I realize that many believe ten-year-old Foiled Again is hands down the greatest harness racing greybeard pacer ever, but that simply isn’t true.
Yes, Foiled Again has won more money than any Standardbred ever in North America, but another aging gelding, one who used to hold that title, was better—Cardigan Bay. Stanley Dancer leased him from Down Under for $100,000 in the winter of 1964, when he was eight. The horse had come close to being destroyed two years earlier when he sustained a serious hip injury.
The Hal Tryax gelding had won more than thirty stakes races in his home country, often handicapped as much as 132 yards at the start. His earnings stood at $156,000. He made his first start at Yonkers Raceway in May of that year. It was a winning effort and the following week he faced the great Overtrick in the mile and a half International Pace, losing a neck.
Two weeks later he was the 1/2 favorite in the mile and a quarter Good Time Pace and had no trouble beating the likes of Meadow Skipper, Henry T Adios, Rusty Range, Adora’s Dream, Irvin Paul and Country Don. There aren’t any fields of FFA pacers like that today. He then beat the same bunch in the two mile National Championship. Cardigan Bay and Overtrick then traded narrow wins in a pair of match races.
In 1965, as a nine-year-old, Cardigan Bay popped splints in his front legs and had surgery on one of those legs. When he got back in early June he crushed a FFA field which included Fly Fly Byrd and Bengazi Hanover, from the outside post. He then won the $50,000 Dan Patch Pace at a mile and a half over Oreti, Cold Front and Fly Fly Byrd. In September he won the $50,000 Bye Bye Byrd at a mile and a half, paying 2.80. Cardigan Bay won three more at Yonkers before going to California where he beat giant slayer Adios Vic in three of four races, after which he returned to New York and won the NPD and the Nassau.
Foiled Again has won an impressive 39% of his lifetime starts. Cardigan Bay won 52% of his in North America and Down Under. Each of them are credited with 20 stakes wins in North America, and Foiled Again is still racing. Again, Cardigan Bay also won more than thirty stakes before he was imported.
At age ten Cardy started the season with a win at Liberty Bell, and then moved on to Yonkers where he won seven stakes races, including the $100,000 mile and a half International Pace, where he created the largest minus pool ever--$33,000. $143,435 of the $151,750 bet to show was on him. They then barred him from betting in the mile and a quarter Good Time, which he also won over Adora’s Dream and Orbiter N. Adios Vic was then favored in the $50,000 National Pace, only because there was no betting on Cardy. He made three moves and pulled away from Vic in the last quarter.
Bret Hanover had never been beaten on a half when Cardy did it in the Pace of the Century at Yonkers. Bret returned the favor a week later at Roosevelt. Cardy capped that season with a win in the $50,000 Nassau Pace at a mile and a half . He paid $3.60.
In 1967, when Cardigan Bay was eleven, he started the season by equaling the track record at Windsor in the Provincial Cup—this is in March. Fearing minus pools tracks refused to give him a race. Finally Roosevelt relented and the grizzled gelding crushed Orbiter and Tactile, paying 2.40. He’d been handicapped with the outside post, but the track insisted that from that point on he would also be handicapped by yardage, something that was unheard of in North America. Dancer balked and sat the next one out.
Every year there was a new wave of stars graduating to the FFA ranks: Romeo Hanover, True Duane, Bret Hanover and Romulus Hanover. Cardy was showing his age, but was still a formidable opponent, with early season wins in the Valley Forge, provincial Cup and Clark. In May, when he beat True Duane in the Adios Butler at Roosevelt, he paid $10.60, which was the highest payoff on Cardigan Bay to that point in North America. Dancer’s goal was that he become the first ever million dollar winning Standardbred, which he did by winning a $15,000 Pace at Freehold in the fall over little Robin Dundee and Jerry Gauman. This put him in the company of the eight thoroughbreds who had become millionaires. He was retired at Yonkers Raceway on October 12.
Cardigan Bay certainly gets extra points for dominating at all distances, from a mile to two-miles. On the other hand, Foiled Again doesn’t have that opportunity so you can’t hold that against him. Cardy was more of a consistent big time player than Foiled Again has been; yes, those were significant triumphs in the TVG and BC last year, but there are too many wins in the Quillen, Molson, IPD, Battle of Lake Erie and Levy, and not enough of the top tier FFA stakes. Cardy won the Good Time twice, the National Championship twice, the Nassau twice, the Provincial Cup twice, the International, the Pace of the Century, the Clark, Dan Patch ….And the fact that he had never paid off at higher than 4/1 during his first four years racing in North America is noteworthy. Foiled has gone off at double digits many times. Cardy was a preeminent force at ten and eleven. We’ll see if Foiled Again also rules in his old age.
by Joe FitzGerald, for http://viewfromthegrandstand.blogspot.com/