May 14, 2011

With Preakness Stakes 2011 right around the corner—and two years removed from Rachel Alexandra’s historic Preakness victory—I thought it might be interesting to examine two other long-forgotten fillies’ attempts at history making: Intermission (1896) and Snowflake (1930).



Intermission came from a high-class family, being a daughter of Epsom Derby winner Galopin, but her racing credentials went much deeper. Her dam Vacation’s sire was 1875 Preakness winner Tom Ochiltree—the third Preakness on record. Intermission’s second dam Minnie W won the juvenile Champagne Stakes as well as the Alabama at three. In addition to Intermission’s dam Vacation, Minnie W also produced Gazelle runner-up Holiday (dam of Champagne runner-up Smile), while another daughter Patricia birthed 1891 Kentucky Derby winner Kingman. Later, Intermission’s half-brother Bowling Brook would win the 1898 Belmont Stakes.


In the days leading up to the 1896 Preakness, Intermission undertook a racing campaign unheard of today. On April 18, she finished fifth, less than two lengths back of the winner, in a Washington allowance race against older horses. Wheeling back three days later, she finished second in the 6-furlong Potomac Stakes on April 21, and then just four days later, on April 25, she ran second in the 8-furlong Army and Navy Handicap, missing by 1/2 length. Then, on April 29, she finished third in the 8-furlong Capitol Stakes. Except for that first allowance race, in each effort Intermission led most of the race, before failing to win. On May 2, she finally broke through with a win, taking a 6-furlong selling race against two others before being sent to Morris Park where she ran second in 8.5-furlong open allowance race on May 16, and then third against fillies her own age in an 8-furlong allowance event on May 21. Only two days later, on May 23, she won the Ladies Handicap over one mile.

So, count ‘em. In a period of just over one month, Intermission raced eight times—all before attempting the Preakness Stakes on June 6. During this era, the Preakness was contested at Gravesend Race Track over 8.5 furlongs, and in 1896, only four horses went postward—two colts (Margrave and Hamilton II) and two fillies (Intermission and Cassette). The 4-5 favorite Margrave wired the field, winning by one length and leaving Hamilton II and Intermission battling for second place. Hamilton II came out the best, one length ahead of Intermission who finished more than 10 lengths better than Cassette who stopped rounding the final turn.

After such a rigorous campaign—one highly unlikely to be undertaken by today’s high-class race horses—you would think a rest were in order, but, no, four days later Intermission’s connections entered her in the June 10 Gazelle over 9 furlongs—and she won by four lengths. Six days later, on June 16, she finished second in the 10-furlong Brooklyn Derby, and, if that weren’t yet enough, on June 18, she battled Margrave again, again finishing second to him, one length back, in the 6-furlong Hempstead Handicap. Next transferred to Sheepshead Bay, Intermission easily captured the 8-furlong Foam Stakes on July 8. Incredible!

As a broodmare, Intermission didn’t have much success, although she did pass on her quality to her daughter Interval, by Kentucky Derby winner Fonso, who won the Hurricana Stakes as a juvenile, and, at three, just missed a placing in the Withers Stakes when the first four horses all finished heads apart. In the form chart it read: “Interval is much improved in her three-year-old form, a quick beginner and sustained her superior speed unexpectedly well.” Later descendents of Intermission include G2 Arkansas Derby winner Dazzling Falls.




While not exactly a household name today, Snowflake ended up being the co-champion 3-year-old filly of 1930, along with Kentucky Oaks winner Alcibiades, the latter celebrated each year with a stakes race at Keeneland while poor Snowflake has passed into relative obscurity.


As a juvenile, Walter Salmon’s homebred Snowflake—a daughter of champion Mad Hatter, out of the Cicero mare Snowdrop—compiled a record of three wins and four third-place finishes in 13 starts, finishing third in both the Spinaway and Hiawatha Handicap before impressively capturing the 8.5-furlong Endurance Handicap at Bowie in late November. It was that last effort that impressed so many, promising her 3-year-old campaign could be something special.


In her first effort at three, Snowflake ran an impressive third, just one length back, of Flimsy (a full sister to both 1927 Preakness winner Bostonian and 1929 Travers victor Beacon Hill) in the Pimlico Oaks on May 3; subsequent Kentucky Oaks victress Alcibiades finished fifth. Just six days later, in an attempt to win his second consecutive Preakness, owner Walter J. Salmon entered stablemates Snowflake and Swinfield in the Preakness, a race about which the May 9 Daily Racing Form noted:



On the eve of the great race Gallant Fox, which will have the peerless Earl Sande in the saddle, rules an overwhelming favorite and it is the consensus of public opinion that the Belair Stud representative will carry off the valuable prize, though many of the experts declare the race to be the most open in years.



This favoritism, based on Gallant Fox’s victory in the Wood Memorial since the Kentucky Derby was not contested until May 17, proved well founded, as the subsequent Triple Crown winner defeated Crack Brigade by three-quarters of a length. Snowflake closed well to finish third. This newsreel captures portions of the race including the dramatic finish:








Not nominated for the Derby, Snowflake’s next start was the prestigious 8-furlong Ladies Handicap at Belmont Park and, in front of 25,000 spectators, she “came from the rear with a great rush on the turn into the stretch and drawing away won easily by a length” eased up, turning the tables on Pimlico Oaks winner Flimsy.


Next up, she finished out of the money in a Belmont allowance race, but rebounded with a victory in the 11-furlong Coaching Club American Oaks on June 4. After that win, her connections announced their intention to send her out in both the Illinois Oaks and American Derby, that latter for which the June 10 Daily Racing Form considered her a serious threat:




Snowflake has accomplished more than any other filly of the year to date, not excepting Alcibiades, winner of the Kentucky Oaks, and she seems right now to be the best-equipped filly in the country for a test with three-year-old colts such as the American Derby will provide.


Unfortunately, hindered by close quarters in the early going, Snowflake only managed to miss a placing by a nose, finishing fourth in the 10-furlong American Derby won by Reveille Boy (Alcibiades finished 11th of 12). Backed up just one week later, Snowflake overcame the far-outside post position 10 to win the 9-furlong Illinois Oaks by a neck over Pansy Walker, with Alcibiades three lengths back in third.

As the summer progressed into fall, Snowflake lost form, well-beaten in five additional starts including the Alabama, but was recognized as co-champion 3-year-old filly of 1930 along with Alcibiades. Her 4-year-old campaign didn’t begin well either, losing a Havre de Grace allowance race by 16 lengths. She scratched from several races in May, including the Dixie and Metropolitan Handicaps. Finally going postward on May 28 in the Spindrift Stakes, Snowflake trailed the entire race, finishing dead last. One of only four entries in the Minerva Handicap on June 4, she finished second—the last time she would run in the money, and her next-to-last career race.


As a broodmare, Snowflake produced 1942 Fashion Stakes runner-up Driven Snow and 1953 Atlantic City Turf Handicap victor Saddle Tramp. Probably the best of her descendents was G1 Arlington-Washington Futurity runner-up Jim’s Orbit who at three won the G3 Derby Trial and G2 Ohio Derby. There’s also G1-placed Hope of Glory, winner of the G3 Alcidiades; G2-placed Victory Pete; G3 Dixie Handicap winner Two Moccasins; and G3 Ak-Sar-Ben Oaks victress Lady Dom Alaric.
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