|Breeder||Walter J. Salmon, Sr.|
Alfred G. Vanderbilt II (at age 3)
John R. Pryce|
Joseph H. "Bud" Stotler (at age 3)
Potomac Handicap (1934)
Kentucky Derby 2nd (1934)
Retrospective United States Horse of the Year (1935)|
Retrospective U.S. Champion Male Handicap Horse (1935)
U.S. Champion Male Handicap Horse (1936)
United States Racing Hall of Fame (1969)|
#37 - Top 100 U.S. Racehorses of the 20th Century
Discovery Handicap run at Aqueduct Race Track
Discovery (1931–1958) was a champion American Thoroughbred racehorse. In a racing career which lasted from 1933 to 1936 he ran sixty-three times and won twenty-seven races. One of the leading American three-year-olds of his generation in 1934, he became a dominant performer in the next two seasons. The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame said that he was: "...considered one of the greatest horses of the 20th century."
A bright chestnut horse with a white blaze and white hind feet, Discovery was foaled at Walter J. Salmon's Mereworth Farm in Lexington, Kentucky. He was sired by the Preakness Stakes winner Display, another product of Mereworth. His dam, Ariadne, was a member of Thoroughbred family 23-b, which has produced many notable American racehorses including Zev, Affirmed and Winning Colors.
Discovery was owned by Adolphe Pons of Country Life Farm in Bel Air, Maryland, who raced him at age two with limited success, winning only two of thirteen starts and being beaten in several races by future Hall of Famer Cavalcade. Purchased for $25,000 by Alfred G. Vanderbilt II's Sagamore Farm, Discovery raced one more time in 1933, finishing second.
At age three, Discovery's racing season was marked by his continuing rivalry with Cavalcade. He finished second to Cavalcade in the 1934 Kentucky Derby and third to High Quest and Cavalcade in the Preakness Stakes. Both horses skipped the Belmont Stakes. Discovery went on to win the first of three consecutive Brooklyn and Whitney Handicaps (both under higher and higher weights), and set a world record time for one mile and three-sixteenths in the Rhode Island Handicap at Narragansett Park.
In 1935, Discovery was the dominant horse in the United States, and one of the most notable things about him was his ability to carry great weight. Running under an average of 131 pounds, the four-year-old won eleven of nineteen races and has been retrospectively regarded as the U.S. Champion Handicap horse and Horse of the Year for 1935. Although there was no formal award, Discovery was recognized in contemporary sources as the "top stake horse" of the year. In the Merchants' and Citizens' Handicap, he carried 139 pounds to victory in August before a crowd of 25,000 including the Governors of New York and Pennsylvania. For these feats, he was called the great weight carrier, or the "Iron Horse." The fact that Discovery was retrospectively named Horse of the Year in 1935 is unusual as Omaha won the Triple Crown in that year. This was the only time that a Triple Crown winner has been failed to be retrospectively recognised as Horse of the Year.
Racing at age 5, Discovery won his third Brooklyn and Whitney Handicaps. His achievements were formally recognized when he was the first horse to be voted U.S. Champion Handicap horse. His win in the Whitney was described by The New York Times as "the most decisive victory to be scored in a big American stake in many years".
Retired to stud at Vanderbilt's Sagamore Farm in rural Baltimore County, Maryland at the end of the 1936 racing season, over the course of a 21-year stallion career, Discovery sired just 25 graded stakes race winners. But it was through his daughters that Discovery left his legacy: they produced Hall of Fame Champions Native Dancer, Bold Ruler, and Bed o'Roses, as well as the multiple stakes winning and champion Intentionally and Preakness Stakes winner Hasty Road. Native Dancer produced Raise a Native, who sired the stallion Mr. Prospector; Dan Cupid, who sired Sea Bird II; Shenanigans, who produced Ruffian; Natalma, who produced Northern Dancer; et al. Discovery was inducted into the U.S. Racing Hall of Fame in 1969.
- "National Museum of Racing, Hall of Fame, Thoroughbred Horses". Racingmuseum.org. Archived from the original on 2012-06-02. Retrieved 2012-04-23.
- "Discovery". Sporthorse data. Retrieved 2012-04-23.
- "Turk Mare - Family 23-b". Bloodlines.net. Retrieved 2012-04-23.
- [ Displaying Abstract ] (2012-04-16). "DISCOVERY VICTOR - CLIPS WORLD MARK". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-04-23.
- "Santa Anita Stake Draws Great Field". Miami News. 1935-12-03. Retrieved 2012-02-27.
- "25,000 SEE DISCOVERY WIN". The New York Times. 1935-08-11. Retrieved 2012-04-23.
- Edward L. Bowen (2003-11-25). Legacies of the Turf: A Century of Great Thoroughbred Breeders. Blood-horse Publications. p. 138. Retrieved 2012-04-23.
- Field, Bryan (1936-08-23). "Discovery Beats Esposa to Take Whitney Stakes Third Straight Time". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-04-23.