Looking Back

This month in mid-atlantic thoroughbred history! For Looking Back archives click here.

Renowned horseman Frank A. “Downey” Bonsal, former trainer of powerhouse stables Calumet Farm, Cain Hoy Stable and Marion duPont Scott, was hired as general manager of Sagamore Farm. 

Although Bonsal would be in charge of the entire Sagamore operation, it was noted that his keenest interest would most likely be breaking, schooling and training the young horses. The farm’s facilities included an enclosed quarter-mile training track and a 6-furlong training track as well as stalls for 90 horses in training. Alfred Vanderbilt’s racing stable would remain in the hands of W.C. “Mike” Freeman. 

Bonsal’s resume was second to none. Born and raised in Maryland, he was one of the world’s top steeplechase riders in his youth, twice riding to victory in the Maryland Hunt Cup. He also competed in the English Grand National. He was 19 when he took out his trainer’s license – among those he trained was champion turf horse Mongo.

A two-term president of the Maryland Horse Breeders Association, Bonsal led the organization in 1962 when the Maryland Fund Program was created. He also at one time served as Master of the Green Spring Hounds. 

Bonsal had retired as a trainer just few months earlier, giving up the Calumet post. The 64-year-old returned to his Glyndon, Md., home, about a mile from Sagamore. 

Howard H. Ferguson, Sagamore’s manager for the previous 10 years, noted he had yet to decide on his plans.

  • The 9-year-old Delaware-bred wonder Baitman captured Belmont Park’s Brighton Beach Handicap to become the oldest horse to win a stakes on the flat in New York. It was his third career stakes win and first in five years. The gray was the latest successful claim by young New York trainer Bobby Frankel, who at 29 had gained the reputation as a “specialist in moving horses up the equine ladder” – he haltered Baitman in November 1968 for $15,000.

    “The old boy had always been a speed horse,” noted Frankel. “That was why I claimed him, that and the fact he could run on the grass.”

    Baitman was bred by Mrs. George T. Weymouth “10 feet over the Maryland line in Delaware” at Gene Weymouth’s farm. Anderson Fowler had sold Baitman’s dam to Mrs. Weymouth with Baitman in utero, and owned the sire Assemblyman, who stood at Buckingham Farm in Chestertown, Md., owned by his daughter and son-in-law, Binnie and Eddie Houghton. Fowler then bought the weanling from Mrs. Weymouth for $6,000 and raced him until Frankel made the claim.

    Baitman earned more than $150,000 during his 8 and 9-year-old seasons. He raced through age 10, and finished with 27 wins from 113 starts, for total earnings of $298,198. Frankel retired the gelding and gave him to Eddie and Binnie Houghton.

  • Derry Meeting Farm’s 3-year-old Inkslinger, a $5,500 Eastern Fall Sales purchase, set a course record in Belmont Park’s Elkridge Hurdle Handicap to become the first stakes winner for Virginia stallion Bronze Babu. Inkslinger was bred by Glade Valley Farm, where Bronze Babu initially stood at stud.

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