Hialeah Park will always be known as the race track where champions made history. The list is long, including Seabiscuit, who made his racing debut at Hialeah Park on January 19, 1935.
Collectively over the years, champion horses help crown Hialeah Park the jewel of Thoroughbred racing. Horses who won at Hialeah often took their show on the road, winning major stakes races all across the country. A victory in Hialeah’s Flamingo Stakes, often meant you were a major player for that year’s Kentucky Derby. A win in the Widener Handicap stamped you as a force to be reckoned with in the battle for Horse Of The Year.
Over the years, Hialeah Park has witnessed some of the most historic moments in the world of racing, celebrating victory and triumph year after year.
The list of champion horses who raced at Hialeah Park includes numerous horses elected to the Racing Hall of Fame. For those who used Hialeah Park as a means to racing immortality, there is a special place in the track’s history. Here is a sampling of some of those champions.
War Admiral (c. 1934)
Known best for his famed match race with Seabiscuit, this regally bred son of the great Man O’ War was hardly a slouch. Owned and bred by Samuel Riddle, War Admiral began his racing career with a distinct distaste for the starting gate. Delaying the start of the 1937 Kentucky Derby for more than 8 minutes, ‘The Admiral’ was worth the wait, as he defeated 19 others to go and win that race in emphatic fashion. He had to work harder in the Preakness just two weeks later but was up to the task, winning narrowly. In the Belmont Stakes, “The Mighty Atom” caused as much of a ruckus before the start of the race as he did once the race began, slicing his heel but winning anyway to become one of only 11 horses to capture racing’s coveted Triple Crown. The following year, War Admiral carried a hefty 130 pounds to victory in the 1938 Widener Handicap here at Hialeah Park and went on the famed match race with Seabiscuit later that season.
Citation (c. 1945)
There were few stars in racing in the 1940’s to rival Citation. Bred and owned by Calumet Farm in Lexington, Kentucky, dominant in racing for over a decade, Citation was the first horse to win a million dollars.
“He was the best horse I ever saw,” said trainer Horace A. ‘Jimmy’ Jones, Citation’s trainer. It was said that Citation had no faults. According to Jones, “he could sprint, run two miles, run in the mud or a hard track. He could do it all.” After winning the Flamingo Stakes at Hialeah Park in 1948, Citation’s regular jockey, Al Snider, drowned off the Florida coast in a fishing accident. Trainer Jones replaced Snider with Eddie Arcaro, one of Snider’s friends. After winning the Kentucky Derby in 1948, Arcaro gave Snider’s widow a share of the purse.
By the end of the 1948 season, Citation had a career record of 27 wins and two seconds in 29 starts. That same year, Citation went on to win the Triple Crown. Ranked the 3rd greatest Thoroughbred race horse of the 20th Century, Citation was elected to the racing Hall of Fame in 1959. He died at age 25 on August 8, 1970. In his honor, a statue of Citation stands on the grounds of Hialeah Park.
Nashua (c. 1952)
Nashua’s athletic ability and prowess as a racehorse was evident early in his career. Trained by the legendary ‘Sunny’ Jim Fitzsimmons, Nashua won the Flamingo Stakes at Hialeah Park in 1955. Owned by William Woodward, Nashua also became a silent figure in one of the great social scandals of the century when Woodward was fatally shot by his wife, in a society saga that continued for years to come.
Nashua was eventually sold at a sealed-bid auction as the most expensive horse of the times. Winner of the Preakness and Belmont Stakes in 1955, Nashua enjoyed a long stud career, siring 77 stakes winners including champion, Shuvee. He remained a fan favorite in Kentucky until his death at the age of 30.
Bold Ruler (c. 1954)
A champion by the age of three, Bold Ruler was a standout runner and sire.
Bred and owned by Mrs. Henry Carnegie Phipps, Bold Ruler was born at Claiborne Farm near Paris, Kentucky. Unfortunately, a series of illnesses and injuries plagued Bold Ruler for most of his career. It was said that he was never completely sound. Nonetheless, Bold Ruler won his first five races as the leading two-year-old of 1956. In 1957, he won the Flamingo Stakes in track-record time at Hialeah Park. Also trained by ‘Sunny’ Jim Fitzsimmons, Nashua lost the Kentucky Derby that year, but went on to win the Preakness Stakes with jockey Eddie Arcaro.
The tenacity of Bold Ruler as a race horse and sire helped him fight the greatest battle of his career in 1970. But it was one he was destined to lose. Diagnosed with a cancerous tumor, his owners were determined not to let the horse suffer.
Bold Ruler was euthanized on July 12, 1971 and buried in the Claiborne Farm cemetery with other great champions. He had sired 82 stakes winners.
Carry Back (c. 1958)
Hard work often pays off at the race track. Such was the case with Carry Back, a Maryland-bred stallion without a fancy pedigree. His sire was named ‘Saggy’ and his dam named ‘Joppy’, a mating of odd names that eventually produced a champion simply named Carry Back.
Eventually Carry Back was shipped to Florida where he scored victories in the Flamingo Stakes and the Florida Derby in 1961. That same year, despite drawing post position 14, Carry Back went to the Kentucky Derby as the odds on favorite under jockey John Sellers. He won the race by three-quarters of a length in a time of 2:04.
He backed up his Kentucky Derby success with a victory in the Preakness, but struggled in the Belmont, losing by nearly 15 lengths behind the winner.
Carry Back entered stud duty in Ocala 1963. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1975.
Northern Dancer (c. 1961)
Northern Dancer will always be remembered as a Canadian bred, who won both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in 1964. But his prowess as a stallion and his extraordinary career in the breeding shed made the horse a legend.
Owned by Canadian industrialist and founder of Woodbine Racecourse, E. P. Taylor, Northern Dancer swept the Triple Crown prep races with victories in the Flamingo Stakes, Florida Derby and Blue Grass Stakes. Despite his record, Northern Dancer was sent off as the second choice in the 1964 Kentucky Derby.
Under a strong ride by jockey Bill Hartack, the Canadian colt prevailed by a neck to win the Derby in then record time, a mark only surpassed by the great Secretariat nine years later. Two weeks later, Northern Dancer proved his greatness again with a victory in the Preakness Stakes.
Northern Dancer returned to Canada as a hero, winning the Queen’s Plate by seven and a half lengths. As a stallion, Northern Dancer’s stud fee soared to one million dollars when the stallion was 20 years old. As a sire, he is responsible for 146 stakes winners. Euthanized in 1990, his legacy continues through the accomplishments of his descendants, including his dams and sires.
Forego (g. 1970)
A three time Horse Of The Year, Forego bulldozed through obstacles like they were not even there. Often assigned staggering weights to try to even the playing field, Forego was up to the task with nothing more than a “another day at the office” attitude. The great gelding used Florida to start his amazing run, defeating his elder, True Knight in the 1974 Widener Handicap right here at Hialeah Park. From there he ventured north to New York, locking up his first Horse Of The Year title with victories in Woodward Stakes, Vosburgh Handicap, and Jockey Club Gold Cup, all Grade 1 races.
But Forego was not done with his assault on South Florida racing and Hialeah Park. His five year-old season began with an authoritative win in the 1975 Seminole Handicap and Forego quickly parlayed that in to another Hialeah Park win, defending his title when winning the 1975 Widener Handicap. To date, Forego is the last horse to win back to back Widener Handicaps and shares that honor with just two other horses.
A winner of 34 races, Forego incredibly accomplished 14 of those wins touting 130 pounds or more! We honor the great Forego and soundly affirm that he is a Hialeah Park legend as much as he is a racing legend.
Seattle Slew (c. 1974)
Seattle Slew entered the 1977 Triple Crown campaign as the only undefeated horse to win all three races in the 20th Century. Although he did not win all of his career starts, Seattle Slew won all of his races prior to the Kentucky Derby in 1977.
In the name of Pearson’s Barn, the colt was purchased at the 1975 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July yearling sale for $17,500. Sent to Florida, Seattle Slew won the Flamingo Stakes at Hialeah Park in 1977. Under the guidance of trainer Billy Turner, ‘Slew’ continued his unmatched victories by winning six more consecutive races that same year, including the Triple Crown.
Seattle Slew received racing highest honors including Horse of the Year, the Eclipse Award as best champion three-year old of 1977 and best older male in 1979. He was elected to the Racing Hall of Fame in 1981.
‘Slew’ ended his racing career in 1979, with an easy victory in the Stuyvesant Handicap and was retired with 14 wins out of 17 starts, and earnings in excess of $1.2 million. The Seattle Slew colt, A.P. Indy, whose $2.9 million price tag was the highest in 1990 for a yearling, still commands one of the highest stud fees in racing.
John Henry (g. 1975)
The venerable gelding who grit and gameness was matched only by his “fighter like” attitude, John Henry rose from obscurity to become a racing icon. His father, Ole Bob Bowers was purchased for $900 and with John Henry purchased for just $1100, his racing career looked destined to be average at best.
It was not until trainer Ron McAnally and owners Sam and Dorothy Rubin decided to try John Henry on the turf that the cranky gelding finally hit his best stride. After decisive wins in the San Gabriel and San Marcos Handicaps at Santa Anita Park in California early in 1980, John made a trip to South Florida and Hialeah Park, reporting home an game winner in the 1980 Hialeah Turf Cup. That win propelled John Henry into racing history, with subsequent victories in the Arlington Million, Jockey Club Gold Cup and Sunset Handicap. Refusing to let father time catch him, John Henry continued his stellar career season after season, winning the Turf Classic at Belmont Park at the ripe old age of nine. A winner of a staggering 39 races and earning more than 6.5 million dollars, John is a legend not only at Hialeah but all across the world.
A two-time Horse Of The Year, John Henry was retired in 1985 to his new home in Lexington, Kentucky. Sadly, John Henry passed away at his home at the Kentucky Horse Park in 2007. He was 32. A statue is being prepared in his honor and one currently exists in the paddock of Arlington Park in Chicago.
Spectacular Bid (c. 1976)
As the 1970’s came to an end, following in the footsteps of Secretariat, Seattle Slew and Affirmed, the racing “gods made one more attempt to create the perfect racehorse.”*
Spectacular Bid, who was as close to the perfect racehorse as any before and after him, was not the most handsome horse, nor the most well-bred, but he could do almost anything on the racetrack. During his career, his versatility and speed enabled him to break seven track records, winning 26 of 30 starts.
The son of Bold Bidder, Spectacular Bid sold for $37,000 as a yearling. A champion at two, three and four, he won races at 15 different racetracks in nine different states. Commonly known as ‘The Bid’, the horse racked up victories in the Hutcheson Stakes, the Florida Derby, the Flamingo Stakes and the Blue Grass Stakes. An epic showdown between Spectacular Bid and California champion Flying Paster never materialized in the 1979 Kentucky Derby with ‘The Bid’ cruising home by two and three quarter lengths. It was a similar scenario in the Preakness. But his next race was a different story, thanks to a loose safety pin in the horse’s stall.
‘The Bid’ struggled home in third place, as it became obvious that the horse was not himself. A deep infection in his hoof was eventually discovered, treated and cured. Although denied the Triple Crown, ‘The Bid’ went on to a champion career as a four year old. He was retired to Claiborne Farm in Kentucky in 1981 due to an old sesamoid injury. He eventually was moved to Milfer Farm in New York, where “he was pampered and treated like a king… just as the racing gods intended.”*
This is the list of past winners of the Flamingo Stakes from its first running in 1926 until the final running in 2001. Originally known as the Florida Derby from 1926 -1937.
1931 Lightning Bolt
1933 Charley O
1934 Time Clock
1935 Black Helen
1937 Court Scandal
1938 Lawrin *
1940 Woof Woof
1944 Stir Up
1946 Round View
1948 Citation *
1950 Oil Capital
1952 Blue Man / Charlie McAdam
1953 Straight Face
1956 Needles *
1957 Bold Ruler
1958 Tim Tam *
1960 Bally Ache
1961 Carry Back *
1963 Never Bend
1964 Northern Dancer *
1965 Native Charger
1966 Buckpasser *
1967 Reflected Glory
1968 Wise Exchange
1969 Top Knight
1970 My Dad George
1972 Hold Your Peace
1973 Our Native
1975 Foolish Pleasure *
1976 Honest Pleasure
1979 Spectacular Bid *
1981 Tap Shoes
1982 Timely Writer
1983 Current Hope
1984 Time for a Change
1985 Chief’s Crown
1988 Cherokee Colony
1989 Awe Inspiring
1993 Forever Whirl
1994 Meadow Flight
1995 Pyramid Peak
1996 El Amonte
1997 Frisk Me Now
1999 First American
2001 Thunder Blitz