Great Trial Stakes

The Great Trial Stakes was an American Thoroughbred horse race held annually at Sheepshead Bay Race Track in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, New York from 1891 through 1910 and for 1913 at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York. Raced on dirt, it was run at a distance of 5¾ furlongs from 1891 through 1900 and then at 6 furlongs. Run in late June or early July, for most of its years at Sheepshead Bay the Great Trial Stakes was the most valuable race for two-year-olds during the track's summer meet.[1][2][3]

Great Trial Stakes
Discontinued stakes race
LocationBelmont Park, Elmont, New York, United States
Sheepshead Bay Race Track
Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, New York, United States
Inaugurated1891–1910, 1913
Race typeThoroughbredFlat racing
Race information
Distance6 furlongs (0.75 mi)

Historical notesEdit

The Great Trial Stakes attracted the top two-year-olds including ten who would earn American Champion Two-Year-Old honors. Domino (1893), Commando (1900) and Colin (1907) won the race and would go on to be named that year's American Horse of the Year. It is such a rare feat for a two-year-old to earn Horse of the Year honors that from 1908 through 2018 it has been accomplished only four times:

A July 1, 1908 Daily Racing Form article reported on the dominance of John Madden in this event who won this race seven times as the trainer and breeder plus he was the owner of five of those winners as well as a minority partner of 1903 winner Pulsus.[4]

The 1911–1912 statewide shutdown of horse racingEdit

On June 11, 1908, the Republican-controlled New York Legislature under Governor Charles Evans Hughes passed the Hart–Agnew anti-betting legislation.[5] The owners of Sheepshead Bay Race Track, and other racing facilities in New York State, struggled to stay in business without income from betting.[6] Racetrack operators had no choice but to drastically reduce the purse money being paid out, which resulted in the Great Trial Stakes offering a purse in 1909 that was less than one-tenth of what it had been a year earlier. These small purses made horse racing unprofitable and impossible for even the most successful horse owners to continue in business. As such, for the 1910 racing season, management of the Sheepshead Bay facility dropped some of its minor stakes races and used the purse money to bolster its most important events. Even with additional funding, the Great Trial Stakes of 1910 was little more than one-third of what it had been in 1908.[7]

In spite of strong opposition by prominent owners such as August Belmont, Jr. and Harry Payne Whitney, reform legislators were not happy when they learned that betting was still going on at racetracks between individuals, and they had further restrictive legislation passed by the New York Legislature in 1910.[8] Recorded as the Executive Liability Act, the legislation made it possible for racetrack owners and members of its board of directors to be fined and imprisoned if anyone was found betting, even privately, anywhere on their premises. After a 1911 amendment to the law to limit the liability of owners and directors was defeated,[9] every racetrack in New York State shut down. As a result, the Great Trial Stakes was not run in 1911 and 1912.

Owners, whose horses of racing age had nowhere to go, began sending them, their trainers and their jockeys to race in England and France. Many horses ended their racing careers there, and a number remained to become an important part of the European horse breeding industry. Thoroughbred Times reported that more than 1,500 American horses were sent overseas between 1908 and 1913, and of them at least 24 were either past, present, or future Champions.[10] When a February 21, 1913 ruling by the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division Court saw horse racing return in 1913, it was too late for the Sheepshead Bay horse racing facility, and it never reopened.[11][12] However, the race was run for one final time at Belmont Park on June 30, 1913.[13]

Great Trial Stakes winners who became the year's Champion Two-Year-Old:

Career Championships & honors of Great Trial Stakes winners:

Blue Girl:

  • Co-Champion Two-Year-Old Female (1901)
  • Champion Three-Year-Old Female (1902)


  • Champion Two-Year-Old Male (1907)
  • Horse of the Year (1907, 1908)
  • Champion Three-Year-Old Male (1908
  • Racing Hall of Fame(1956)


  • Champion Two-Year-Old Male (1900)
  • Horse of the Year (1900, 1901)
  • Champion Three-Year-Old Male (1901)
  • Leading sire in North America (1907)
  • Racing Hall of Fame (1956)


  • Champion Two-Year-Old Colt (1893)
  • Horse of the Year (1893)
  • Racing Hall of Fame (1955)


  • Champion Two-Year-Old Colt (1897)
  • Horse of the Year (1898)
  • Racing Hall of Fame (1986)


Speed record:

  • 1:12.00 – Sir Martin (1908) 6 F.
  • 1:10.20 – Winged Foot (1896) 5 ¾ F.

Most wins by a jockey:

Most wins by a trainer:

Most wins by an owner:

Most wins by a breeder:


1913 Punch Bowl 2 Phil Musgrave Edward W. Heffner E. F. Cooney 6 F 1:14.20 $3,850
1912 No races held due to the Hart–Agnew Law.
1910 Round The World 2 Albert Walsh William G. Yanke William G. Yanke 6 F 1:13.40 $7,075
1909 Dalmatian 2 Vincent Powers Sam Hildreth Sam Hildreth 6 F 1:13.40 $1,925
1908 Sir Martin 2 James Lee John E. Madden John E. Madden 6 F 1:12.00 $19,550
1907 Colin 2 Walter Miller James G. Rowe Sr. James R. Keene 6 F 1:12.40 $19,550
1906 Oran 2 Walter Miller Thomas Welsh Ormondale Stable (William O'Brien Macdonough) 6 F 1:12.80 $19,550
1905 Security 2 Eddie Dominick Sam Hildreth Edward E. Smathers 6 F 1:15.00 $19,550
1904 Flyback 2 Gene Hildebrand John E. Madden John E. Madden 6 F 1:13.40 $19,550
1903 Pulsus 2 Frank O'Neill John E. Madden Edward R. Thomas & John E. Madden 6 F 1:13.80 $19,550
1902 Irish Lad 2 Nash Turner John E. Madden Westbury Stable (H. P. Whitney & H. B. Duryea) 6 F 1:14.00 $17,460
1901 Blue Girl 2 Willie Shaw John E. Madden John E. Madden & William C. Whitney 6 F 1:13.20 $15,500
1900 Commando 2 Henry Spencer James G. Rowe Sr. James R. Keene 5.75 F 1:11.80 $15,500
1899 David Garrick 2 Frank O'Leary John E. Madden John E. Madden 5.75 F 1:12.40 $17,140
1898 Jean Bereaud 2 Tod Sloan Sam Hildreth Sydney Paget 5.75 F 1:13.00 $15,550
1897 Hamburg 2 Elbert Willhite John E. Madden John E. Madden 5.75 F 1:12.20 $10,550
1896 Winged Foot 2 John McCafferty John McCafferty John McCafferty 5.75 F 1:10.20 $17,350
1895 Handspring 2 Henry Griffin Frank McCabe Philip J. Dwyer 5.75 F 1:10.80 $16,800
1894 Waltzer 2 Edward Garrison John Hyland David Gideon & John Daly 5.75 F 1:15.00 $16,700
1893 Domino 2 Edward Garrison William Lakeland James R. & Foxhall P. Keene 5.75 F 1:14.00 $23,100
1892 Chiswick 2 Anthony Hamilton Albert Cooper Foxhall P. Keene 5.75 F 1:15.00 $23,600
1891 His Highness 2 Marty Bergen John Hyland David Gideon 5.75 F 1:12.20 $22,095


  1. ^ "Condensed History of the Great Trial Stakes". Daily Racing Form. 1909-07-03. Retrieved 2019-06-02 – via University of Kentucky Archives.
  2. ^ "Western Filly Triumphs: Round the World Beats Pick of Eastern Juveniles in Great". Daily Racing Form. 1910-06-26. Retrieved 2019-06-03 – via University of Kentucky Archives.
  3. ^ "Belmont Park Form Chart". Daily Racing Form. 1913-07-01. Retrieved 2019-06-02 – via University of Kentucky Archives.
  4. ^ "John Maddens Great Trial Luck". Daily Racing Form. 1908-07-01. Retrieved 2019-06-03 – via University of Kentucky Archives.
  5. ^ "Penalties in the New York Bills". Daily Racing Form. 1908-01-18. Retrieved 2018-10-26 – via University of Kentucky Archives.
  6. ^ "Keep Up Betting Ban". New York Times. 1908-09-01. Retrieved 2018-11-06.
  7. ^ "Coney Island Clubs Sturdy Stand". Daily Racing Form. 1908-08-11. Retrieved 2019-02-03 – via University of Kentucky Archives.
  8. ^ Liebman, Bennett (May 24, 2009). "The First American Triple Crown Series". The Rail. Retrieved September 2, 2017.
  9. ^ "Race Track Bill Defeated In Senate; Measure Modifying Directors' Liability for Gambling Fails of Passage". The New York Times. July 14, 1911. Retrieved September 2, 2017.
  10. ^ "Racing Through the Century". Thoroughbred Times. February 14, 2000. Retrieved September 2, 2017.
  11. ^ "Destruction Wrought by Hughes". Daily Racing Form. 1908-12-15. Retrieved 2018-11-30 – via University of Kentucky Archives.
  12. ^ "Famous Old Track is Sold". Daily Racing Form. 1914-11-17. Retrieved 2018-11-30 – via University of Kentucky Archives.
  13. ^ "Punch Bowl First in Great Trial Stakes at Belmont Park". Montreal Gazette. 1913-07-01. Retrieved 2019-06-05.