Bold Ruler

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For other uses, see Ruler (disambiguation).
Bold Ruler
Sire Nasrullah
Grandsire Nearco
Dam Miss Disco
Damsire Discovery
Sex Stallion
Foaled 1954
Country United States
Color Brown
Breeder Wheatley Stable
Owner Wheatley Stable
Trainer Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons
Record 33: 23-4-2[1]
Earnings $764,204
Major wins

Futurity Stakes (1956)
Bahamas Stakes (1957)
Flamingo Stakes (1957)
Wood Memorial (1957)
Queens County Handicap (1957)
Jerome Handicap (1957)
Vosburgh Handicap (1957)
Trenton Handicap (1957)
Toboggan Handicap (1958)
Stymie Handicap (1958)
Carter Handicap (1958)
Suburban Handicap (1958)
Monmouth Handicap (1958)

American Classic Race wins:
Preakness Stakes (1957)
U.S. 3-Yr-Old Champion Male (1957)
American Horse of the Year (1957)
U.S. Champion Sprint Horse (1958)
Leading sire in North America
(1963-1969, 1973)
U.S. Racing Hall of Fame (1973)
Bold Ruler Handicap at Aqueduct Racetrack
#19 - Top 100 U.S. Racehorses of the 20th Century

Bold Ruler (April 6, 1954 – July 11, 1971) was an American Thoroughbred Hall of Fame racehorse who won the 1957 Preakness Stakes and was the 1957 Horse of the Year. He was the sire of two other Hall of Famers, Secretariat and Gamely, and was an outstanding sire of sires.


Bred by the Wheatley Stable of Gladys Mills Phipps, Bold Ruler was foaled on April 6, 1954, at Claiborne Farm in Paris, Kentucky. His sire was Nasrullah, who has the distinction of being a champion sire in both Europe and North America. Bold Ruler's dam was the classy sprinter Miss Disco, by Discovery.[2] By coincidence, he and Round Table were foaled on the same night at Claiborne, and both returned to stand at stud there after their racing careers.[3] He was trained by Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons, and was regularly ridden by Eddie Arcaro.

Bold Ruler was a big, leggy horse, standing 16.1 hands (65 inches, 165 cm) with a great shoulder, powerful hindquarter, and a distinctive long, sloping hip going down to a straight hind leg. This conformation still appears in the gene pool, especially through the Seattle Slew line.[2]

Racing career[edit]

The American foal crop of 1954 is considered to be one of the best of the twentieth century, containing three Hall of Fame horses: Bold Ruler, Gallant Man and Round Table, not to mention Gen. Duke and Kentucky Derby winner Iron Liege.[4] Bold Ruler was blessed with speed and courage that allowed him to stand out despite infirmities, from a tender mouth to chronic arthritis and soreness.[2]

At age two, Bold Ruler won seven starts, including the Youthful and Juvenile stakes and the rich Futurity. But he did not race in the Garden State Stakes, then one of the most prestigious races for two-year-olds, and lost the title for champion 2-year-old to the winner of that race, Barbizon.[4]

As a three-year-old, Bold Ruler won the Bahamas Stakes while equalling the track record, the Flamingo Stakes while breaking the track record, and then the Wood Memorial Stakes.[4] He went off as the heavy 6-5 favorite in the Kentucky Derby but faded down the homestretch after fighting Arcaro's restraint. He finished fourth behind longshot winner Iron Liege, Gallant Man (who was mistakenly pulled up at the 16th pole by jockey Bill Shoemaker) and Round Table. In the Preakness Stakes, Bold Ruler bounced back to win easily. In the Belmont Stakes, he finished third after he was forced through exceptionally fast early fractions by Gallant Man's rabbit. Gallant Man set a new stakes record that day that remained until Bold Ruler's son Secretariat broke it in 1973.

Bold Ruler went on to win another five more stakes that year, including the Jerome Handicap and the Vosburgh Handicap. But Gallant Man and Round Table were also having superior years and the battle for Horse of the Years would go down to the wire. In what historians rank among the greatest meetings ever of three horses in one race, Bold Ruler, Gallant Man, and Round Table entered the Trenton Handicap at 1 14 miles on November 9, 1957. Gallant Man was the favorite, but Bold Ruler jumped out to an eight-length lead and won comfortably. Round Table was third.[4]

His performances that year earned Bold Ruler the U.S. 3-Yr-Old Champion Male. In the Horse of the Year poll organised by the publishers of Daily Racing Form, he received 16 votes to beat Gallant Man (9 votes) and older horse Dedicate (4 votes).[5] Dedicate was controversially[6] selected over Bold Ruler in the rival Thoroughbred Racing Association award, but Bold Ruler's win in a third poll conducted by Turf and Sport Digest magazine made him the "consensus" choice as Horse of the Year.[7]

At age four, Bold Ruler carried from 133 to 136 pounds in all seven starts, was the odds-on favorite in all seven, and won five. He won at distances from six furlongs in the Toboggan Handicap to 1 14 miles in the Monmouth Handicap. He was named champion sprinter of 1958.[4]

Stud record[edit]

Bold Ruler retired to stud at Claiborne Farm in 1959, where he became the leading sire in North America from 1963 to 1969 and again in 1973. He sired 11 champions, including Hall of Famers Gamely and Secretariat. He was also an outstanding sire of sires.

Somewhat confusingly, Bold Ruler was the sire of two champion sons with the same name, one in America, Bold Lad, who was the 1966 American Champion Two-Year-Old Colt and one in England, Bold Lad II, who was bred and raced by Gladys Phipps' sister, Beatrice Mills Forbes, Countess Granard.[8]

Although several of his runners won at 10 furlongs or more, Bold Ruler was best known as a sire of precocious 2-year-olds.[2] His champions are:

  1. Lamb Chop (b. 1960) - American Champion Three-Year-Old Filly
  2. Bold Bidder (b. 1962) - American Co-champion Older Male Horse (1966)
  3. Bold Lad (b. 1962) - American Champion Two-Year-Old Colt
  4. Queen Empress (b. 1962) - American Champion Two-Year-Old Filly
  5. Gamely (b. 1964) - American Champion Three-Year-Old Filly, American Champion Older Female Horse (1968–69), Hall of Fame (1980)
  6. Bold Lad (IRE) (b. 1964) - Top rated British Two-Year-Old
  7. Successor (b. 1964) - American Champion Two-Year-Old Colt
  8. Queen of the Stage (b. 1965) - American Champion Two-Year-Old Filly
  9. Vitriolic (b. 1965) - American Champion Two-Year-Old Colt
  10. Secretariat (b. 1970) - 9th U.S. Triple Crown Champion American Horse of the Year (1972–73), 1972 Champion 2 Year old Colt, 1973 Champion 3 year old colt, 1973 American Turf Horse of the Year, Hall of Fame
  11. Wajima (b. 1972) - American Champion Three-Year-Old Male Horse

Bold Ruler was also the dominant American sire of sires in the 1970s. His sire line includes:

  • Bold and Brave, sire of Bold 'n Determined, elected to the Hall of Fame in 1997
  • Bold Bidder, sire of 1974 Kentucky Derby winner Cannonade and Spectacular Bid, who won the 1979 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1982. Grandsire of Hall of Fame inductee Bayakoa.
  • Bold Commander, sire of 1970 Kentucky Derby winner Dust Commander, who would in turn sire 1975 Preakness Stakes winner Master Derby
  • Boldnesian, sire of Bold Reasoning, sire of 1977 Triple Crown Winner and Hall of Fame inductee Seattle Slew
  • Irish Castle, sire of 1976 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes winner Bold Forbes
  • Raja Baba, leading sire of 1980
  • Reviewer, sire of 1975 champion 3-year-old filly Ruffian, elected to the Hall of Fame in 1976
  • Top Command, sire of Hall of Fame inductee Mom's Command
  • Secretariat, sire of Risen Star, winner of the 1988 Preakness and Belmont, and Lady's Secret, 1986 Horse of the Year and Hall of Fame inductee
  • What A Pleasure, sire of 1975 Kentucky Derby winner and Hall of Fame inductee Foolish Pleasure

His sire line almost died out in the 1980s but was revived by Seattle Slew's son A.P. Indy (who was also a grandson of Secretariat). Much like Bold Ruler, A.P. Indy was a Horse of the Year, a leading sire and would go on to become an important sire of sires. Recent descendants of the Bold Ruler sire-line include leading sire Tapit.[2]

Bold Ruler died from cancer at Claiborne Farm in July 1971, and is interred there. In 1973, he was posthumously inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. Bold Ruler was listed at No.19 in the Blood-Horse magazine ranking of the top 100 United States thoroughbred horse racing champions of the 20th century.


Pedigree of Bold Ruler
Nearco Pharos Phalaris
Scapa Flow
Nogara Havresac
Mumtaz Begum Blenheim II Blandford
Mumtaz Mahal The Tetrarch
Lady Josephine
Miss Disco
Discovery Display Fair Play
Ariadne Light Brigade
Outdone Pompey Sun Briar
Sweep Out Sweep On


  1. ^ "Bold Ruler Profile". Retrieved 18 June 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Peters, Anne. "The Influence of Bold Ruler". Retrieved 18 June 2016. 
  3. ^ Spiletta42. "Round Table: 1958 Horse of the Year". Retrieved 2012-02-27. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Hale, Ron. "History challenge: Foal crop of 1954 had talent to spare". Daily Racing Form. Retrieved 18 June 2016. 
  5. ^ "Bold Ruler Captures Horse of the Year Honors". St. Petersburg Times. 1957-11-26. Retrieved 2012-02-27. 
  6. ^ "Horsemen Argue Top Selection". Washington Reporter. 1957-12-06. Retrieved 2012-02-27. 
  7. ^ "Bold Ruler Horse of the Year in Consensus of Turf Polls". Youngstown Vindicator. 1957-12-21. Retrieved 2012-02-27. 
  8. ^ Wicks, B. M. (1973), The Australian Racehorse, Canberra: Libra Books, ISBN 0-909619-00-X 

Further reading[edit]

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