Historic Review elects Jockey Anthony Hamilton, horse Planet to Hall of Fame
Anthony Hamilton, one of the finest jockeys of the 19th century, and Planet, a dominant racehorse in the years leading up to the Civil War, have been elected to the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame through the Museum’s Historic Review process.
Hamilton and Planet will be inducted on Aug. 10 at the Fasig-Tipton sales pavilion along with contemporary selections jockey John Velazquez, the racehorse Ghostzapper, and trainers Roger Attfield and Robert Wheeler. The ceremony is at 10:30 a.m. and is free and open to the public.
Hamilton was born in Charleston, S.C., in 1866 and won many of the most prestigious races of the 19th century. His first notable win was at age 15 when he took the 1881 Phoenix Handicap with Sligo. In 1890, Hamilton rode Potomac to victory in the third edition of the Futurity, which at the time was the richest race in American history with a purse of $67,675. That year, Hamilton led the nation in winning percentage (31.2). In 1891, he boosted his national-best win percentage to 33.8 and won 154 races to place second in the national standings.
In 1895, Hamilton won two of the most prominent races in the country by taking the Brooklyn Handicap on Hornpipe and the Suburban Handicap aboard Lazzarone. The next year, Hamilton added the third major New York handicap event, the Metropolitan Handicap, with Counter Tenor. Hamilton is the only African-American jockey to win all three of New York’s major handicap races. During this era, these races were generally considered to be more important than the likes of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes.
Hamilton’s other major victories included the American Derby (1887), Lawrence Realization Stakes (1891), Monmouth Oaks (1889, 1890), Monmouth Invitational Handicap (1889, 1892), Juvenile Stakes (1890), Gazelle Handicap (1887, 1890), Nursery Stakes (1886), Flatbush Stakes (1889, 1890), Sapling Stakes (1891), Swift Stakes (1892), Toboggan Handicap (1890), Twin City Handicap (1886, 1888, 1889, 1892, 1894), Great Trial Stakes (1892), Tidal Stakes (1891), Hudson Stakes (1889), and St. Louis Derby (1888), among others.
Hamilton rode for many of the top owners of the 19th century, including Pierre Lorillard, Mike Dwyer, August Belmont, Sr., August Belmont II, J.R. Keene, and Billy Lakeland. He rode Hall of Famers Firenze and Salvator, and champions Lamplighter and Potomac.
In the late 1890s, Hamilton relocated to Europe and enjoyed continued success. He won the Metropolitan Stakes of Vienna and the Karoli Memorial in Budapest. In Poland, he added the Ruler Stakes, the first leg of the Polish Triple Crown. His career came to an end in 1904 when he was thrown from a horse in Russia. Hamilton died in France three years later. Historian Fred Burlew, son of a Hall of Fame trainer, ranked Hamilton third on his list of the 10 greatest African-American jockeys of all time behind only Hall of Famers Isaac Murphy and Willie Simms.
Foaled in Virginia at Major Thomas W. Doswell’s Bullfield Stable in 1855, Planet was sired by Revenue out of the Boston mare Nina. Planet was a sensation from the start. He made his debut with a victory over four others in mile heats for a purse of $10,750 in Fairfield, Va., on May 4, 1858, and went on to establish a record for career purse earnings that stood for 20 years.
Turf writer John Hervey described Planet as “In color a rich chestnut, 15.2½ (hands) tall, he was remarkable for his symmetry of mould and the excellence of his limbs.”
Planet displayed his remarkable skill and versatility by compiling a record of 27-4-0 from 31 starts and earning $69,700. Known as “The Great Red Fox,” Planet was regarded by many turf experts to be second only to the mighty Lexington among the greatest American racehorses prior to the Civil War.
Carrying Bullfield’s famed orange silks, Planet won at a variety of distances in Virginia, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, and Louisiana. He also traveled to New York, where he won a $20,000 sweepstakes on Sept. 25, 1860 at the Fashion Course on Long Island. Racing from ages 3 through 6, Planet defeated many of the top horses of his era, including Daniel Boone, Congaree, Socks, and Arthur Macon. He was trained through most of his career by N.B. Young.
Further demonstrating his versatility, Planet was a natural trotter. He was able to trot a mile in three minutes, and most of his training was conducted in that gait. According to Hervey, this ability led to some trouble, as Planet was once ordered off a New York track by a racing official for “training at a flying trot before a meet.” The official declared that trotters were not allowed. Other horsemen jumped to the defense of the great Planet, as this was his traditional training regimen, and the official rescinded his order.
Planet was retired to stud at Bullfield in 1861. His lost his final race, which occurred only five days before the bombardment of Fort Sumter launched the Civil War and effectively ended racing of that era in the South. The Civil War and its aftermath interrupted several years of Planet’s career as a stallion. During those years, Planet and many of the other Bullfield horses were hidden in the woods to protect them from Yankee soldiers.
In 1868, Doswell sold Planet to R.A. Alexander of Woodburn Farm in Kentucky. Planet resided at Woodburn until he died at the age of 20 in 1875.