Narragansett Special

The Narragansett Special was an American Thoroughbred horse race run annually at Narragansett Park in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. At the time of its inaugural running in 1934, the Narragansett Special offered a purse of $25,000 added money making it the biggest race run at the track. Only Suffolk Downs' Massachusetts Handicap had a bigger purse in New England. Both rich contests drew the best talent that the nation had to offer.[1]

Narragansett Special
Discontinued stakes race
LocationNarragansett Park
Pawtucket, Rhode Island, United States
Inaugurated1934 - Winner: Time Supply
Race typeThoroughbred - Flat racing
Race information
Distance1 316 miles (9.5 furlongs)
QualificationThree-years-old & up

Open to horses age three and older, the race was run over a distance of ​1 316 miles (9.5 furlongs). The Special started at the top of the Narragansett stretch with a run of 3/16ths to the wire and then one full lap around the one mile dirt oval.

Historical notesEdit

Across its history, the "Special" was run in late summer and fall, over fast and sloppy tracks, and even in the snow one year (Wise Margin – 1955).

Time Supply, under jockey Tommy Luther, won the very first Special. A. A. Baroni's Top Row and Rosemont, for William duPont, won the next two editions.

An instant success, the race continued to attract the top horses from across the United States. 1937 had Mrs. Ella K. Bryson's gelding Calumet Dick, with Hilton Dabson riding, captured the event. A former Calumet Farm runner that loved the mud, Calumet Dick upset Wheatley Stable's Snark and national superstar Seabiscuit. The 'Biscuit was made the betting favorite by his fans, but proved his dislike for "off" going and saw a seven race winning streak snapped when he finished third on the sloppy track under high-weight of 132 lbs.[2]

Over the years, the race was won by racing stars such as future U. S. Racing Hall of Fame inductees Challedon (won:1939 / inducted:1977) and Whirlaway (won:1942 / inducted:1959).[3]

In 1941, Glen Riddle Farm's War Relic upset that year's Triple Crown winner, Whirlaway.[4]

Top jockeys Eddie Arcaro, Ted Atkinson, Johnny Longden, George Woolf, and Jack Westrope are among the riding stars that won the "Special". Lucky Draw equaled the World Record for the distance, while carving his name in the Track Records Narragansett Park, when he defeated Pavot and Armed in 1946. Many considered this to be the race of the year.[5]

The event was not run in 1947 due to an outbreak of Swamp Fever. The outbreak of the disease, with an official title of Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA), had caused the death of 77 horses at Rockingham Park that summer.[6] The inter-state shipping of horses that Fall was greatly restricted.

The 1948 edition had Rhode Island in the middle of a record late August "heat wave" with temperatures of over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. When added with the cancellation of the previous year, the race drew its smallest attendance figure of only 12,612 people. Donor, under jockey Arnold Kirkland, won the race for owner W. Deering Howe.

In 1949, Donor, a son of Challedon, became the only two-time winner of the race by defeating the Santa Anita Handicap winner of 1949; Vulcan's Forge; and Calumet Farm's 1949 Kentucky Derby winner, Ponder. In a thrilling three horse photo finish, Warren Mehrtens had his mount's head in front at the wire. More than 35,000 were in attendance for this exciting renewal.[7]

On September 19, 1953, Sailed Away, with New England riding legend Anthony DeSpirito "up" for trainer R. E. Harper and Rhode Island-based Vigilant Stable, became the only local outfit to win the Special.

1954 revealed Alfred G. Vanderbilt II in the paddock as his Social Outcast was saddled for a popular 3-length victory. The purse swelled to $42,450, making it the richest running. It also had the largest field as 18 horses made the post. Social Outcast broke from the 15 hole and as jockey Eric Guerin made the lead he lost his right stirrup in deep stretch. Guerin did well to remain on the horse as "Old Sosh" bolted towards the outside rail.[8]

By the late 1950s, attendance and betting handle were down at the track. It was harder to attract the best horses to the region and Narragansett Park and the Special declined in prestige. Without a breeding industry in New England, the quality of horse racing throughout the area went into a steep decline. There were also betting scandals. The purse was returned to $25,000 added and did not keep pace with other top races.

Finally, in 1963, one last future Hall of Fame horse, Gun Bow (inducted HoF:1999), won his first stakes race in the Narragansett Special. He won by 13 lengths with jockey Steve Brooks aboard. Gun Bow would gain fame by having stirring duels with Kelso, the unofficial "horse of the 1960s".

The year of 1963 saw the 29th, and last, edition of this once special race.


Speed record:

Most wins:

Most wins by a jockey:

Most wins by an owner:


1963 Gun Bow 3 Steve Brooks Edward A. Neloy Gedney Farm 1316 M 1:58.80
1962 Wise Flushing 4 Manuel Ycaza not found Gustave A. Smith 1316 M 1:58.80
1961 Count Amber 4 James W. Davern Jr. Lucien Laurin Reginald N. Webster 1316 M 1:58.40
1960 Reinzi 5 Jimmy Combest E. Barry Ryan J. Frederic Gagel 1316 M 1:57.40
1959 Net Ball 4 Bill Skuse Willard "Mike" Freeman Warner G. Morton 1316 M 1:57.00
1958 Sharpsburg 5 Howard Grant Warren A. Croll Jr. Roy E. Faircloth 1316 M 1:57.00
1957 Oh Johnny 4 William Boland Norman R. McLeod Mrs. Wallace Gilroy 1316 M 1:57.60
1956 Find 6 Ted Atkinson William C. Winfrey Alfred G. Vanderbilt II 1316 M 1:57.00
1955 Wise Margin 5 Bobby Ussery Sam N. Edmundson Sam Tufano 1316 M 1:58.40
1954 Social Outcast 4 Eric Guerin William C. Winfrey Alfred G. Vanderbilt II 1316 M 1:58.00
1953 Sailed Away 4 Anthony DeSpirito R. E. Harper Vigilant Stable 1316 M 1:56.60
1952 General Staff 4 James Stout James McGee Larry MacPhail 1316 M 1:56.40
1951 Hall of Fame 3 Ted Atkinson John M. Gaver Sr. Greentree Stable 1316 M 1:56.80
1950 De Luxe 4 Eugene Rodriguez Frank Gilpin True Davis Jr. 1316 M 1:57.60
1949 Donor 5 Warren Mehrtens George P. Odom W. Deering Howe 1316 M 1:56.40
1948 Donor 4 Arnold Kirkland George P. Odom W. Deering Howe 1316 M 1:57.40
1947 Race not held
1946 Lucky Draw 5 Conn McCreary Bert Mulholland George D. Widener Jr. 1316 M 1:54.60
1945 Westminster 4 Willie Garner James McGee Morris Wexler 1316 M 1:58.00
1944 Paperboy 6 Warren Mehrtens Jimmy Coleman W-L Ranch Co. 1316 M 1:56.00
1943 Market Wise 5 Johnny Longden George W. Carroll Louis Tufano 1316 M 1:55.40
1942 Whirlaway 4 George Woolf Ben A. Jones Calumet Farm 1316 M 1:56.40
1941 War Relic 3 Ted Atkinson Walter A. Carter Glen Riddle Farm 1316 M 1:57.20
1940 Hash 4 Eddie Arcaro John M. Gaver Sr. Greentree Stable 1316 M 1:57.00
1939 Challedon 3 Harry Richards Louis Schaefer William L. Brann 1316 M 1:56.60
1938 Stagehand 3 Jack Westrope Earl Sande Col. Maxwell Howard 1316 M 1:56.20
1937 Calumet Dick 5 Hilton Dabson Harry Baker Ella K. Bryson 1316 M 1:57.00
1936 Rosemont 4 Harry Richards Richard E. Handlen Foxcatcher Farms 1316 M 1:56.40
1935 Top Row 4 Wayne Wright Albert A. Baroni Albert A. Baroni 1316 M 1:55.80
1934 Time Supply 3 Tommy Luther Frank C. Travis Mrs. Frank A. Carreaud 1316 M 1:57.00


  1. ^ "$25,000 ADDED RACE DRAWS FIELD OF SIX; 40,000 Will See Faireno Go to Post Today as Favorite in Narragansett Special". The New York Times. 31 October 1934. Retrieved 24 June 2016.
  2. ^ Hillenbrand, Laura. "Seabiscuit: An American Legend". Retrieved 24 June 2016.
  3. ^ "Hall of Fame - Horses". Retrieved 24 June 2016.
  4. ^ "43,400 See Upset; War Relic, 3-1, Defeats Whirlaway". New York Times, Section Sports, page 1. 1941-09-14. Retrieved 2020-05-29.
  5. ^ Providence Journal 9/15/46
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-12-26. Retrieved 2013-12-25.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ The Providence Journal 8/29/49
  8. ^ The Providence Journal 11/7/54