Unofficial Thoroughbred Hall of Fame

Black Helen

Black Helen was not a standout among the foals born on Colonel E.R. Bradley's Idle Hour Stock Farm in 1932. She was smaller than the rest, weighing only 900 pounds at the height of her career, and the filly's stature prevented her nomination for of the any major juvenile stakes. Nevertheless, she was the daughter of Black Toney, sire of two Kentucky Derby winners, and La Troienne, who was to become one of the greatest broodmares in American history, later producing, among others, the classic winner Bimelech, a full brother to Black Helen. Idle Hour sent a strong crop of juveniles to the post in 1934, including Balladier, the champion two-year-old colt. Black Helen was put under the management of William Hurley, Idle Hour's second trainer, and the little filly swept through her first seven starts undefeated.

As a three-year-old, Black Helen made her debut in an allowance race at Hialeah, and the impressive win made her the favorite for the Florida Derby. In her first meeting with stakes horses, Black Helen cantered to victory over a field of colts.

Bradley declared he would win the 1935 Coaching Club American Oaks with Black Helen, although he sent two other fillies to the post as well. When the star was boxed in by Good Gamble in the stretch, her stablemate Bloodroot, who was leading, drifted wide to allow Bradley's favorite through on the rail, but she still had to fight for the win. In a game struggle, Black Helen claimed victory by a nose.

Black Helen

While Black Helen was back in the company of colts in the American Derby, it proved to be another filly that was considered to be her closest rival. Calumet Farm's Nellie Flag had earned the juvenile filly championship the previous season, and had earned the status of favorite in Omaha's Kentucky Derby. Black Helen prevailed, becoming the first distaffer to win the American Derby since Modesty in 1884.

"If she holds her good form, we will look forward to a meeting with Omaha in the Arlington Classic," Bradley announced after the victory. Omaha, however, was victorious in the Classic, while the Idle Hour filly ran fourth.

That autumn Black Helen took the Maryland Handicap, beating her stablemate Bloodroot by a length. She was retired with fifteen wins in twenty two starts and earnings of $61,800. Discovery took Horse of the Year honors, while Triple Crown winner Omaha was named Champion Three Year Old Colt. Honors in the three-year-old filly division, however, when to E.R. Bradley's Black Helen.

As a broodmare, Black Helen was unable to produce a stakes winner, but was the second dam of Champion Three Year Old Filly But Why Not and the Champion Steeplechaser Oedipus. She was also the sixth dam of Princess Rooney, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame on the same day as her distinguished ancestor in 1991.

Black Helen's Race Record

Year Starts Wins Seconds Thirds Earnings
Lifetime 22 15 0 2 $61,800

Black Helen, 1933 bay filly

Black Toney Peter Pan Commando Domino
Emma C.
Cinderella Hermit
Belgravia Ben Brush Bramble
Bonnie Gal Galopin
Bonnie Doon
La Troienne Teddy Ajax Flying Fox
Rondeau Bay Ronald
Helene de Troie Helicon Cyllene
Vain Duchess
Lady of Pedigree St. Denis


Recommended titles include: Champions from the Daily Racing Form, Thoroughbred Champions: Top 100 of the 20th Century from Blood-Horse, and Man O' War: Thoroughbred Legends #1 by Edward L. Bowen, as well as Seabiscuit on DVD .
Seabiscuit DVD

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