March 1, 2010

Remembering ... Broad Brush

The date was September 27, 1986 and it began innocuously enough. I was a senior in high school, and my father and I were on the road to Philadelphia. We were headed to Philadelphia Park, a track that had become a regular for the two of us in those years. The almost two-hour drive from Northern New Jersey, gave us a chance to catch up on the week’s goings on, but more than anything we discussed the horses. We talked about the stakes horses, whether or not we were about to see them run in person or not. That day we would have the pleasure of seeing one of the best three-year-olds in the nation in person. His name was Broad Brush. We both admired the colt for the consistent class he had displayed in the 15 races he had run since his career had begun eleven months before. My father and I both liked the horse for a variety of reasons. We had won money on him when he won that Spring’s Wood Memorial at 7-1. Hoist the Flag had been one of our favorite sires for years, and Broad Brush was a son of the Hoist the Flag mare Hay Patcher. It was easy to like Broad Brush, as he was competitive in all the big races, even without our own personal reasons. To tell you the truth, we were pleased to be going to see him that day, but we were not expecting that interesting of a race. The Pennsylvania Derby had attracted him, but not one other star would join him. Broad Brush, despite having lost his previous few races, was sure to be a heavy favorite against the rest, who honestly were little more than minor stakes horses. We had no idea what would be in store for us on that day.

The day proved to be a bit gloomy. It rained throughout the afternoon and the track was sloppy. My father and I had no luck during the day with our picks, and with Broad Brush at 4-5, we did not see much opportunity to win money on the feature race. So far the best thing about the day was the Philadelphia Park hot dogs we consumed for lunch. They always taste better at the track, don’t they? Now, if you think a 4-5 shot will be beaten, it can be an exciting race to bet. The Pennsylvania Derby was not such a race; neither of us saw anyone in that field touching Broad Brush. So it went, as Broad Brush seized command on the far turn and was poised to waltz home to an easy score, but if horse racing has taught me one thing, it is to never become complacent. Six of the seven horses turned for home down the Philadelphia Park stretch and one did not. Broad Brush did not turn…at all. He instead headed directly for the outer rail. His lead was gone. By the time Hall of Fame rider Angel Cordero straightened him out, he could have grabbed a beer from one of the railbirds. He had gone from first to last in a matter of seconds. It was a shocking way for a horse to lose a big race. But, here is the catch, or the reason for this story if you will, Broad Brush did not lose. I steered my binoculars gaze toward the new leaders to watch, what I thought would be the rest of the race unfolding. I was wrong. Broad Brush was now gaining with every stride from the twenty path. I dropped my binoculars to see him flying, no other horse was near him, but he was sprinting as if he was in the race of his life. It was not to be believed, except I was there, I was seeing it with my own eyes. He was so far outside that we were not sure from our vantage point at the eighth pole, if he had gotten up. He did. Broad Brush won with room to spare. The official margin was 1 ¼ lengths, but it may as well have been 30. To this day, it is the most remarkable performance I have ever seen.

Broad Brush also won the Grade 1 Wood Memorial Stakes and the Grade 1 Meadowlands Cup at three and finished third in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes for trainer Dickie Small. As a four-year-old, the bay son of Ack Ack beat Ferdinand by a nose in the Santa Anita Handicap and also scored in the prestigious Suburban Handicap. Overall he won 14 of 27 career starts and earned $2,656,793. He was victorious in 12 stakes races and finished in the money in ten others. He danced every dance, traveled the nation, carried much weight, and fired every time. On the track, Broad Brush was truly an admirable horse. He may have been an even better sire.

Broad Brush sired more than 90 stakes winners and his sons and daughters won nearly $70 million dollars in their racing careers. 37 of his stakes winners are graded or group winners. He was the leading sire in the nation in 1994, and sired a Breeders’ Cup Classic winner in Concern and a three-year-old filly champion in Farda Amiga. As a broodmare sire, Broad Brush is quickly closing in on the enormous numbers he put up as a sire. His daughters are among the most sought after broodmares in America. One of the most influential sires in Thoroughbred history was Domino, and Broad Brush’s influence is considered the last of the Domino line. Broad Brush’s breeding career ended in 2004 due to decreasing fertility. He lived on to 2009, when he was euthanized at the age of 26, because of untreatable infirmities.

In those 26 years, Broad Brush proved to be both a top notch race horse and perhaps an even better sire, but the one thing about Broad Brush, that will be with me forever, is that performance in the 1986 Pennsylvania Derby. It was truly unforgettable, and because of those twenty seconds of time, more than anything else, I remember you Broad Brush.

12 comments:

Ciarán said...

nice memories Brian...1986..only a few months before my time :P

Anonymous said...

hey brian..i too remember that race but only because they showed it on the news it was so memorable to see...i believ forego freight training down the stretch in the 1976 marlboro cup was most excting for me...1974-75-76-77 horse of the year and sprinter of the year in 1974..won at distances from 7f to 2 miles..sorry...forego is my second favorite horse lol...enjoyed the article

william said...

sorry brian...i was anonymous..william

Celeste said...

Thanks again, Brian, for giving me some background details on a horse I missed out on. Keep it up!!

Brian Zipse said...

Thank you Ciarán and Celeste. William, It is ironic that you mention the 1976 Marlboro Cup, because when I was writing that the 1986 Pennsylvania Derby was the most remarkable performance that I saw, I thought about the Forego race, as the other most remarkable win I witnessed.

mvlach77 said...

I wish that Penn Derby was on YouTube. I'd love to see a replay of that race.

Lynne Veitch said...

Great article, Brian. Leo (my husband) & I were at Canturbury from NY when Cheapskate nipped Broad Brush. being from NY & Cheapskate being a NY Bred, I took out a $2 ticket. We were really astonished when the race turned out as it did. B.B. was a fine horse. One other crazy bet was in 1980, I think; we went to the Arc in Paris & chose Detroit, a filly, purely because of her name. She won. another potshot!!! Fun.

Brian Zipse said...

mvlach77, I have been searching for the video for a long time...no luck yet.

Lynne, Nice story. It is funny how those things work out sometimes.

Kimness said...

Darn! I was going to ask if there was a video of that Pennsylvania Derby. Great story Brian - as usual. (I remember Farda Amiga)

Kimness said...

Just watched the Video of the Day - WOW - great race!! (almost makes up for not being able to see the PA Derby - almost...)

Brian Zipse said...

LOL, Kimness, I wish I could find that video, but the 1987 Santa Anita Handicap was a pretty good alternative. What a stretch drive! Thank you as always for your kind words.

Anonymous said...

Hard to knock the horse... especially when the trainer was a Vietnam War Veteran