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In stark contrast to today, horse racing in the 1950's was a mainstream sport, with media coverage in every newspaper, its equine and human heroes cheered on like today's superstars in the NFL and NBA. The Wheatley Stable's Bold Ruler, trained by Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons and ridden by Eddie Arcaro, was one of the superstars of that decade. Best known today as the sire of 1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat, he was a machine on the track, winning 23 of his 33 starts. In this, the 24th and last book in the Thoroughbred Legends series, Eclipse Award winning author Edward L. Bowen tells us the story of this champion both on the track and in the breeding shed.
Following the pattern of previous books in this series, Bowen starts off with the ancestral history of the owner, Mrs. Gladys Phipps, and the horse, a son of English import and champion sire Nasrullah and multiple stakes winner Miss Disco. Clearly, Bold Ruler had one of the most impeccable pedigrees to be found, and his owner and trainer set their sights on the Triple Crown.
Bold Ruler was all but unbeatable as a juvenile, including a win in the Juvenile at Belmont Park, but very poor results in the Garden State and the Remsen left Fitzsimmons lost as to why the colt suddenly lost his competitiveness. Giving him a short break as the stable shipped to Florida for the winter, Bold Ruler was back as a 3-year-old, and after winning the Wood Memorial was sent off as the 6-5 favorite in the 1957 Kentucky Derby. The fact that he finished fourth, then won the Preakness, but lost the Belmont and later the Woodward, began to cast doubt on his ability to get a mile and a quarter. He would redeem himself at 4 by winning 5 of 7 starts in 1958 including two handicaps at ten furlongs, the Suburban and the Monmouth, toting 134 pounds both times. Bowen keeps the reader's attention, portraying Bold Ruler's races as the exciting spectacles they were and including quotes from his connections and turf writers of the day.
Retired to stud at the legendary Claiborne Farm in Kentucky, he proved that he could pass on his considerable racetrack talent. His first crop consisted of 14 winners, including 8 stakes winners, out of just 17 foals. He would go on to lead the general sire list six times and was the leading sire of earners for seven straight years, 1963-1969. However, his loss in the Derby seemed to jinx his offspring, as he failed to sire a winner during that time. It wasn't until Secretariat, a 1970 foal, not only won the Derby but captured the Triple Crown. His tail-male descendents include 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew, 1979 Derby winner Spectacular Bid, and 1984 Derby winner Swale. Overall he sired 22% stakes winners from foals and ten North American champions, in a time when a typical stallion averaged about 30 foals a year. Bowen points out that if Bold Ruler were a stallion today, he would be shuttled between the two hemispheres and would cover more than 200 mares a year.
Edward Bowen has written a fitting tribute to one of racing's all time greatest sires. This is an excellent book for all fans of racing history, especially those who would like to learn more about Bold Ruler's continuing influence on racing today.
Bold Ruler has a list price of $24.95 and is available from Exclusively Equine for $15.95 or Amazon.com for $16.47.
Other books in the Thoroughbred Legends Series:
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