March 26, 2011

Long before the Breeders’ Cup or Dubai World Cup Night, an enterprising group of men tried to host an international horse race, a 10-furlong event for the princely purse of $50,000—the 1904 World’s Fair Handicap in St. Louis, Missouri. Unfortunately, things did not go as planned. As Joseph Freeman Marsten noted: “It was hoped to attract horses from England, France, Russian, Austria and Australia to this race, but foreign complications, and the difficulty of shipping horses in training, confined the entries to American-bred animals.” [“The Thoroughbreds of 1904” Munsey’s Magazine 31 (May 1904) pp. 262]

So, on June 25, following a day of heavy drenching rain, the World’s Fair Handicap field went to post with 12 contestants, including two-time Horse of the Year Hermis carrying 130 lbs. The venue was the one-mile Fair Grounds track, first constructed in 1885—and, unfortunately, doomed to be shuttered in 1905 following the election of reformist governor Joseph A. Folk.

However, that early summer day, a crowd of nearly 50,000 including the president’s daughter Alice Roosevelt saw the champion Hermis upset by the 5-year-old mare Colonial Girl, owned by Charles Rowe and local St. Louis brewer Otto Stifel. Chalk one up for the home team! When asked about receiving the $41,000 winner’s share, Stifel said, “I would have raced for the stake even if there hadn’t been a cent in it. The pleasure of winning in my hometown is all I wanted.”

Perhaps her victory wasn’t that much of a surprise, as Colonial Girl had won the Clark Handicap during Louisville’s spring meet that year. She would continue to race for two more years, finishing third in the 1905 Metropolitan Handicap and third in the 1906 Suburban Handicap. For her career, from age 2 to 7, Colonial Girl posted a formidable record of 33 wins, 10 places and 13 shows in 77 starts—meaning she hit the board nearly 73% of the time. She also earned a record (for the time) $71,275.

It wasn’t an easy path. At age 2, her original owner Michael Murphy of Philadelphia dispersed his stable, and she sold to her trainer W. M. Rogers who moved her and his entire stable west to St. Louis—where she rather promptly broke her maiden “without being extended.” (DRF, August 31, 1901). The following spring, Rogers shipped her to California, where she won first up in open company on January 10. Taking on older horses, she finished second behind Kenilworth in the San Bernardino Handicap, and just two weeks later, over a sloppy Oakland track and “plastered in mud,” Colonial Girl was a game runner-up in the 9-furlong California Oaks (DRF, February 9, 1902).

Moved to St. Louis, she eventually ended up in the Rowe and Stifel stables, only to be purchased after her racing career was over, in 1907, by J.E. Widener of Philadelphia as a broodmare, for a reported $10,000. In 1910, Widener exported Colonial Girl to France, where she stood at Bazoches-en-Houlme, in Orne (Lower Normandy), and, bred to a number of French studs, produced nothing of real quality.

Finally, in 1917, she gave birth to a bay filly by the imported American sire Irish Lad. Purchased as a juvenile by A.K. Macomber, Meddlesome Maid went on to be one of the most dynamic French turf stayers of 1920. She won the 10-furlong Prix Vantreaux at Longchamps and Prix Semendria at Saint-Cloud in the spring, before capturing the prestigious Prix Vermeille going 12 furlongs. Only a troubled trip prevented a placing in the Prix L’Arc de Triomphe, where she finished fourth, but she followed that up with a victory in the 12-furlong Prix du Conseil Municipal. Unfortunately, she went wrong the following spring, and retired to stud. Her son Parthenon ran in the 1930 Epsom Derby won by Blenheim, and finished dead last.

Another daughter of Colonial Girl, Pigeon Pie produced a 1923 colt by Maintenon called Pigeon Wing, and a 1925 gelding by Hollister named Pigeon Hole. Both ended up racing in America, with Pigeon Hole winning the 1930 Arlington Handicap, and running second to the great Sun Beau in the 1930 Hawthorne Gold Cup.


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