Suburban Rekindles Memories of Race’s History and Influence

The rich Belmont Derby and Oaks may have overshadowed the Suburban Stakes run earlier on the card, but this year’s renewal and its first three finishers provided a look back at the names that once made this one of the sport’s most important races. ~ Steve Haskin

Suburban Rekindles Memories of Race’s History and Influence

By Steve Haskin

From left to right, Dynamic One in green silks, First Captain, and Untreated


For some reason I have a tendency over the years to peak too early when it comes to Todd Pletcher ‘s horses. Unfortunately, they have had a tendency to peak late. The two most recent cases were when I had the audacity to rank Vino Rosso as my No. 1 ranked Derby horse over Justify. Of course, we didn’t see his best until the following fall when he captured the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Last year, I picked Dynamic One as my very early Derby sleeper following a fourth-place finish in a maiden race on January 23 based on a number of observations and then, despite having never won a stakes, I ranked him No. 4 going into the Derby and made him my main win bet. The story of Dynamic One, however, is not that he, like Vino Rosso, didn’t find himself until he was 4, it is that he won his first graded stakes in the historic Suburban, a race he was destined to win from the time he was born.

It seems deep in my psyche I am always looking for Suburban winners early on, having been weaned, even before my actual emergence into Thoroughbred racing, on Suburban winners such as Dr. Fager, Buckpasser, Kelso, Bold Ruler, Nashua, Sword Dancer, Tom Fool, and Traffic Judge, all great stars of the 1950s and ‘60s. This was when the Suburban was a major sign of summer, falling on the Fourth of the July, and the first big distance race for older horses in New York, sandwiched by the Met Mile on Memorial Day and the Brooklyn Handicap in mid-to-late-July, the three races comprising the prestigious Handicap Triple Crown.

Even though the Handicap Triple Crown no longer exists, the Suburban has been relegated to Grade 2 status, and the race is now run as a stakes in a world devoid of handicaps, watching the furious stretch battle on Saturday between Dynamic One, First Captain, and Untreated I couldn’t help but harken back to those golden years of Thoroughbred racing and what an important race the Suburban Handicap once was.

You see, if you look at the pedigrees of all three horses, you will find the names of every one of the Suburban winners mentioned above and a lot more.

Dynamic One’s female family is steeped in history and is a Who’s Who of great stars bred and raced by Ogden Phipps and his mother Mrs. Henry Carnegie Phipps, who raced under the name Wheatley Stable. In his pedigree are the names Personal Ensign, Numbered Account, My Flag, Storm Flag Flying, Private Account, Relaxing, and the Blue Hen producer Intriguing. To demonstrate the amazing continuity of this family, Personal Ensign, her daughter My Flag, and My Flag’s daughter Storm Flag Flying all won Breeders’ Cup races.

But also in Dynamic One’s pedigree is Suburban Handicap winner Buckpasser, whose sire Tom Fool, bred by Greentree Stud, and dam, the Phipps-bred Busanda, both won the Suburban as well. Tom Fool can also be found in Dynamic One’s male family. Dynamic One’s third dam, My Flag, is by Suburban winner Easy Goer and his fourth dam, Personal Ensign, is by Private Account, a grandson of Suburban winner Sword Dancer. The top line of Dynamic One’s female family traces to Suburban winner Nashua, and in both his male and female family you can find Suburban winner Bold Ruler.

So, in Dynamic One’s female family alone are seven individual winners of the Suburban Handicap. Dynamic One has always exhibited a quick turn of foot, but he has also had a tendency to relax once on the lead, which cost him last year’s Wood Memorial. But in Saturday’s Suburban, once he got his head in front it was as if all those great past winners refused to let him blow this one and allow a gutsy First Captain to come back and beat him.

As for First Captain, his sire Curlin also traces to Suburban winner Nashua and his dam America traces to Suburban winner Traffic Judge, and he also has Suburban winners Buckpasser, Tom Fool, Busanda, and Bold Ruler in his female family. Stretching it a little farther, his tail-female family traces to Fairy Bridge, a granddaughter of Forli, who sired Suburban winner Forego.

And finally, we have to mention third-place finisher Untreated, whose dam is from the great sire line of Fappiano, a grandson of Dr. Fager, who defeated his arch rival Damascus in a memorable record-equaling running of the 1968 Suburban. Also, Untreated’s paternal great-grandsire Indian Charlie is by In Excess, whose time of 1:58 1/5 shattered the stakes record in the 1991 Suburban. He, like Dynamic One and First Captain, also traces to Suburban winners Buckpasser, Tom Fool, and Busanda.

So you can see just what an important race the Suburban Handicap was and the influence it has had on today’s Thoroughbred, especially the three horses who provided such a memorable running of this year’s event, in which they fought it out for the final quarter of a mile, separated at the finish by a nose and three-quarters of a length.

It is races like this that we need to feature our older horses in an era where our stars are retired prematurely and never given the opportunity to develop and mature and show just how good, or great, they really could have been.

Dynamic One, First Captain, and Untreated are probably not going to be remembered as great horses, but horses like them are desperately needed not only to keep their names and the older horse division alive, but to keep alive an era long gone, in which races like the Suburban Handicap drew 50,000 to 60,000 fans to the track to watch the legends of the sport compete.

The Suburban is no longer a handicap, the Brooklyn is now a mile and a half invitational stakes that rarely draws a Grade 1 horse, and the Met Mile has been moved from being the Memorial Day feature to one of a number of stakes run on Belmont Stakes day. And of course the Handicap Triple Crown is now but a memory to old timers and means very little to the younger generation.

But every once in a while we get a good old fashioned slugfest with horses giving their all like we saw on Saturday. And when a memorable battle like that is accompanied by the name Suburban and we learn of the influence the race has on the participants, for a short while all is right with the world.


Photos courtesy of Dom Napolitano and Chelsea Durand, Coglianese Photos


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