Has Kelso had it? The remarkable 7-year-old gelding, winner of $1,634,952 and 32 of his 51 races, was paraded past Saratoga's magnificent elms and into the winner's circle the other day in recognition of his unprecedented fourth straight Horse-of-the-Year title. But that was for 1963. As they applauded, his viewers knew that only a sensational fall season at Aqueduct could redeem a dismal 1964 campaign and produce a fifth crown for Mrs. Richard C. duPont's champion. Few thought it likely.
The odds are that the 1964 Horse of the Year will be a 4-year-old named Gun Bow who has swept into the handicap division with hurricane force. He began to attract attention in January when he won the mile-and-a-quarter Charles H. Strub Stakes at Santa Anita by 12 lengths. Last month at Aqueduct, going the same distance in the Brooklyn Handicap. Gun Bow was clocked in 1:59[3/5]—the fastest 10 furlongs in the history of New York racing. Again he won by 12 lengths, this time over the proved runner Olden Times, while Iron Peg and Kelso trailed. He races next in the $100,000-added Washington Park Handicap in Chicago on August 22.
Three times this year Gun Bow had finished behind Mongo (at Bowie, Aqueduct and Monmouth). He more than made up for those losses at Saratoga as he won the Whitney Stakes from Mongo by 10 lengths in near track-record time for the mile and an eighth. Watching him cross the finish line still full of run, Trainer Max Hirsch was moved to remark, "This is one of the most brilliant horses I have ever seen." Olin Gentry, manager of John Galbreath's Darby Dan Farm, added, "Only Citation himself could have given Gun Bow a race today."
While Gun Bow was flirting with track records and winning his sixth start of 11 races this year for Trainer Eddie Neloy, he was also making news on the financial front. A son of Gun Shot (himself a son of Hyperion, who broke down before he could prove his potential) out of an undistinguished War Admiral mare named Ribbons and Bows, Gun Bow had begun life as just another foal on the farm of his breeder, Mrs. Elizabeth Arden Graham. After the Whitney he was sold for $1 million, a transaction which immediately elevated him to a very select group. John Galbreath bought Swaps from Rex Ellsworth for $2 million, and back in 1955 a syndicate headed by the Kentucky breeder Leslie Combs II bought Nashua from the estate of young Bill Woodward for $1,251,200.
Syndicates made up of wealthy owners and breeders figure prominently these days in the purchase of horses for breeding (SI, Sept. 29, 1958), but little has been done about syndicating horses of racing age who are capable of winning purse money for their new owners as well as money from future breeding ventures. "It makes perfectly good sense," says another Kentucky breeder, Warner L. Jones Jr., "to have a group of people participate in a horse's racetrack winnings and share in his expenses."
Only a few weeks before, Jones sold the only Bold Ruler colt who will go on the auction block this year to Mrs. Harry W. Morrison for a world-record price of $170,000 and promptly helped her form a syndicate ownership.
The man behind the Gun Bow syndicate is 36-year-old John R. Gaines, a former upstate New Yorker who now operates Gainesway Farm, adjoining Calumet Farm in Lexington, Ky. Gaines first got into the stallion business when Fred Hooper persuaded him to syndicate Hooper's gallant Crozier for $800,000. With Warner Jones's assistance, he has now done the same for Gun Bow.
While John Gaines was picking up his Thoroughbred savvy, Gun Bow was being shuffled from one Elizabeth Arden trainer to the next as the stable made frequent changes. "I think a bad leg kept him out of racing entirely in his 2-year-old year," said one of the training alumni. "Last year, at 3, he showed a world of speed, but they managed to mess him up somehow, and he never really got going." The record shows that Gun Bow ran 18 times in 1963. He won six races and $41,292. Nobody ran through the tunnels of Aqueduct shouting, "A new Man o' War has arrived."
Since 1963 was also a year in which Mrs. Graham's Maine Chance Farm was forced to show a profit for income tax purposes, Gun Bow was picked as something that had to go. Recently when she was asked who—or how many—had trained Gun Bow, she replied wistfully, "Heavens, I don't know who trained him, but the man certainly couldn't have been very good, could he?"
Gun Bow and his stablemate Gun Boat, then a promising 2-year-old, were sold in a package deal for $125,000 to New York Attorney Harry P. Albert and a Sea Girt, N.J. widow, Mrs. John T. Stanley, who race as the Gedney Farm.