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 Sept. 25, 1965 Futurity Stakes at Aqueduct won by filly Priceless Gem. The story, headlined "Priceless Gem Beats The Boys" was written by William H. Rudy and appeared in the Oct. 2, 1965 issue of The Blood-Horse.
Another amazing chapter in the story of Hirsch Jacobs, the complete horseman, was written at Aqueduct Racetrack this week when his filly, Priceless Gem, won the Futurity.
It was the climax to a wonderful week for the Jacobs family. On Monday, Affectionately, which Jacobs has called the best mare he ever trained, ran one of her gamest races in losing by a nose to Tosmah in the most thrilling race of the year in New York. On Wednesday, Mrs. Ethel Jacobs presented the trophy after Kelso's victory in the Stymie Handicap, named for the foundation stallion of the Jacobs' phenomenal success, and now Priceless Gem had turned back the champion colt Buckpasser in the most convincing manner.
Tally Brings Elation For Jacobs
"She's better than Affectionately," Jacobs said of Priceless Gem, and some who heard him could hardly believe their ears. Tom Jacobs shook his head. He had never expected to hear his father say those words.
"This is one of the most satisfying victories I've ever had," father Jacobs said, and everyone could believe the statement inasmuch as Hirsch and Ethel Jacobs had never looked prouder than when they led their tall and powerfully built filly down the victory path.
To set the stage: Priceless Gem had returned to action on Sept. 11 after a case of sore shins, the very day that unbeaten Moccasin won the Matron at Aqueduct and was thought to be the standout 2-year-old filly and also the day when Ogden Phipps' Buckpasser won the Arlington-Washington Futurity for his eighth consecutive victory and an apparent lock on 2-year-old honors.
Priceless Gem had won her race so easily that there was conjecture as to how she would fare against Moccasin. Ten days later, when Jacobs' filly won again with blinding speed in 1:09 4/5, fastest 2-year-old race of the year at Aqueduct, there were some who wondered how far she could carry such speed against the long-striding, come-from-behind Buckpasser if given an opportunity.
"Sure I'll run her," Jacobs said the next day when asked if there was any chance he would run Priceless Gem.
"I've got her, I might as well run her," he said. "I've paid $250 to keep her in, so I might as well try to get it back."
Already people were saying Priceless Gem might make a horse race out of the $151,300 Futurity which had seemed a benefit for Buckpasser. One who heard Jacobs' facetious remark added, equally facetiously: "If all he's interested in is the $250 (actually $269), Phipps might give him the money, with 5% interest, to stay out."
Long Early Lead Envisioned
In pre-Futurity conjecture, many figured the race this way: Priceless Gem would go out fast, open up a lead of five or six lengths, and then it would be interesting to see at what point, if any, Buckpasser would catch her in the 6 1/2-furlong test. The filly had never gone 6 1/2, the colt had run it twice.
Had the race been run that way and Priceless Gem had barely lasted, it would have been a notable victory, only the 13th by a filly in the 76 runnings of the race that goes back to 1888, but it was to be run in a more remarkable way.
The track, sloppy for the early races, was drying out and termed good. It probably was deeper on the rail.
Priceless Gem broke from the inside stall. She was "sort of looking around," jockey Walter Blum said, and was off about a stride behind Bold Tactics and Advocator, but in an instant was up to take the lead. She did not draw out, however, and the two others followed her closely. Buckpasser was running easily and slightly outside them, very close in fourth place.
Before they left the backstretch, Braulio Baeza moved Buckpasser to within a length of Priceless Gem, and even the filly's backers must have felt he was 1-50 to catch her. Now it was a two-horse duel and it took them far ahead of their seven rivals. As they headed for home, Buckpasser was lapped on the filly and had dead aim for the $93,827 first money and the championship.
Filly Inches Away At Finish
Inside the eighth pole Buckpasser cut the margin to little more than a neck. That was all he could do. Priceless Gem was flying. She fought back like her half-sister, Affectionately, and she was inching away for a half-length margin at the finish. She had dried out the good track with 1:17 1/5 for the race and fractions of :23, :46 2/5, and 1:10 4/5.
It was 10 lengths back to the third horse, Mrs. Ada L. Rice's Advocator, which was disqualified and placed fifth for having interfered with Bold Tactics. Third money went to Mrs. Edward Lasker's Indulto, with Michael Phipps' Bold Tactics placed fourth.
Why was this probably the most satisfying of the many Jacobs victories? Jacobs frequently says "I'm a fatalist," and back of Priceless Gem were a number of incidents which fit together to strengthen this belief.
Jacobs had never won the Futurity, but in 1960, the last time a filly (Little Tumbler) took it, Jacobs was training the best 2-year-old in the country, Hail to Reason. He had nominated Hail to Reason for the Futurity as a weanling, and then, early in 1960, when he was racing at Santa Anita, the time came for another payment.
Disgruntled Over Poor Season
"I wasn't doing so good that year and I had all these early-closing blanks, so I got mad and tore them up and threw them away," he recalled.
Hail to Reason thus could not run in the Futurity, which has no supplementals, and the next morning after Little Tumbler's victory the colt stepped in a bad spot during a workout, injured himself badly, and never raced again. Jacobs, who would rather run a horse than work one, says now:
"If he'd run in the Futurity, he wouldn't have worked that morning. But I'm not complaining. I'm a fatalist. Something else might have happened. He might have been killed, and then I wouldn't have all these good ones by him now.
"And sometimes it's being in the right place at the right time," he went on, relating the story of how he bred Priceless Gem.
"I bought her dam (Searching) in the paddock at Belmont. I had a bad maiden in a race and I looked in the next stall and saw this filly, and I said: 'Ogden, I see you have another daughter of Big Hurry in here,' and he said, 'Yes, and you can have her after the race for $15,000,' and I said, 'I'll take her.'"
That's how he got Searching, a granddaughter of *La Troienne, from Phipps when she was a maiden. She won a number of stakes and foaled Affectionately, by Swaps.
"I wanted to get a season to Swaps for her (that was early in 1962), wanted to send her back again, so I spoke to John Galbreath and he said he just couldn't do it. So I said to myself: 'I'll breed her to Hail to Reason and maybe get a better one.' I'm a fatalist," Jacobs repeated.
What he got was Priceless Gem.
Leaves For 'Vacation' Abroad
Jacobs, his wife Ethel, and their daughter Patrice, were preparing to leave on Tuesday for Europe, his first trip abroad and the first real vacation of his life. He can take time off now, with his capable son handling the horses.
This veteran trainer, whose whole professional life is horses, was going to see the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and also looking, as always, for a chance to improve his stock.
"I may buy some yearlings at Newmarket," he said. "You never know what you'll do. You might see something."
His stock at home is tremendous—he has a yearling full brother to Priceless Gem—but he is not complacent.
As for Priceless Gem, you must remember that a favorite Jacobs remark is: "I have them, I might as well run them." She probably will go in the Frizette on Oct. 9 (he is due home two days before that) and then: "I take it from race to race and, if her condition warrants, I'll supplement her in the Champagne and the Garden State."
"Oh my," Mrs. Jacobs said. "We have another worry coming up on Monday." She referred to Affectionately in the Beldame.
"You call that a worry?" exclaimed Tom, the non-racing Jacobs. "Be glad you have such worries. Pretty soon we'll be asking, 'What are we going to do for thrills on Sunday?'"
The Futurity brought to a close Aqueduct's finest week of racing. Tosmah and Affectionately were sensational on Monday, while Kelso on Wednesday, throwing off the vapors that eneveloped his previous effort, turned it on like the old champ and won the $25,000-added Stymie Handicap by eight lengths. He did not beat a great deal, but it was the way he did it. Said Carl Hanford: "He still trains like a 3-year-old."