In conjunction with Tom Hall's Throwback Thursday feature in BloodHorse Daily, BloodHorse.com each Thursday will present corresponding race stories from the pages of the magazine. This week is a recap of the Nov. 1, 1969 Vosburgh Handicap won by Ta Wee. The story, headlined "Galloping Grit" was written by William H. Rudy and appeared in the Nov. 8, 1969 issue of The Blood-Horse.
"It would be nice for the mare to make it three in a row," Johnny Nerud said before the $50,000-added Vosburgh Handicap at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Nerud now supervises the broad and successful operations of Tartan Farms, leaving the actual training to Scotty Schulhofer, and thus is more inclined these days to look at things from a breeding angle. "The mare" was Aspidistra, which did not win three races in her life, but she did make it three in a row in the Vosburgh.
Two years ago it was her 3-year-old colt by Rough'n Tumble, Dr. Fager, which won the Vosburgh under 128 pounds and later was voted champion sprinter of the year. Last year it was Dr. Fager again, under 139 pounds, winning the Vosburgh in track-record time of 1:20 1/5 for the seven furlongs and ending his career with the sprint championship and Horse of the Year honors.
Ta Wee, her 3-year-old daughter by Intentionally, gave Aspidistra her third straight Vosburgh and probably staked out for herself the year's sprint championship. She has given weight, actual and on the scale, to males, and this was her eighth stakes victory of the year, starting far back in January with a division of the Jasmine at Hialeah. Her only losses in 10 starts were a third in the Mimosa and a fourth in her one grass attempt, the latter at 1 1/16 miles.
Ta Wee carried high weight of 123 in the Vosburgh. This was only two pounds, considering the sex allowance, below Dr. Fager's weighting as a 3-year-old, and was from 2 to 13 pounds more than carried by any of her 10 rivals, eight of them males. She gave Gamely, champion 5-year-old mare, four pounds.
The weights, in fact, constituted a triumph for racing secretary Tommy Trotter. Ta Wee's margin after a desperate stretch drive was a head, with Rising Market and Plucky Lucky dead-heating for second, a half-length in front of Jaikyl, which was fourth. King Emperor was only another head back and a length in front of Shuvee, with Mr. Leader and Gamely less than a length back of her.
It was very nearly an eight-horse photo, and the entire field, save for extreme outsider Gran Campeon, was spanned by some four lengths.
John L. Rotz again gave Ta Wee a thoughtful and vigorous ride. She needed all his skill and all the determination she could muster to get home in front.
"What this race proves is that she's just the gamest thing there is," Rotz said. "I guess it looked like she was beat at the head of the stretch."
As a matter of fact, it did not appear that anyone was beaten at the head of the stretch and for most of the way down the stretch. It was a cavalry charge reminiscent of this year's Hopeful.
Coup Landing was sent to the lead at the start with Rising Market, breaking from the extreme outside and staying there under Bobby Ussery's favorite tactics, running closest. Misty Run was close up, down on the rail, with Ta Wee just behind her, narrowly ahead of Jaikyl.
Coup Landing still was leading going into the far turn as Ussery swooped down from the outside with Rising Market. Simultaneously, Rotz, seeing Jaikyl range alongside, called on Ta Wee to save position and he said afterward that he had to move her sooner than he would have preferred.
Jaikyl was caught in something of a squeeze as Rising Market came down on him from the outside and Ta Wee went out a bit, brushing him. Paul Kallai checked momentarily, and later claimed foul against both Rotz and Ussery.
Straightening for home, Ta Wee had her nose in front. Rotz, as he explained later, had position, "but I had used her instead of being able to come from behind as I wanted."
Rising Market charged through the stretch right with Ta Wee. The outsider, Plucky Lucky, which never had been far back, began a strong drive on the far outside, and Jaikyl recovering, charged between horses. King Emperor still was in it down on the rail, where he had some trouble finding racing room, and Shuvee was turning on her usual late rush. Gamely, while not beaten far, lost ground and did not show her usual zip.
Ta Wee would not let Rising Market pass, holding on to her head margin through the final furlong. Plucky Lucky managed in the last stride to gain a dead heat with Rising Market and, had the race been a bit longer, might have caught the leader.
The time was a fine 1:21 3/5, and although this was a second and two-fifths slower off the track and stakes mark set last year by Dr. Fager, it equaled his time as a 3-year-old.
"You can rate her, but she doesn't rate real easy," Rotz said. "She's got that natural speed and it's hard to check her."
In winning her eighth stakes of the year, Ta Wee earned $28,220 and ran her total for the season to $170,663. The only other winner of eight stakes is Arts and Letters and he has more than a half-million dollars. It pays to be a male and go around two turns.