Buckpasser 1

When it comes to breeding for success, the Phipps family name must be considered as one of the more successful in American turf history. Generations of Phipps’ have been prominent throughout the twentieth century and now into the twenty-first century. Bold Ruler, Personal Ensign, Easy Goer, Dancing Spree, Boucher, Personal Flag, Misty Morn, Inside Information, and Orb are just some of the champions that have been bred by this successful family of turf enthusiasts.

Among the many great horses bred by this first family of American breeders, Buckpasser is one of the true greats. He was a champion in each of his three racing years, including Horse of the Year honours as a three year old, and is acclaimed as one of closest to perfect conformation Thoroughbreds to ever be bred. In the words of renowned equine artist Richard Stone Reeves “Buckpasser was the most perfectly proportioned Thoroughbred I have ever seen”. High praise indeed, coming from a man who has depicted on canvass some of the greatest horses to ever grace the turf.

Buckpasser was regally bred, and came into the world at a regal farm. The Phipps family have traditionally boarded their mares at Claiborne Farm, the birth place of countless champions. Buckpasser comes from the direct female line of the great broodmare La Troienne. Her daughter Businesslike produced Busanda from a cover by War Admiral. Busanda’s foal by Tom Fool was none other than Buckpasser, which means Buckpasser is inbred to Teddy 4×4.

Tom Fool, out of the Bull Dog sired mare Gaga, was a champion as a two year old winning five of seven races including the Belmont Futurity and then was preparing for the three year old classics, finishing second in the Wood Memorial, his final prep for the Kentucky Derby. He was taken out of training prior to the Derby however as he developed a high fever, causing him to miss the Triple Crown races.

Tom Fool won three stakes races in his three year old season. His four year old season was legendary as he would sweep all before him as a four year old capturing every one of his ten starts. The Pimlico Special, the Whitney, Suburban, Carter, Metropolitan, and Brooklyn Handicaps were among his ten wins in 1953. Tom Fool was crowned as Horse of the Year, thus denying the popular three year old of the year Native Dancer the honour.

Champion two year old in 1937 Menow was the sire of Tom Fool. Menow was by Pharamond II, one of the important branches of the Phalaris male line. Menow’s biggest win was his defeat of the four year old War Admiral in the Massachusetts Handicap during his three year old season.

Buckpasser was a horse with a very kind disposition. He displayed perfect manners in the stables, much like his sire did, and enjoyed being around people of all ages especially children. However when under tack and ready to race, Buckpasser displayed an entirely different demeanour. He was eager and ready to run once on the track, so much so that his jockey Braulio Baeza would have a difficult time to keep him down to a canter during the post parade.

However he had a tendency to loaf when in front of the field and at times did not put his opponents away with complete authority, preferring to win his races by doing just enough to win. Buckpasser was also not much into training, seemingly somewhat disinterested in his works. He needed challenges in his training regimen so Bill Winfrey, the Phipps’ trainer at the time, generally had Buckpasser work with stable mates to ignite his competitive fire, and the colt would handle the work as if he was in a race.

Buckpasser made his race début on May 13, 1965, finishing fourth. This would be the only time he ever finished out of the money in his races. This is a somewhat similar start to a racing career as that of Hyperion, who is no relation what so ever to Buckpasser, but was a horse of similar disposition.

Once Buckpasser had gotten the taste for racing, he then proceeded to dominate the track with his superior athleticism and smooth action when at full speed. He won his next two starts easily and then dead heated for the shared victory in the National Stallion Stakes with Hospitality, coming from nine lengths arrears. He then won the Tremont Stakes outright in the same come from behind fashion.

After winning his next race by seven lengths while making the entire pace, Buckpasser then reverted to his usual style to come from behind to win the Sapling Stakes. These performances, though enjoyable, were somewhat baffling to Bill Winfrey, as he was trying to figure out the best course of action to train and prepare his obviously talented colt.

Buckpasser added the Hopeful Stakes and Arlington-Washington Futurity to his win total and then lost the Aqueduct Futurity to the very good filly Priceless Gem. He would avenge this defeat in the Champagne Stakes. Buckpasser was named the Champion two year old, ahead of Graustark and Kauai King.

The 1966 season began with a couple of big changes for the promising colt. His trainer Bill Winfrey, a Hall of Fame member, would retire, thus handing Buckpasser over to another future Hall of Fame inductee Eddie Neloy. Winfrey later said “Buckpasser was a great horse as he overcame all of my mistakes”. Also Braulio Baeza decided to be the partner of Graustark for the upcoming classic races, so none other than Bill Shoemaker was brought in to ride Buckpasser.

The first race for Buckpasser and his new team was not a winning one, finishing second to Impressive his stable mate. The next race though, a convincing victory in the Everglades Stakes, established Buckpasser as the early favourite for the Kentucky Derby. The Flamingo Stakes was next and as his reputation was growing, the Hialeah track officials had decided to declare the race as a non-wagering event. This caused a severe backlash in the public’s eye. Since the race was run without betting, the press dubbed the race “The Chicken Flamingo”. Buckpasser was to take the lead early, become bored with proceedings and then recapture the race just in time with a breathtaking move to defeat Abe’s Hope at the wire.

Not long after this impressive display of speed Buckpasser developed a quarter crack severe enough to keep him from running in any of the classics. His would be main rival Graustark was also sidelined from the classics with a serious injury that required life saving surgery, so the Derby was left to Kauai King to win.

Three months passed by before Buckpasser was back to racing in a six furlong allowance event and then score in the Leonard Richards Stakes. The Arlington Classic and a date with Kauai King was his next start. In world record time of 1:32 3/5 over a mile beating Crème De La Crème, Buckpasser announced his return to greatness. Kauai King never challenged, having broken down in the race.

What followed was a continuous string of victories in the American Derby, the Chicago Stakes, the Woodward Stakes, the Travers Stakes, the Malibu Stakes, the Brooklyn Handicap, the Lawrence Realization Stakes and then the Jockey Club Gold Cup. This skein of wins put him over the million dollar mark in earnings, making him the first horse to do so before his four year old season and he was a unanimous choice for Horse of the Year.

Buckpasser began his four year old season with a win in the San Fernando Stakes but the quarter crack problem returned and he was again sidelined, this time for four months while he healed. He came back in the Metropolitan Mile, his fifteenth consecutive victory. He tasted defeat in the Bowling Green Handicap carrying one hundred and thirty-five pounds in his first start on turf to stable mate Poker and the champion grass runner Assagai.

The Widener Handicap put Buckpasser back on dirt and he won this race with an awe-inspiring stretch run to beat Ring Twice. He was giving the latter a twenty-two pound weight advantage. He would then be defeated in the Brooklyn Handicap giving huge weight to all in the race.

Buckpasser’s final race was against the then current top three year olds Damascus and Dr. Fager in the Woodward Stakes. Damascus won cementing his Horse of the Year honours, with Buckpasser second and Dr. Fager third. Buckpasser as the older horse was giving weight to both.

Syndicated for $4.8 million, Buckpasser returned to Claiborne Farm where he had been foaled, to begin his stud career in Kentucky. Among his illustrious stable mates at Claiborne were Bold Ruler, Herbager, Round Table, Ambiorix and Double Jay.

Buckpasser went to stud with great anticipation due to his racing career and his flawless conformation. He sired champions of both genders and stamped himself as a sire of lasting influence.

L’Enjoleur was his best son on the track. The Sovereign Award winning Canadian Horse of the Year as a two year old and as a three year old, L’Enjoleur was bred and owned by Jean-Louis Levesque, a prominent Canadian breeder/owner during the later part of the twentieth century.

L’Enjoleur won the Laurel Futurity, the Coronation Futurity, the Cup and Saucer Stakes, the Summer Stakes among his seven stakes victories as a two year old. At three he won the Queen’s Plate, the Prince of Wales Stakes but lost the Breeder’s Stakes, the third jewel of the Canadian Triple Crown. He did however win the Quebec and Manitoba Derbies and the McLaughlin Handicap and the O’Keefe Handicap beating older horses to sew up his second consecutive Sovereign award. At stud L’Enjoleur would sire thirty-two stakes winners including Champion fillies Par Excellance and Avowal. L’Enjoleur is a member of the Canadian Racing Hall of Fame.

Norcliffe also won the Queen’s Plate and the Prince of Wales Stakes on his way to Canadian Horse of the Year honours. Trained by Hall of Fame inductee Roger Attfield, Norcliffe emulated L’Enjoleur as well by winning the Coronation Futurity at two and also winning the O’Keefe Handicap and McLaughlin Handicap at three. At four he won the Canadian Maturity and won another Sovereign Award as the Champion older horse. Norcliffe would sire Groovy (Eclipse Award Champion Sprinter in 1987) and At The Threshold (sire of 1992 Kentucky Derby winner Lil E Tee). Norcliffe was the leading two year old sire in 1981.

Akureyri won the Fountain of Youth Stakes in the lead up to the Kentucky Derby defeating Pleasant Colony for the third time in three meetings. He also beat the eventual Derby and Preakness winner in the Pilgrim Stakes and the Remsen Stakes at two, he was disqualified and placed third however in the latter race. He chipped his knee finishing second in the Florida Derby to Lord Avie with Pleasant Colony again behind. He was thus retired from racing and stood at Windfields in Maryland.

Peter Pan Stakes winner Buckaroo would sire Spend A Buck, winner of the 1985 Kentucky Derby in third fastest time in history until then. He would go on to win the Jersey Derby and the Monmouth Handicap during the season culminating with the Eclipse Horse of the Year award. Spend A Buck in turn sired multi grade one stakes winners Einstein, earner of $2.9 million, Antespend, Hard Buck, and Pico Central.

Buckaroo would also sire Montbrook, a graded stakes winner who became a four time leading Florida sire. Montbrook was retired from stud duty for the 2014 season and counts forty-seven stakes winners at the time of writing. Montbrook is the sire of Eclipse Award winning sprinter Big Drama (Breeder’s Cup Sprint).

Silver Buck won the grade one Suburban and Whitney Handicaps on the track and then as a successful Florida based sire he sired forty stakes winners including the 1997 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner Silver Charm. Silver Charm’s attempt at Triple Crown immortality fell just short, finishing second in the Belmont to Touch Gold.

Other good stakes winning sons of Buckpasser include State Dinner who won the Suburban, Whitney, Metropolitan and Century Handicaps. Paristo won the Tampa Bay Derby and Illinois Derby. Buckfinder, and Balzac, winner of the Norfolk Stakes and the Oak Tree Invitational.

However the legacy of Buckpasser as a sire has ultimately been passed to future generations due to his exceptional daughters.

La Prevoyante was an unforgettable filly on the track. Her dam was Arctic Dancer by Nearctic, a full sister to Northern Dancer. As a two year old La Prevoyante went undefeated winning twelve races. She was named the Champion of her age in North America and also garner the Sovereign Award for Horse of the Year in Canada as she won the Spinaway, Matron, Frizette, Selima (by fourteen lengths), Schuylerville, Gardenia, Colin (against the boys), My Dear, and Princess Elizabeth Stakes in her all conquering year. At three she would add the Quebec Derby and the La Trioenne Stakes.

La Prevoyante, bred and owned by Jean-Louis Levesque, was kept in training for her four year old season and was placed in two stakes but did win three consecutive allowance races before her start on December 28, 1974 in the Miss Florida Stakes at Calder. She ran unplaced in this event and then collapsed in the unsaddling enclosure but was able to regain her feet and then walked back to the stables where she collapsed again. La Prevoyante died of a ruptured lung, a severe loss to the breed.

Numbered Account had a very similar two year season as La Prevoyante. Numbered Account would be crowned as champion two year old with wins in the Selima, Matron, Spinaway, Gardenia, Schuylerville, Frizette and Fashion Stakes. As a three year old she added the Spinster Stakes and the Maskette Handicap along with three other stakes wins to her total. As a broodmare, Numbered Account became one of the top producers of Buckpasser’s daughters.

She is the dam of Dance Number, winner of the Beldame Stakes who then in turn produced Rhythm and Not For Love, the latter of which is the broodmare sire of California Chrome. Numbered Account was also the dam of Private Account, winner of the Jim Dandy Stakes and the Widener and Gulfstream Handicaps. Private Account had a successful career as a sire getting 11% stakes winners including the great unbeaten mare Personal Ensign.

Playmate was a full sister to Numbered Account, who also contributed important offspring as a broodmare by producing Woodman, a successful sire of one-hundred and twelve stakes winners.

Hopespringseternal is the dam of top sire Miswaki. Miswaki is acclaimed as one of the better broodmare sires in recent history. Classic winners Galileo, Daylami, Landseer and Sea The Stars, as well as major group/grade one stakes winners Dalakhani, Captain Rio, Hernando, Talkin’ Man and Johan Quatz are all produced from daughters of Miswaki.

Multi stakes winner Relaxing was inbred to La Troienne 4 x 4. She would produce Cadillacing and Eclipse Award Champion Two Year Old Easy Goer both by Alydar.

Alluvial was the dam of two time champion Slew O’ Gold, Belmont Stakes winner Coastal, and grade one stakes producer Dokki.

Sex Appeal produced two stakes winning brothers by Northern Dancer, Try My Best and champion classic winner El Gran Senor, as well as stakes winner Solar by Halo and stakes producing broodmare Carillon Miss by The Minstrel.

Con Game is the dame of Seeking The Gold by Mr. Prospector. Seeking The Gold won two grade one races and has sired four Breeder’s Cup winners. He has also sired the remarkable Dubai Millennium, sire of current world class sire Dubawi.

Stakes winner Passing Mood produced two champion sons. With Approval by Caro won the Canadian Triple Crown and Touch Gold by Deputy Minister won the Belmont Stakes. With Approval won many top flight races and was particularly efficient on the grass. Touch Gold competed in a very deep generation and took his fair share of graded stakes races. Both have become successful sires.

Passing Look had three fillies by Vice Regent that became stakes winners, In My Cap, Trumpets Blare and Passing Vice. All three produced stakes winners after their racing days concluded.

Spring Adieu was a half sister to Northern Dancer and would produce Razyana by His Majesty. She in turn was the dam of worldwide dominant sire Danehill by Danzig. Danehill has sired more stakes winners than any other sire in history.

Buckpasser has been a strong influence in the pedigrees of today’s top Thoroughbreds. His lifetime total of three hundred and twenty foals, thirty-six stakes winners (12%) is very successful. His influence as a broodmare sire of successful sires is his prevailing legacy. The list of world class sires from Buckpasser mares is quite astonishing when one considers he did his stud work before the advent of large books of mares per stallion came into fashion.

Buckpasser died at the young age of fifteen in 1978. He is buried at Claiborne Farm, his home for all his life, except when he went racing.

(Photo courtesy of Claiborne Farm)


  • Phipps bred alot of great horses. I think Buckpasser was the best. Too bad breeders did not try more to keep his male line going. He brought alot of soundness to the breed which is needed badly today.


    The legendary Les Brinsfield still gets a thrill every time he sees Buckpasser’s name in a pedigree.

    Seems to me the La Troienne influence is getting stronger. She elevates every pedigree.

  • The horse of my heart….I tried to visit Claiborne on my way home from Florida specifically to see him years ago, but was told the farm was closed to visitors that morning. I learned the next day that he had had a heart attack and died……March 6, 1978. I had the privilege of owning what may have been his last living daughter. Jilly Pilly was from his last full crop and lived until she was 30. Her daughter Psychedelia just delivered a Giant Gizmo colt for me the other night. The most beautiful horse I have ever had the privilege of seeing.

  • I love that Claiborne does not overbreed their stallions: they obviously have great
    respect for their charges. I wish I had followed Buckpasser– he was a great one and died much too young.

  • Marlaine Meeker

    What a joy to read. Those names from the past gave me goosebumps. I loved Buckpasser. Thank you so much for this lovely and informative article.

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