Buckpasser: 1966 Horse of the YearBuckpasser

1966 Horse of the Year
Few racehorses possess conformation that is good
enough to be compared to that of Buckpasser. The well
bred bay colt epitomizes everything horsemen seek with
regards to appearance. The great painter Richard Stone
Reeves said, “Buckpasser was the most perfectly
proportioned thoroughbred I have ever seen.” Only two
horses, Secretariat and Affirmed, have since earned the
high praise, “in a class with Buckpasser,” from the artist
in regards to their conformation. As New York racing
official Dr. Manuel Gilman commented,
“Generally, every horse has about
a hundred faults of conformation.
I would defy anybody to pick a
flaw in Buckpasser.”
Equally faultless was the champion’s disposition.
Like his sire, 1953 Handicap Triple Crown winner Tom Fool,
Buckpasser displayed the perfect manners that few Kings
have equaled. He never made a false move, and when
Richard Stone Reeves painted his Horse of the Year
portrait, the horse gave the great artist the impression
that had Buckpasser been able to talk, he certainly would
have invited him into the stall, “offering a seat and
perhaps a drink.”
In the stable, the smallest child could have handled
the great champion with ease, but once on the track,
Buckpasser was a changed horse, and it was all jockey
Braulio Baeza could do to hold him down to a canter as the
field paraded to the post. Yet when he was on the lead,
Buckpasser was inclined to loaf, seeming to enjoy taking
the lead more than keeping it, and he preferred to score
his victories with heart-stopping come from behind stretch
drives that left his opponents almost too bewildered to
crawl home behind him in stunned defeat.
Buckpasser was owned and bred by Ogden Phipps, and,
like all the other champions bred by the Phipps’s, he was
born on the Hancock family’s Claiborne Farm in Paris,
Kentucky. His pedigree was pure gold, with 1953 Handicap
Triple Crown winner and Horse of the Year Tom Fool as a
sire, and War Admiral’s Suburban Handicap winning daughter
Busanda as a dam. Not only was Busanda by War Admiral,
and therefore a granddaughter of Man o’ War himself, but
she was also out of a mare by Blue Larkspur, the 1929
Belmont Stakes winner and Horse of the Year. But perhaps
the most influential of Buckpasser’s royal ancestors was
the two time Horse of the Year Equipose, who sired Tom
Fool’s second dam Alpoise. Although he was a full four
generations back in his famous descendant’s pedigree,
Equipose passed many traits down to Buckpasser. During
his career, Equipose, nicknamed the “Chocolate Soldier” by
his fans, was plagued by a chronic quarter crack, the same
affliction which kept Buckpasser out of the 1966 Triple
Crown races. Buckpasser’s perfect conformation and
disposition also came from the Chocolate Soldier, whose
very name referred to his perfect balance and symmetry.
Always a gentleman, Equipose visited the winner’s circle
after twenty nine of his fifty one starts, and his
victories included the 1933 edition of the Suburban
Handicap, a race which both Tom Fool and Buckpasser won in
later years.
So, with a legacy almost impossible to live up to,
Buckpasser began his racing career on May 13, 1965,
running a poor fourth behind Lonely Gambler, who spent the
rest of his days losing cheap claiming races. But never
again did the mighty Buckpasser run out of the money. The
next two times out he won with ease, and then in his first
stakes race, the National Stallion Stakes, he came from a
seemingly hopeless nine lengths behind to dead heat with a
colt named Hospitality. He followed the partial victory
with another impressive come from behind run, this time
taking the Tremont Stakes while Hospitality ran third
behind Spring Double. Apparently growing bored with his
developing predictability, Buckpasser temporarily changed
his style to score his next win by a margin of seven
lengths, baffling even trainer Bill Winfrey.
Buckpasser was himself again in his next start, and
with a brilliant late run he proved he was a top class
horse by beating the favored Our Michael by a half length
in Monmouth’s Sapling Stakes.
With wins in the Hopeful
Stakes and the Arlington-Washington Futurity, Buckpasser
had eight triumphs to his credit when he met the
outstanding filly Priceless Gem in the Aqueduct Futurity.
The Gem took control immediately, and Braulio Baeza kept
his mount close to her flying heels, fearing that the
speedy filly would get so far ahead that even a powerful
stretch drive from Buckpasser wouldn’t be enough to catch
her. Making his move in the backstretch, it took all
Buckpasser had to bring his nose even with her shoulder,
and Priceless Gem held on in the fierce stretch drive to
win by a half length.
In his final race of the season, Buckpasser returned
to New York and avenged the defeat in Chicago, winning the
Champagne Stakes by four lengths while Priceless Gem
finished seventh. The sore shins that the filly developed
kept her from meeting another female star, the great filly
Moccasin, who shared Horse of the Year honors with Roman
Brother as a result of her undefeated season. Buckpasser
was named Champion Two Year Old Colt, beating out Kauai
King and Darby Dan’s unbeaten star Graustark in the
There were many changes for Buckpasser at the start of
the 1966 racing season. Trainer Bill Winfrey was replaced
by Eddie Neloy, who later said, “Buckpasser overcame all
of my mistakes. That’s a great horse.” Also, their was a
jockey change when Braulio Baeza, deciding that he would
prefer to ride Graustark in the classics, was replaced by
Bill Shoemaker. In his three-year-old debut, Buckpasser
ran second behind his stablemate Impressive, who had been
second in the previous year’s Hopeful. Still another
horse owned by the Wheatley Stable, a colt named
Stupendous, finished third.
Now better acquainted, Bill Shoemaker and Buckpasser
won the Everglades Stakes, which earned the bay colt the
prestigious title of winterbook favorite for the Kentucky
Derby, and set their sights on the Flamingo Stakes.
Management at Hialeah, positive that Buckpasser would win
and wishing to avoid losing money through the betting
windows, declared the 1966 Flamingo Stakes to be a
non-wagering event. New York sportswriter Red Smith
dubbed it “The Chicken Flamingo,” and as if to show track
officials that no horse is a sure thing, Buckpasser chose
that running of the Flamingo Stakes as one of the rare
events in which he took the early lead. Once in front,
Buckpasser became bored and shifted into neutral. Taking
full advantage of Buckpasser’s idleness, Abe’s Hope made
his move and took the lead. He was a full two lengths in
front, and there was little doubt that the scene had
induced the symptoms of heart failure in Hialeah’s
officials, when Buckpasser’s interest in the sport of
racing was restored. In a demonstration of explosive
speed and power which left Abe’s Hope gasping for breath,
the great horse shifted back into high gear, and in a mere
three strides he covered the ground which had stood
between victory and defeat, winning the Flamingo in
authoritative fashion.
Shortly after the awe inspiring triumph, Buckpasser
developed a quarter crack, and the ailment kept him out of
the Kentucky Derby. Graustark didn’t make it to Churchill
Downs either, and ended up retiring early when he broke
his foot and ran second to Abe’s Hope in the Blue Grass
Stakes. That left Kauai King to win the Kentucky Derby
and Preakness Stakes without much trouble, but he met with
defeat in the Belmont, when Amberoid, trained by Lucien
Laurin, won the last of the 1966 Classics.
On the same day that Amberoid won the Belmont,
Buckpasser returned to the races, sprinting to an easy
victory in a six furlong allowance race. He then beat
Buffle, who later won the Suburban Handicap, in the
Leonard Richards Stakes, and headed to Chicago for the
Arlington Classic. Kauai King, running despite the
furious protests of his trainer, broke down in the race
and had to be retired. Buckpasser won the event, catching
Creme dela Creme in the stretch and setting a new world
record of 1:32 3/5 for a mile.
Buckpasser’s almost endless stream of victories that
season also included the American Derby, in which he broke
the track record, as well as the Chicago Stakes, Brooklyn
Derby, Woodward Stakes, Travers Stakes, Malibu Stakes,
Brooklyn Handicap, Lawrence Realization Stakes, and the
two mile long Jockey Club Gold Cup. The string of
victories made Buckpasser the first horse to earn more
than one million dollars before the age of four and he was
named the 1966 Horse of the Year.
Buckpasser’s four-year-old season began with a win in
the San Fernando Stakes, but he was sidelined again with a
quarter crack and missed four months of racing. When he
returned, he scored his fifteenth consecutive victory in
the Metropolitan Mile. In his first race on the turf,
Buckpasser unsuccessfully tried to carry 135 pounds in the
Bowling Green Handicap and finished third to his lightly
weighted stablemate Porker.
Back on the dirt, Buckpasser gave away twenty-two
pounds to the Widener Handicap winner, Ring Twice, in the
Suburban Handicap. The lightly weighted Ring Twice had a
two length advantage just eighty yards from the wire, and
in a dramatic end to his most spectacular stretch drive,
Buckpasser leapt past Ring Twice to win by a half-length.
Only one race stood between Buckpasser and the Handicap
Triple Crown, which his sire had worn fourteen years
before. But in the Brooklyn Handicap, Buckpasser was
beaten by the handicapper, running second to the lightly
weighted Handsome Boy.
In the final race of his career, Buckpasser ran second
to Damascus, who was later named the three-year-old
champion and 1967 Horse of the Year, in the Woodward
Stakes. World record holder and 1968 Horse of the Year
Dr. Fager ran third.
Syndicated for $4,800,000, Buckpasser retired after
the Woodward and stood stud at Claiborne Farm, where he
was born. He sired La Prevoyante, the champion juvenile
filly of 1972, as well as Numbered Account, the champion
of the year before. An outstanding broodmare sire, his
daughters include 1991 Broodmare of the Year Toll Booth,
the dam of Champion Sprinter Plugged Nickle, and 1989
Broodmare of the Year Relaxing, the Champion Older Mare of
1981 and the dam of Belmont Stakes winner Easy Goer.
Alluvial produced 1979 Belmont Stakes winner Coastal, as
well as champion Slew o’ Gold, winner of two Jockey Club
Gold Cups, the Belmont Fall Championship Series, and more
than three and a half million dollars. Numbered Account
is the dam of Private Account, a major stakes winner and
sire of the unbeaten mare Personal Ensign.
Daughters of Buckpasser have also produced European
classic winner El Gran Senor, multimillionaire Seeking the
Gold, Canadian Triple Crown winner With Approval, and the
leading sire Woodman, sire of dual classic winner Hansel.
Buckpasser’s Race Record