Trainer W.J. (Buddy) Hirsch lauded Gallant Bloom as ‘the most consistent and honest mare’ that he has raced in 30 years as a trainer.
The New York Times reported this quotation in March of 1970, after Hirsch’s filly Gallant Bloom had won the Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap. Gallant Bloom was four then; she made only four starts that year, winning two of them and finishing off the board in the others.
But Gallant Bloom’s legacy was created when she was two and three; though her career finished disappointingly, with two resounding losses in unrestricted races (a seventh in the 1970 Suburban, a third by sixteen lengths in the Nassau County), Gallant Bloom’s place in racing history was secure.
She won her first race, a trial in South Carolina, and she continued her winning ways when she hit the track for real, breaking her maiden by eight lengths at Belmont in June of 1968. She graduated promptly to stakes company, winning the National Stallion Stakes a week later. Three brutal losses, including an eighth place finish in the Spinaway, followed.
But later that August, Gallant Bloom showed the form that would garner her entrance in the Hall of Fame. From August of 1968 to February of 1970, Gallant Bloom raced fifteen times. She crossed the wire first in thirteen of those races; finishing second in the Delaware Oaks, she was placed first through a disqualification, and in the Frizette, she was second to the magnificent Shuvee by a neck. At one point, Gallant Bloom had won 12 races in a row, all but one a stakes race.
Gallant Bloom was voted champion two-year-old filly in 1968. In 1969, Shuvee won the Triple Tiara (the Acorn, Mother Goose, and Coaching Club American Oaks), the Cotillion, the Alabama, and the Ladies Handicap – and it was Gallant Bloom who walked away with championship honors for three-year-old fillies that year. Steve Haskin writes that Gallant Bloom swept the ballot, with Shuvee not getting a single vote – which does seem a little unfair, given Shuvee’s record that year (12 – 6 – 2 – 2).
In that second championship season, Gallant Bloom was undefeated, thanks to the DQ in the Delaware Oaks; the bay daughter of Gallant Man won the Liberty Belle, the Post-Deb, the Monmouth Oaks (by 12), the Gazelle, the Matchmaker, and the Spinster.
Gallant Bloom and Shuvee had traded victories when they were two, Gallant Bloom taking an allowance by three lengths, with Shuvee second, Shuvee beating Gallant Bloom by a neck in the Frizette. The Delaware Oaks was their rubber match, and even without the disqualification, Gallant Bloom would have finished ahead of Shuvee, who was fourth. In The Blood-Horse list of top 100 horses of the 20th century, Shuvee gets the last laugh: she’s listed at #70, while Gallant Bloom is #79.
In the 1969 Gazelle, Gallant Bloom tied a stakes record, and according to Sports Illustrated, carried more weight (127 pounds) than any other filly since the race was restricted to three-year-olds. She was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1977.
Her eponymous race goes today at Belmont, and it’s one of my favorites. Indian Blessing won it in 2008 and 2009, last year defeating Backstretch favorite Sara Louise by a neck. Sara Louise comes back today, making her first start since last November, but I won’t be there to see it – I’m venturing south to see Rose Catherine in the Turf Amazon and to check out the new Parx Racing, formerly known as Philadelphia Park, a track to which I vowed I’d never return after a visit there in January of 2007. Oh, yeah, and the Pennsylvania Derby is today, too.
Then again, it’s not too late to change my mind and decide to stay for the Gallant Bloom…
Sources quoted and consulted
“A Roundup of the Sports Information of the Week.” Sports Illustrated Vault. September 8, 1969,
Becker, Bill. “Rotz on Coast Triple.” New York Times, March 1, 1970.
“Gallant Bloom.” National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.
Gallant Bloom past performance information from the DRF’s Champions.
Gallant Bloom photos taken from her page at the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.
Haskin, Steve. “Gallant Bloom.” Thoroughbred Champions: Top 100 Racehorses of the 20th Century. Published by The Blood-Horse, edited by Jacqueline Duke.
“Max Hirsch.” National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.
Nichols, Joe. “Rich Big A Sprint to Gallant Bloom.” New York Times, September 8, 1968.