Monday, May 20, 2013

Assault: Three-Year-Old Season

 Assault began his three-year-old season with a victory at the Experimental Handicap, followed by the Wood Memorial Stakes. 

 In the the Derby Trial, he placed fourth, with Rippey, Spy Song, and With Pleasure in front of him. Fans began to doubt whether or not he had it in him to win the Derby. 

Assault in the winners circle(photo credit).
 The Kentucky Derby came not long afterward. Lord Boswell was the betting favorite, and Assault was the fourth favorite. When Spy Song took and early lead, Assault followed close behind, catching him and winning by eight lengths, a distance that equaled the Kentucky Derby's longest length victory. However, he missed Whirlaway's time by over five seconds, running only 2:06 3/5.

Assault was made the betting favorite when he ran against Lord Boswell and eight others in the Preakness on May 11. Assault was boxed in early in the race, and was forced wide in the backstretch as he passed Natchez. All the way down the homestretch, he held the lead, with Lord Boswell four lengths behind him. Despite fatigue, he crossed the finish line a neck ahead of his rival. 

 Lord Boswell was the favorite in the Belmont Stakes in spite of Assaults victories. Fans believed that he was more suited to longer distances because of his near victory in the Preakness, especially since Assault had been exhausted at the end of the race. Assault was the second favorite. 

 Assault stumbled at the start, so Hampden took the lead right away. Assault didn't make his move until he neared the first turn, when he gave all he could, passing Natchez and winning by three lengths. Even though the race had been exciting, fans still doubted the seventh Triple Crown winner.

 Two weeks later, Assault won the Dwyer Stakes, but his time was unimpressive, and fans just thought he was the best of that group of of three-year-olds. He next lost the Arlington Classic. When he returned to the barn, he was diagnosed with a kidney infection.

 A month later, he was back on the track. He finished third behind Mighty Story in the Discovery Handicap, then second behind Mahout in the Jersey Handicap. On September 25, he met Stymie for the first time. Stymie was famous for winning from-the-behind, and his career had begun with cheap races, until he became Champion Handicap Horse in 1945. A rivalry was born from the day they first met.

 Stymie won their first meeting, the Manhattan handicap, and Assault cam third. After losing by a neck to Bridal Flower in the Roamer Handicap, he once more challenged his new rival, this time in the Gallant Fox Handicap. Once again he came third.

 In the Pimlico Special, the two met again. Eddie Arcaro, who was riding Assault for the first time, was told not to make a move until Stymie did. Assault ended up winning his first race since the Dwyer Stakes, beating both Bridal Flower and Stymie. 

 Assault won by two lengths in his final start that season, the Westchester Handicap. Despite his losing streak, he earned Horse of the Year honors and was named leading money winning. He had earned $424,195, and had won eight out of fifteen races that year.


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