in the Shevlin Stakes. Overcoming a bad start to close strongly, Stymie was only a head behind his old nemesis Stir Up, who was second.
After running eighth in the Dwyer Stakes, in which By Jimminy again beat Stir Up and Lucky Draw, Stymie was given a few months off.
That fall, Stymie was out of the money three times, then finished third in an allowance race. He was second twice more before winning an overnight handicap, and he then returned to top company.
First, he was third to Some Chance in the Gallant Fox Handicap. He was then out of the money behind Megogo in the Washington Handicap at Laurel, and third to Seven Hearts in the Westchester Handicap. Out of the money in the Victory Handicap, he came back to post two strong third place efforts in the Riggs Handicap behind Seven Hearts and in the Pimlico Cup Handicap behind the lightly weighted Megogo and the talented Bolingbroke. He actually gave a pound to the winner.
At three, Stymie had won three of twenty-nine starts, but by finishing in the money an additional fifteen times he brought in $36,325. He had seven times hit the board in stakes company.
As a four-year-old Stymie finally got a short rest, due to a temporary wartime ban on racing, and when he came back he began to win more frequently, and in much better company.
The first time out that spring, he missed by a neck after a typical poor start, then won an overnight handicap a week later. Three days later he met a high class field, including Belmont Stakes winner Bounding Home and Aqueduct Handicap winner Alex Barth in the Grey Lag Handicap. Stymie came home the winner by a half length after trailing by eleven lengths in the early fractions.
Next Stymie met the great Devil Diver in the Suburban Handicap. Despite being the recipient of thirteen pounds, Stymie couldn't catch the champion, but he did beat third place finisher Olympic Zenith while giving him thirteen pounds.
In the Queen's County Handicap Olympic Zenith turned the tables on Stymie, taking advantage of his twelve pound advantage and holding off the stretch runner.
In the biggest challenge of Stymie's four-year-old campaign he denied Devil Diver the Handicap Triple Crown, drawing away to beat the champion by a length and a quarter while Olympic Zenith ran third. After a second to Wait a Bit in the Yonkers Handicap, Stymie beat First Fiddle by a length in the Butler Handicap.
Neither Stymie nor Belmont Stakes winner Pavot could catch the lightly weighted Trymenow in the Whitney Stakes, and Stymie was out of the money in the Saratoga Handicap while giving eighteen pounds to winner Olympic Zenith.
At equal weights the following week, Stymie romped home three lengths ahead of Olympic Zenith in the mile and three-quarter Saratoga Cup.
Stymie was a fast closing third in the Merchants and Citizens Handicap, then was third again in the Jockey Club Gold Cup while Pot o' Luck nosed out Eurasion for first money. The track was sloppy for the Continental Handicap, but Stymie cantered home a five length winner while giving eight pounds to rnner up Chief Barker and two more to Bounding Home.
Despite being boxed in on the turn, Stymie still managed to come from behind and win the Westchester Handicap by a head from Buzfuz, with Olympic Zenith third.
Stymie was third behind Armed and First Fiddle in the Pimlico Special, then beat First Fiddle by a neck in the Riggs Handicap. Stymie rounded out the season by scoring an eight length victory over Pot o' Luck in the two and a half mile Pimlico Cup Handicap. Trymenow was third, another two lengths back.
Thus ending the year with nine wins in nineteen starts, having finished on the board on eight other occasions and earning a total of $225,375, Stymie was honored with the title of Champion Handicap Horse of 1945.
Stymie became known for his heartstopping come from behind wins, often trailing by as much as twenty lengths before beginning his drive on the far turn. His rags to riches story, together with his seemingly impossible finishes, made Stymie a hero to racing fans.
The high headed chestnut continued his newly found winning ways in 1946, scoring handily the first time out that April, when he beat Fighting Step by two and a half lengths in an allowance race at Jamaica. After a second place effort in another allowance race, he won his second Grey Lag Handicap by two lengths while giving runner up Bounding Home twenty two pounds. Fighting Step was third.
Stymie couldn't catch Armed in the Dixie Handicap, and was beaten by the Calumet gelding again in the Suburban Handicap. He went to Delaware Park next, and ran third behind former juvenile champion Pavot and future champion distaffer Gallorette in the Sussex Handicap while giving weight to both.
Stymie was again required to give weight to Gallorette in the Brooklyn Handicap, and the great mare made use of her advantage, beating him by a neck. Stymie finished behind Gallorette for a third time in the Butler Handicap, but they were both behind lightweight Lucky Draw, who got in the race with a mere 105 pounds and won by a head.
Despite his win in the Butler, Lucky Draw still got a ten pound weight advantage in the Monmouth Handicap, and Stymie was second. He ran out of ground in the one mile Wilson Stakes, finishing out of the money behind Pavot, Gallorette, and Lucky Draw.
Stymie finally won again in the Whitney Stakes, successfully carrying top weight on a muddy track and coming home the two length winner, with Mahout, Trymenow and Polynesian behind him. After running second in an allowance race that was clearly too short for his liking, Stymie ran third in the Saratoga Handicap behind Lucky Draw and Preakness winner Polynesian.
The Saratoga Cup required level weights, and under those conditions Stymie had no challengers, winning in a walkover before returning to Aqueduct to win the Edgemere Handicap by a length and a half, finally beating Gallorette.
In the mile and a half Manhattan Handicap, Stymie met Triple Crown winner Assault, but it was Pavot who made him work for the purse money. Stymie won by a hard fought three-quarters of a length.
Pavot got revenge in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, taking off to win by five lengths while Stymie had to settle for second money, beating show finisher Rico Monte by five lengths himself.
It rained for the New York Handicap, and the track was sloppy for the two and a quarter mile event. Stymie loved the distance and didn't mind the slop, taking the lead earlier than usual and coming home a length and a quarter ahead of Rico Monte, with Athenia another two lengths back in third.
Rico Monte was again Stymie's nearest rival in the Gallant Fox Handicap despite the presence of Assault, who ended up third. Stymie opened up a five length lead, and was actually under wraps at the finish, winning by two and a half lengths.
Assault got his revenge in the Pimlico Special, beating Stymie by six lengths. While he couldn't catch the star three-year-old colt, Stymie did beat the champion filly Bridal Flower by three lengths while giving her nine pounds. Armed earned the handicap division championship that season, having beaten Stymie during the summer, but the lack of a title didn't make Stymie any less of a champion. He had earned $238,650 with eight wins in twenty starts, and had only been off the board once all year.
As a six-year-old, Stymie was not surprisingly off the board in a six furlong overnight handicap, then, forced wide in the Grey Lag Handicap, he finished fourth behind Assault.
In one of the finest efforts of his career, Stymie came from thirteen lengths back to win the one mile Metropolitan Handicap by a length, beating Gallorette and Assault in the process.
The next time out, Stymie was fourth behind Assault, Natchez, and Talon in the Suburban Handicap. Gallorette beat him a neck in the Queens County Handicap, then Assault beat him again in the Brooklyn Handicap. The fact that Stymie's earlier win in the Metropolitan Mile kept the Handicap Triple Crown from Assault took little sting from the defeat.
Stymie recovered to win Jamaica's Questionnaire Handicap, then he beat Natchez in the Sussex Handicap before again meeting Assault.
The Butler Handicap proved to be a thrilling race. Stymie came from way back to gain the lead in the stretch, but Assault got by him in the final strides, winning by a head. Gallorette was third.
The International Gold Cup featured Assault, Phalanx, Natchez, and Stymie. The event was at equal weights, over a mile and five eighths. With his typical come from behind style, Stymie rocketed up to win by a neck over Natchez, with Assault third. Stymie followed that up by winning the Massachusetts Handicap at Suffolk Downs, then it was on to Saratoga.
His closing rush wasn't quick enough to catch Rico Monte and Gallorette in the Whitney Stakes, and Stymie got a couple of weeks off following the third place effort. Then he took the Aqueduct Handicap while giving Gallorette ten pounds.
Stymie carried a backbreaking 134 pounds in the Edgemere Handicap, and was beaten by lightweight Elpis, who carried only 114. Stymie still finished well enough to get by Bridal Flower, despite the fact that he was giving the star filly twenty one pounds.
Stymie was second again in the Manhattan Handicap, this time to Rico Monte, to whom he conceded nine pounds. Talon was third.
In the Jockey Club Gold Cup, Stymie failed to get anywhere near the dueling leaders, Phalanx and Talon, who finished in a photo twelve lengths ahead of Stymie and the rest of the field.
Stymie tired in the New York Handicap, but won the Gallant Fox Handicap by a length and three-quarters from Talon and Miss Grillo. He then finished out the year by running out of the money in the Scardale Handicap after a start which was uncharacteristically bad for even Stymie.
Armed was the 1947 Horse of the Year and handicap champion, having never met Stymie. He had beaten virtually everyone else, however, in winning eleven of his seventeen races and earning $376,325. Stymie had earned $299,775 with seven wins in nineteen starts.
At the age of seven Stymie was back again, running third in the Excelsior Handicap, second in the Dixie Handicap, and a fast closing fifth behind Faultless, Fervent, and Gallorette in the Gallant Fox Handicap, before winning his second Metropolitan Handicap with a tremendous stretch drive.
Stymie was second to the lightly weighted Harmonica, to whom he conceded nineteen pounds, in the Suburban Handicap, then was second to Knockdown in the Queens County Handicap while carrying 132 pounds to Knockdown's 113 pounds.
Saddled with 130 pounds in the Aqueduct Handicap, Stymie came up with a rush and beat the champion mare Conniver by a head, with another former champion, Double Jay, in third.
After a win in the Sussex Handicap, Stymie was third behind Conniver and Gallorette in the Brooklyn Handicap while giving weight to both mares. He pulled up lame after finishing fourth in the Monmouth Handicap, and a cracked sesamoid was discovered. Stymie was done for the year.
In 1949, Stymie raced five times, but while he was second to Donor in the New York Handicap he couldn't score a win. The cracked sesamoid he had suffered at the close of his 1948 season continued to give him trouble, and Stymie and retired with earnings of $918,485, an earnings record that stood until Citation won the 1951 Hollywood Gold Cup.
The legendary turf writer Joe Palmer wrote a touching article on the retiring hero, saying:
"This tourist, who doesn't scare easily in print, will long remember the way Stymie came around the turn in the Pimlico Cup Handicap with his copper mane flying in the wind, making pretty good horses look as if they had just remembered a pressing engagement with the quarter pole.
He is not a great horse in the sense that Man o' War and Equipoise were great. He isn't versatile. There are many dozens of horses around that can beat him at a mile, and even at a mile and a quarter he would have trouble with Armed or Lucky Draw, just as he had trouble with Devil Diver. He can't make his own pace and he can't win slow races. He needs something up ahead to draw the speed from the field, to soften it up for his long, sweeping rush at the end. But give him a field with speed in it, at a mile and a half or more, and horses had better get out of his way, even Whirlaway."
Stymie had gone from a losing claimer to the leading money winner in the world, had won twenty five stakes races while competing against some of the best horses of all time, had twice won the Metropolitan Handicap despite it being about a half mile shorter than he would have liked, and had set two track records. He had well earned the fond send off he received at Jamaica before heading to Green Ridge Farm in Kentucky.
With the money Stymie earned, Jacobs, together with a his partner Isidor Bieber, bought a farm in Maryland and named it Stymie Manor. Between 1946 and 1969, horses bred at Stymie Manor earned $18,311,412 and won 3,513 races. Among the best of them were Hail to Reason, the champion two-year-old colt of 1960 who raced in the name of Patrice Jacobs; Affectionately, who earned divisional honors as a two-year-old in 1962 and then was named Champion Handicap Mare and Champion Sprinter in 1965; Straight Deal, the Champion Handicap Mare of 1967; and Regal Gleam, a granddaughter of Stymie who was named co-Champion Two Year Old filly of 1966.
Although Hirsch Jacobs never raced a classic winner, his great mare Affectionately produced a colt by Hail to Reason, named Personality, who won the 1970 Preakness Stakes only three months after Jacobs death, and then went on to be the Champion Three Year Old Colt and co-Horse of the Year. Jacobs' daughter Patrice married Louis Wolfson, and the couple campaigned the Triple Crown winner Affirmed.
As a sire, Stymie produced a number of stakes winners, including Rare Treat, the dam of What a Treat and Ring Twice, and Miz Carol, the dam of Regal Gleam. Stymie gained entrance into the Hall of Fame in 1975, and in 2000 Blood-Horse ranked him forty-first on their end of the century poll. Not bad for a horse who ran seventh in a claiming race at odds of 31-1.
|Frilette||Man o' War||Fair Play|
|Stop Watch||On Watch||Colin||Commando|
|The Great Ruby|
|Sunset Gun||Man o' War||Fair Play|
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