Bold Ruler

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Bold Ruler
Sire Nasrullah
Grandsire Nearco
Dam Miss Disco
Damsire Discovery
Sex Stallion
Foaled 1954
Country United States
Color Dark bay
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 leading sire in North America eight times between 1963 and 1973, the most of any sire in the twentieth century. He is now best known as the sire of Triple Crown winner Secretariat, and was also the grandsire of Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew. He was an outstanding sire of sires, whose modern descendants include many classic winners such as California Chrome.


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 stakes-winning sprinter Miss Disco, by Discovery.[2][3] By coincidence, he and rival Round Table were foaled on the same night at Claiborne, and both returned to stand at stud there after their racing careers.[4] 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.[3]

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.[5] 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.[3]

At age two, Bold Ruler won seven starts, including the Youthful and Juvenile stakes and the rich Futurity. However, he injured his back in the Youthful Stakes when he slammed into the starting gate, then developed a hock problem.[2] 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.[5]

Bold Ruler began his three-year-old campaign in Florida by winning the Bahamas Stakes on January 30, 1957 while equaling the track record. He then finished second in the Everglade Stakes before taking the Flamingo Stakes while breaking the track record.[2][1] On March 30, he finished second in the Florida Derby to Gen. Duke, who tied the then-world record of 1:46​45 for 9 furlongs.[6] He then shipped north to Aqueduct Racetrack in New York, where he won the Wood Memorial Stakes while setting another track record.

He went off as the heavy 6-5 favorite in the 1957 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 North American racing 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.[5]

His performances that year earned Bold Ruler the title of American Champion Three-Year-Old Colt. 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).[7] Dedicate was controversially[8] 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.[9]

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 Suburban and Monmouth Handicaps. He was named champion sprinter of 1958.[5]

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. His eight titles were the highest for a North American sire in the twentieth century. Although several of his runners won at 10 furlongs or more, Bold Ruler was best known as a sire of precocious 2-year-olds, leading the juvenile sire list a record six times.[3][2] 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.[10]

Bold Ruler sired 366 named foals, of which 240 were winners (65.6%) and 82 were stakes winners (22.4%).[2] He sired 11 champions:

  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 Two-Year-Old Colt, 1973 Champion Three-Year-Old colt, 1973 American Champion Turf Horse, Hall of Fame (1974)
  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:[3]

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. In 2014, A.P. Indy's great-grandson California Chrome became the 16th male-line descendant of Bold Ruler to capture an American classic. A.P. Indy is also the grandsire of leading sire Tapit, who sired three winners of the Belmont Stakes in the four years between 2014 and 2017.[3][11]


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. The Bold Ruler Handicap at Aqueduct is named in his honor.


Pedigree of Bold Ruler[12]
Nearco Pharos Phalaris
Scapa Flow
Nogara Havresac
Mumtaz Begum Blenheim 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. ^ a b "Bold Ruler Profile". Retrieved 18 June 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Hunter, Avalyn. "Bold Ruler (horse)". American Classic Pedigrees. Retrieved 10 March 2018. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f Peters, Anne. "The Influence of Bold Ruler". Retrieved 18 June 2016. 
  4. ^ Spiletta42. "Round Table: 1958 Horse of the Year". Retrieved 2012-02-27. 
  5. ^ a b c d Hale, Ron. "History challenge: Foal crop of 1954 had talent to spare". Daily Racing Form. Retrieved 18 June 2016. 
  6. ^ "WORLD MARK TIED; Gen. Duke Beats Bold Ruler in 1:464/5 for Mile and Eighth". The New York Times. 31 March 1957. Retrieved 10 March 2018. 
  7. ^ "Bold Ruler Captures Horse of the Year Honors". St. Petersburg Times. 1957-11-26. Retrieved 2012-02-27. 
  8. ^ "Horsemen Argue Top Selection". Washington Reporter. 1957-12-06. Retrieved 2012-02-27. 
  9. ^ "Bold Ruler Horse of the Year in Consensus of Turf Polls". Youngstown Vindicator. 1957-12-21. Retrieved 2012-02-27. 
  10. ^ Wicks, B. M. (1973), The Australian Racehorse, Canberra: Libra Books, ISBN 0-909619-00-X 
  11. ^ "Sparkman: A.P. Indy pulls off a double double". Retrieved 10 March 2018. 
  12. ^ "Pedigree of Bold Ruler". Equineline. Retrieved 10 March 2018. 
  • Bowen, Edward L. (2005), Bold Ruler: Thoroughbred Legends, Lexington, KY: Eclipse Press, ISBN 1-58150-130-7 .
  • Hunter, Avalyn (2003). "chapter 8". American classic pedigrees (1914-2002) : a decade-by-decade review of Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont winners, plus Kentucky Oaks and Coaching Club American Oaks (1st ed.). Lexington, Ky.: Eclipse Press. ISBN 1581500955.