Fair Play (horse)
Fair Play in 1908
|Foaled||April 1, 1905|
|Died||December 17, 1929 (aged 24)|
|Breeder||August Belmont Jr.|
|Owner||August Belmont Jr.|
|Trainer||A. Jack Joyner|
|Flash Stakes (1907)|
Montauk Stakes (1907)
Brooklyn Derby (1908)
Coney Island Jockey Club Stakes (1908)
First Special Stakes (1908)
Lawrence Realization Stakes (1908)
Jerome Handicap (1908)
Municipal Handicap (1908)
|Leading sire in North America|
(1920, 1924, 1927)
Leading broodmare sire in North America
(1931, 1934, 1938)
|United States Racing Hall of Fame (1956)|
Life-size statue at Elmendorf Farm
Fair Play (April 1, 1905 – December 17, 1929) was an American-bred Thoroughbred racehorse that was successful on the track, but even more so when retired to stud. He is best known as the sire of Man o' War, widely considered one of the greatest American racehorses of all time. On the racetrack, Fair Play was known for his rivalry with the undefeated Colin, to whom he finished second in the Belmont Stakes. Later, Fair Play was the leading sire in North America of 1920, 1924 and 1927, and the leading broodmare sire of 1931, 1934 and 1938. He was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1956.
Fair Play raced as a homebred for August Belmont Jr., who was chairman of The Jockey Club from 1895 until his death in 1924. Belmont became involved in horse racing through his father, in whose honor the Belmont Stakes was named. Belmont purchased a two-year-old colt named Hastings in 1895, who went on to win the Belmont Stakes the following year. Hastings was the leading sire of 1902 and 1908. He was primarily known as a sire of fast, precocious horses but had a tendency to pass on his savage temperament to his offspring in varying degrees. Belmont bred Hastings to Fairy Gold, a stakes winning daughter of Epsom Derby winner Bend Or. The resultant colt, foaled at Belmont's Nursery Stud, was Fair Play.
Fair Play was an attractive golden chestnut horse who stood 15.3 hands (63 inches, 160 cm) at maturity. He was always highly strung but his behavior completely soured when he was sent to race in England in 1909. Subsequently, he would not allow a rider to exercise him over grass. He was trained by Andrew Jackson Joyner.
As a two-year-old, Fair Play finished fourth in his first start then broke his maiden in his second. He then won the Montauk Stakes at Brighton Beach Race Course and the Flash Stakes at Saratoga. He was also second in the Hopeful, Produce and Matron Stakes, and third in the United States Hotel and Nursery Handicap. He was unplaced in the Futurity Stakes.
Fair Play was considered among the best horses of his generation, though clearly a step behind the great Colin. The intense competition between these two was covered in Horse Racing's Greatest Rivalries, published by the Eclipse Press in 2008. Colin beat Fair Play three times at age two (in the Futurity, Produce and Matron Stakes), then beat him again in the Withers Stakes to start his three-year-old campaign. In their final face off in the Belmont Stakes, Colin went out to an early lead but was nearly caught at the wire by Fair Play, who lost by just a neck in a blinding rainstorm. They never met again and Colin retired after just one more start.
With just two days rest, Fair Play next entered the Brooklyn Handicap, where he finished second to Colin's stablemate, Celt. He finally won his first start at age three in the Brooklyn Derby, before finishing third in the Suburban Handicap.
After a slow start to the season, Fair Play won six of his next nine starts at distances ranging from 10 to 14 furlongs. These included the Coney Island Jockey Club Stakes, where he equaled the track record, the Lawrence Realization, Jerome Handicap (set track record), First Special (set new track record of 2:032⁄5 for 10 furlongs) and the Municipal Handicap.
In 1909, racing in New York was shut down due to the Hart-Agnew Executive Liability Act, an anti-gambling bill. Therefore, Joyner relocated to England and took several horses with him, including Fair Play. Although Joyner had a good deal of success overseas, Fair Play did not respond well to the experiment, going unplaced in six starts. Although Belmont contemplated standing Fair Play at stud in France, he was instead returned to America.
While successful on the track, Fair Play gained his most fame as a sire. Among his better progeny were:
- Man o' War – chosen #1 in the Blood-Horse magazine List of the Top 100 U.S. Racehorses of the 20th Century
- Display – 1926 Preakness Stakes winner and sire of Discovery
- Mad Play – 1924 Belmont Stakes winner
- Ladkin – 1924 International Stakes No.2 winner
- Mad Hatter – 1921 U.S. Champion Older Male Horse
- Chance Play – 1927 United States Horse of the Year
- Chance Shot – 1927 Belmont Stakes winner; sire of Belmont Stakes winner Peace Chance
- Fairmount – U.S. Hall of Fame steeplechase champion
Following the death of owner August Belmont Jr., in 1924, Fair Play was sold to Joseph E. Widener, proprietor of Elmendorf Farm in Lexington, Kentucky, where he remained until his death on December 17, 1929. Widener, a dedicated horseman, buried Fair Play in the Elmendorf Farm cemetery and erected a nearly life-size bronze statue at the head of his grave.
Fair Play is in the ancestral lineage of practically all modern American thoroughbreds. Man o' War and Discovery were both outstanding sires and the Man o' War sire line is still active today. Discovery was the broodmare sire of Bold Ruler, whose descendants include Secretariat, Seattle Slew, A.P. Indy and multiple classic winners.
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- Avalyn Hunter. "Hastings (horse)". American Classic Pedigrees. Retrieved 24 October 2017.
- Avalyn Hunter. "Fair Play (horse)". American Classic Pedigrees. Retrieved 24 October 2017.
- "Fair Play: Champion Sire". www.spiletta.com. Retrieved 24 October 2017.
- "Colin (horse)". American Classic Pedigrees. Retrieved 24 October 2017.
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- Kellie Reilly. "Colin -- 1908 Belmont hero". www.brisnet.com. Retrieved 24 October 2017.
- "Andrew Jackson Joyner | National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame". www.racingmuseum.org. Retrieved 24 October 2017.
- "Man o' War (horse)". American Classic Pedigrees. Retrieved 25 November 2017.
- "Bold Ruler (horse)". American Classic Pedigrees. Retrieved 25 November 2017.