Gallant Fox

He was from the first American crop of the great Sir Gallahad III who was imported into the United States in 1925. His dam Marguerite started only once before being injured. She was a daughter of Celt who was a son of Commando and a grandson of the Black Whirlwind, the legendary, Domino.

He was a large ungainly blaze faced colt. He had a wall eye and was graced with four white socks. He was slow from the gate, lazy in training and needed relays of other horses to keep him interested in running. But give him some competition, and he was a fire eater according to his trainer, Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons.

His two year old season left much to be desired. He started seven times with two victories in the Flash Stakes and the Junior Championship at Aqueduct.

It was in the Futurity where Gallant Fox first sighted his nemesis, Whichone, who was on a roll after winning both the Saratoga Special and the Champagne. The Fox lost the race, according to Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons because he pulled himself up thinking the hard work had been done only to see Whichone flash by him and draw away by three lengths.

His owner, William Woodward wasn’t discouraged by Gallant Fox’s two year old season as he had little interest in juvenile racing. In Gallant Fox, he saw a horse who should do well over a distance of ground. And so the preparation for the American classics began in earnest. First on the agenda for Woodward was getting the best jockey for his horse. And that was Earle Sande.

Woodward got Sande out of retirement and back in the saddle by offering him a 10 percent cut of Gallant Fox’s earnings during his racing career instead of his usual retainer of $1,500 a month. The end result of this arrangement would put over $30,828 in Sande’s pocket for the 1930 racing season alone.

On April 26, 1930 Gallant Fox started the season by defeating Crack Brigade in the Wood Memorial. Next up was the Preakness which was run before the Kentucky Derby that year. Again Crack Brigade provided the best competition for the Fox of Belair who prevailed by 3/4 of a length.

A scant eight days later, Gallant Fox was at Churchill Downs easily winning the Kentucky Derby by two lengths over Gallant Knight. Given that Gallant Fox had three straight victories in top stakes races, one would have assumed that he would have been favored in his next start, the Belmont Stakes. Instead he was installed as the second choice to the easy victor of the Withers Stakes—Whichone.

Sande proved his worth in the Belmont. He broke Gallant Fox on top eased him on the backstretch and when Whichone and Questionnaire came within a length of the Fox at the top of the stretch, Sande let him go and he drew off by three. With this victory, Gallant Fox would become the second American Triple Crown winner.

Next he loafed his way through a victory in the Dwyer, but was hard pressed to prevail by a neck in the Arlington Classic over a very game Gallant Knight.

In the meantime, his old friend Whichone had been busy easily winning the Ballot Handicap, the Saranac and the Whitney Stakes. Thus setting up a much anticipated meeting between the two champions in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga.

Only four went to the post that day on a heavy muddy track. Challenging Gallant Fox and Whichone were Sun Falcon at 30-1 and Jim Dandy, winless in 19 starts that year, at an impressive 100-1.

A speed dual developed almost immediately following the break. Sonny Workman, on Whichone, unexpectedly took the lead. Gallant Fox quickly followed. Whichone raced in the middle of the track because Workman thought the rail was deeper than it was. Since Gallant Fox was lapped on Whichone, he raced even farther out.

Meanwhile the 100-1 shot, Jim Dandy was busy saving ground on the rail. As they turned for home, Whichone tired and bore out carrying Gallant Fox even wider. Jim Dandy slipped through on the rail and drew away splashing home by eight lengths. An exhausted Gallant Fox held on for second with Whichone finishing another six lengths back in third.

To say the result of the 1930 Travers was a shock was the understatement of the year. The race would underscore Saratoga’s reputation as the Graveyard of Champions. In 1964, the Jim Dandy Stakes was inaugurated to honor the long shot winner of the Travers over Champions Gallant Fox and Whichone.

Even today when the Saratoga race track turns up fetlock deep mud as it did that long ago day in August 1930, old time horsemen will smile at each other and proclaim it “Jim Dandy weather.”

Gallant Fox would redeem himself in his next three starts accounting for the Saratoga Cup and the Jockey Club Gold Cup over older horses and the Lawrence Realization over his own age group. Sadly Whichone would be injured in the Travers and retired.

Below is a photo of Jim Dandy after his victory in the 1930 Travers.

The Fox of Belair was named 1930 Champion Three Year Old and 1930 Horse of the Year. While preparing for the Hawthorne Gold Cup, Gallant Fox caught a cold which settled on his lungs. Taking no chances on the health of his champion, Woodward retired him to stud at Claiborne Farm.

There he sired Omaha, America’s third Triple Crown winner; Flares the winner of the Ascot Gold Cup and Granville, the 1936 Horse of the Year. Gallant Fox died in 1954 and is buried near his sire. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1957. Later he would be joined there by both his sons Omaha and Granville. On the Blood Horse List of Top 100 American Thoroughbreds, Gallant Fox checks in at number 28.

His final record shows 17 starts with 11 wins 3 seconds and 2 thirds with earnings of $328,165. In addition, he set a single season earnings record that stood for over 16 years.

His trainer, Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons considered Gallant Fox the best three year old he ever handled. Fulsome praise from a man who started out as a jockey galloping top horses for the Dwyer Brothers in 1887.

In a column shortly after Gallant Fox’s retirement, the Blood Horse described his place in the pantheon of American Turf Champions:

"Since the retirement of Man o' War no horse has captured the imagination of the American public as has Gallant Fox. After a relatively light campaign as a two-year-old, he swept like a meteor across the racing sky of 1930 and when he was retired for all times after his bloodless triumph in the Jockey Club Gold Cup he was more than a racehorse -he was an institution."

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