Shifting Gears in the New Year

I started the Sir Barton Project five years ago as I worked on Sir Barton and the Making of the Triple Crown because I wanted to share Sir Barton and his era, especially those tidbits that I knew would not be a part of the final product. From this project’s inception in the summer of 2013 to now, Sir Barton and his story have taken me on quite a ride and I’m forever grateful for the opportunity. He will continue to occupy a special place in my heart and I will continue to advocate for him as opportunities arise.

In 2020, I began my second full-time writing project, this time to chronicle the lives and careers of our second and third Triple Crown winners, Gallant Fox and Omaha. Over at the Foxes of Belair blog, I will continue to share what I learn about the history of this sport as it relates to Belair Stud and its two Triple Crown winners among its many champions. In 2021, I will be shifting my writing to that site. The Sir Barton Project will remain and I may occasionally update as Sir Barton related topics arise.

To every reader of this blog, I thank you for the time you’ve taken to visit and read more about Sir Barton and his era of racing. I hope you will join me at Foxes of Belair in 2021. You also can find me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at both @thesirbarton and @foxesofbelair on all three platforms.


2020 in Review – Past the Wire

This year, I got to learn about and then chronicle twelve horses from a variety of eras that embody the best that racing has to offer: fillies that fly, horses of tremendous heart, and stories that give us new perspectives on historic moments. Click on the caption to visit each and find more great pieces at Past the Wire.

Thank you to Jon and Nick for the chance to work on these pieces.

Hint: Right click on links below and select open in a new tab.

2020 in Review – BackTracks at the Racing Biz

The Racing Biz covers mid-Atlantic racing, highlighting the sport from its equine stars to the legislative and other official issues that govern the sport in the region. This year, I was able to work on the BackTracks column for the site, profiling great horses and important personalities with a mid-Atlantic connections. Click on each photo’s caption to read the story.

Hint: Right click on links below and select open in a new tab.

Giving Back on Giving Tuesday

In a year that has been marked by the challenges of COVID-19 and more, giving back is more important than ever. The following is a list of equine-related non-profits that benefit both horses and people, including backstretch workers, jockeys, and more. If you are looking to give this year, I hope you will visit each of these charities and help them continue their missions to help across equine industries.

Blue Grass Farms Charities —

Blue Grass Farm Charities works in the Lexington, KY area to provide health and human services to people working in the many facets of the racing industry around the Bluegrass.

The Jockey Club Safety Net Foundation —

The TJC Safety Net provides financial relief and assistance to members of the Thoroughbred industry and their families.

Kentucky Horse Council —

The KHC develops programs for all breeds in the state of Kentucky. They cover all aspects of the various equine industries within the Bluegrass, from legislation to health and welfare to training and education.

Happy Trails Therapeutic Riding Center, Inc. —

Located in New Market, AL, Happy Trails provides riding lessons for students of all ages and all abilities. They are especially geared toward riders with special needs, including autism and other disabilities.

Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation —

The GJCRF provides funding for veterinary research at universities around the world. The goal is to encourage research that benefits all breeds of horses, including vaccines for equine illnesses and new treatments for a variety of equine ailments.

Pennsylvania Racehorse Rehoming, Rehabilitation & Rescue (PARR) —

PARR provides aftercare options for racehorses and horse in training in Pennsylvania. They offer adopters the opportunity to find a horse that matches their goals and needs and provides rehabilitation services for horses that come into their program.

Thoroughbred Aftercare Association —

The TAA accredits aftercare programs in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico as well as distributes donations to 74 accredited aftercare programs. They set the standard for aftercare for Thoroughbreds, certifying organizations that can retrain, rehome, or retire horses within much of North America.

Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement Farms —

A fan favorite, Old Friends provides permanent homes to Thoroughbreds who have completed their racing and stud careers. Housing some equine celebrities, the money raised through tours and other initiatives allows Old Friends to take in a number of former racehorses, from Breeder’s Cup Classic winners to claimers who gave it their all each time they took the track.

Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund —

The PDJF relies solely on donations and fundraisers to provide financial assistance to jockeys who have suffered catastrophic on-track injuries. Their injuries leave them without the means to support themselves and their families while also requiring lifelong care.

Belmont Childcare Association —

The BCCA provides childcare and educational opportunities for the children of parents employed on the backsides of Aqueduct, Belmont Park, and Saratoga Race Course. They are especially focused one early childhood learning for these children to prepare them for elementary school and beyond.

Backside Learning Center at Churchill Downs —

The BLC provides educational opportunities and community enrichment for all of Churchill Downs’s backside workers and their families. They provide everything from preparing for a GED to learning English to connecting employees and their family members with local resources.

National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame —

The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame seeks to preserve and promote the history of Thoroughbred racing in the United States and to recognize the sport’s most famous and accomplished figures, both human and equine. You can support the NMRHOF through donations, a membership, or the purchase of a brick for the Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney Courtyard.

Jennifer’s Horsey Gift Guide 2020

As the year winds down and the calendar begins its inevitable shift to a new year, holidays like Christmas and Hanukkah give us the chance to celebrate the bounty of the year and share it with friends and family. This year’s celebration may be socially distanced, but don’t let it deter you from finding that special something for the special someone in your life. If you’re of the horsey sort or know someone who is, here are my choices for finding fabulous goodies to gift in 2020.

Continue reading “Jennifer’s Horsey Gift Guide 2020”

A Gift Guide for Horse Book Lovers

All right, I’ll admit it: I’m a sucker for books. I probably have more books in my library than I’ll ever be able to read in a lifetime and my pile of books on horses and horse racing is taller than I am. Books will always be among my favorite gifts to give and receive. If you are as fond of the written word as I am, this gift guide is for you!

Continue reading “A Gift Guide for Horse Book Lovers”

Catching Up

I realized yesterday that not only has it been some time since I posted here, but I have a number of media appearances I haven’t shared here. So, without further ado, behold a series of posts where I share with you the links to these chances to talk all things Sir Barton with some of horse racing’s best media professionals.

Let’s start with the Can Do podcast with the wonderful Bill Duncliffe. We had so much to talk about that we ended up with two episodes!

A Zoom presentation for the Equine History Collective on Sir Barton’s life and career.

A fun chat with John Engelhardt about Sir Barton’s career.

The amazing Carly Kate invited me on her podcast celebrating equine authors of all stripes:

An interview with Marie D. Jones of Sports as Told By a Girl

My interview with the alumni magazine for The University of Alabama in Huntsville:

My hometown newspaper, The Madison Record

The announcement of Foxes of Belair

An interview with Lee Roop of The Huntsville Times

A nice article on Champions of the Track:

A delightful book review from The Turf Board:

A fun appearance on Horses in the Morning:

A great chat with the Winchester Star (Virginia)

A profile of Sir Barton from the Louisville Courier-Journal

Frank Mitchell’s kind words on the book:

The fun and funny guys Andrew Champagne and J.D. Fox invited me on their show:

The immense privilege of being on my local NPR station, WLRH:

Can You Imagine?

SirBartonPostcard04242020After splashing through the mud beneath the Twin Spires, Loftus guided Sir Barton over to the winner’s circle, where a uniformed attendant draped a blanket of greenery and roses over his withers. His groom stood by his head, slipping the cupped hood off so that the crowd could see their new champion in full. On a gray day, the burnished chestnut had only a cascade of white down his elegant face to interrupt the coppery coat. Was he blowing from the effort? Or had it felt like a workout, a joyful gallop around the track leading the herd home?

In the wee hours of the following morning, he walked through the dark to the waiting car, his hooves clopping on the ramp up into the stall that would be his home for the coming journey. How many of them yawned as the wiry man oversaw their efforts? He wasn’t called “Hard Guy” for nothing: did he snap at them if they tarried? Did he pat the noses of his charges, maybe even manage a smile for his Kentucky Derby winner? Did H.G. Bedwell tick down his checklist of what needed to be done once they arrived? Had he already worked out a strategy for Wednesday’s race? It was the Preakness after all, with its $25,000 purse waiting.

The train wound its way from Kentucky to Maryland, from the Bluegrass to the home of the blue crab. Did the horses sway in their stalls, lulled by the ambient motion of the train over the steel tracks? Did they know they were off to their next test, another meeting at the barrier? As they slid into Pimlico, were they tired from their journey or were they ready to run? For his part, Sir Barton seemed “as proud as a peacock and did not seem a bit sore after his win of the Derby on Saturday.” (Washington Herald, May 13, 1919). Did he walk into his stall aware that all of their eyes were on him?

The_Edwardsville_Intelligencer_Sat__Jul_5__1919_On a warm late spring day, with the sun shining down on the crowd of thousands, he lined up at the barrier with eleven others, standing toward the middle of the undulating crowd of horses. When the start came, his feet were the fastest, finding the front and not allowing another horse to get near him. He flashed under the wire, triumphant and unprecedented: he was the first to win the Kentucky Derby AND the Preakness Stakes. After his show, he returned to the ovation of the thousands, Loftus tipping his cap to the thunderous hands of the race’s witnesses. Commander Ross and H.G. Bedwell beamed, posing with the vaunted Woodlawn Vase for the cameras. Loftus beamed, his young face untouched by the Pimlico dirt this day.

In the background, a man climbed up to the Pimlico weathervane, paint cans in hand, and splashed the Preakness with Ross orange and black, a visible reminder of history made this day, May 14, 1919.


10 Fun Facts about Sir Barton on His 104th Birthday

SirBartonAloneOn this day in 1916, Lady Sterling gave birth to a golden chestnut colt with a wide blaze, a son of Star Shoot that destined to make history three years later. One hundred and four years later, let’s celebrate Sir Barton’s birthday with twenty-six fun facts about our first Triple Crown winner.

  1. Both Star Shoot and Lady Sterling both were blind or nearly blind at the time of Sir Barton’s conception.
  2. Sir Barton was named for Sir Andrew Barton, the Scottish privateer whose letter of marque allowed him to attack ships from enemy nations and then potentially keep their cargo.
  3. Trainer H.G. Bedwell would tease Sir Barton whenever the horse stuck his head out of his stall. The trainer would slap the colt on the muzzle and Sir Barton would try to catch his hand. This led to the horse’s tendency to grab for people when they got too close.
  4. Star Shoot died in November 1919 at age 21. Lady Sterling died in 1920 at age 21. Sir Barton died on October 30, 1937 at age 21.
  5. Sir Barton set a track record in the 1920 Saratoga Handicap. He ran the mile and a quarter in 2:01 4/5. Man o’ War duplicated that time in the Travers Stakes that same year.
  6. Sir Barton set a world record for 1 3/16 miles in the 1920 Merchants and Citizens Handicap. His time was 1:55 3/5.
  7. Sir Barton and Man o’ War met in a match race at Kenilworth Park in Windsor, Ontario on October 12, 1920. The Educational Film Corporation set up fourteen cameras to film the race in its entirety, combining that with pre-race footage of both horses. The resulting film was called The Race of the Age and was shown in theatres across the United States.
  8. After his retirement in 1921, Sir Barton stood for one season at Commander J.K.L. Ross’s Maryland farm before his sale to Audley Farm near Berryville, VA. Brothers Montfort and B.B. Jones wanted Sir Barton to head their new breeding operation.
  9. Sir Barton is buried in Washington Park in Douglas, WY. How the heck did our first Triple Crown winner end up in Wyoming? Read Sir Barton and the Making of the Triple Crown to learn all about it!
  10. Sir Barton’s April 26th birthday is not the latest of our thirteen Triple Crown winners. War Admiral was born on May 2nd.