Allan Carter wasn’t trying to write a book. He just wanted something to do.
But when you’re the historian for the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame and the facts start rolling in, well, you do what you have to.
Carter wrote “From American Eclipse to Silent Screen: An Early History of New York-breds” (Shires Press). It’s available at Northshire Bookstore and from other Saratoga Springs book sellers. He said the book came about after he and fellow racing author Michael Veitch started talking about old racing charts.
“A couple of winters ago, we’re talking about New York-breds and we both said there was no way you could tell who was a New York-bred because they never (noted) it,” Carter said. “So I thought I’d give it a shot.”
Naturally, Carter — who has authored books on the New York State Constitution and 150 years of racing Saratoga (with Mike Kane) — found things even he didn’t know. The book left Carter with some pleasant discoveries. One of his favorites was about the horse with the palindromic name Glenelg, born in 1866. The horse was conceived in England, but the mare was brought to Staten Island, where she dropped the foal. Among Glenelg’s victories were his maiden race, which was a match race, the Travers (then 1 3/4 miles) and the Excelsior, also at Saratoga. He went on to become one of the great sires of the 19th century.
Carter also became enamored with the stories from Crystal Ford, who was born in 1916. He was described as a blue-collar horse that raced 18 to 20 times a year, mostly in cheaper races. The one time he stepped up in class, however, he made it count. Crystal Ford won the 1920 Philadelphia Handicap over the star-studded entry of Sir Barton and Billy Kelly, who were giving the winner 32 and 26 pounds, respectively. Crystal Ford paid $214.40 that day.
Another mind-blowing section in the book details the match race between 9-year-old American Eclipse and 4-year-old Sir Henry in 1823. The race consisted of best two out of three 4-mile heats, with a half-hour break between heats. American Eclipse carried 128 pounds, while Sir Henry toted just 108. After losing the first heat — the only loss of his career — American Eclipse won the next two.
“They ran 96 furlongs in an hour and a half,” Carter said. “Ghostzapper is in the Hall of Fame, and in his entire career he ran 86 furlongs.”
A good portion is devoted to horses sired at Sanford Stud (originally Hurricana) in Amsterdam. One of the more interesting ones was Fort Hunter, who had great success between tracks in Canada and the United States. He was retired to the U.S. government’s Remount Service, established by the Jockey Club’s Breeding Bureau to provide horses for the Army. In 1913, at age 12, Fort Hunter was chosen to lead the military division of President-elect Woodrow Wilson’s inaugural parade.
Some of the more fun parts of the book are not only the reminder of how much more horses raced yesteryear than modern times, but the names of stakes races no longer run and the geography of New York. Carter noted that John Hunter opened his breeding farm in Westchester, although today it would be recognized as The Bronx.
Three-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey Ramon Dominguez will be inducted into the Saratoga Walk of Fame with the Red Jacket ceremony after the fifth race Friday adjacent to the winner’s circle.
The Saratoga Walk of Fame, which opened in 2015, honors the achievements of those who have made significant contributions to racing and Saratoga.
Dominguez, 40, was inducted into racing’s hall of Fame in 2016. He won 4,985 races in his career, which was shortened when he was forced to retire in 2013 due to head injuries suffered in a fall five months prior.
Dominguez was the riding champion at Saratoga in 2009 and 2012. He is one of just two riders to win six races in one day at Saratoga, which he accomplished in 2012.
Adsit’s first win
Saratoga Springs High School and Union College graduate Abby Adsit got her first training win at the meet this season when Dot Matrix upset the field at 27-1 in the third race Thursday.
The Saratoga County Economic Opportunity Council is holding a food drive Friday at the jockey silks porch. Those donating canned or nonperishable food will receive a 2017 Saratoga cap, while supplies last.