Unofficial Thoroughbred Hall of Fame


The temperamental grandson of Sir Archy who came to be known as "Old White Nose" was named not for the city in Massachusetts, as is often believed, but for the card game during which he was acquired by Nathaniel Rives. Boston was bred by attorney John Wickham and foaled in Virginia in 1833. His sire, Timoleon, was by Sir Archy, and his dam was an unnamed mare by Ball's Florizel, who like Sir Archy was sired by *Diomed, winner of the first Epsom Derby.

As a colt, Boston was so hard to handle that Colonel L. White, a well known breeder in the Richmond area, suggested that he be "either castrated or shot, preferably the latter." Fortunately the recommendation was not taken. Trainer John Belcher took less severe, although somewhat harsh, measures. Since Boston seemed to like to roll on his riders, Belcher and some stable hands cured the problem by sitting on his head and beating him with sticks on two of the occasions on which he tried the trick. The colt didn't try the stunt again, although other problems were harder to fix.

On April 20, 1836, Boston made his first start. He easily opened a long lead and seemed a sure winner when he changed his mind, stopped dead and refused to move at all. After waging war with the chestnut colt for the rest of the summer, Belcher brought his stubborn charge back to the races that fall. Boston was successful in winning the final two races of his three-year-old season, and wasn't beaten again for several years.

The following year John Belcher convinced Colonel W.R. Johnson, called the "Napoleon of the Turf," to watch Boston work with Argyle and Mary Blunt, both owned by Johnson. Boston, sulking behind the pair, gave the impression of one without the ability to catch up. The other horses were quite a bit ahead of the sulking Boston, and Belcher had turned away with disgust, when, as Charles E. Trevathan, who witnessed the trial, reported:

"...Boston did a most surprising thing; he suddenly put his head into the bridle and set himself to run. He showed such a marvelous burst of speed that he beat the pair of them through the stretch and finished first. Then Colonel Johnson said he would do."

Shortly after the trial, Boston became the property of Colonel Johnson. As a four-year-old, he was undefeated in four starts, earning two thousand dollars. At five, he beat "every good horse racing north of the Potomac," winning eleven straight races and earning $8,900. The following year, Boston was considered so invincible that Johnson was actually paid five hundred dollars not to start the horse in a Jockey Club purse worth only two hundred dollars more. In nine starts that year, Old White Nose earned $19,300 and was beaten only once, finishing second.

By 1840, the jockey clubs between Union Course and Petersburg had tired of Boston's appearance at their race meets, since he scared away competition, and they convinced Johnson to race farther south, after ruling out the possibility of including the phrase "Bar Boston" in their race conditions. By the end of 1840, Boston had earned $14,700, winning all seven of his races. Due to a lack of competition, Boston did not return to the races in the spring of 1841, but instead stood a full season at stud, covering forty two mares for one hundred dollars apiece. That autumn, Colonel Johnson issued a challenge to the world. Boston would race any two horses at four mile heats, with the pair of challengers to alternate heats. That meant Boston would meet a fresh horse in his second heat, after having already run four miles himself. The stakes, however, at $45,000 a side, were high enough to, with the help of Boston's reputation, discourage any would be takers.

On September 30, Boston won a race of four mile heats, and over the next twenty nine days, he won three more. He was racing for the fifth time that fall when he met Fashion, a three-year-old filly by *Trustee, on October 28, 1841. The filly handed Boston his third career loss, and Johnson immediately challenged her to a match the following spring. The proposed match was the first national turf event since American Eclipse had defeated Sir Henry in 1823, and it was looked forward to with much anticipation.

After another season at stud, Boston headed for Union Course to seek vengeance for his defeat the previous fall.

The Great Match Race of 1842 pitted Colonel Johnson's Virginia-bred grandson of Sir Archy against the northern bred Fashion at Union Course, the site of the first North-South match nineteen years earlier. New York City's railway system, unable to carry the hoards of people to the track in time for the race, was the cause of riots in the city.

Fashion was a chestnut mare with a star and a white coronet. She was described as a powerfully built mare, with long, rangy muscles and high withers. Her dam, Bonnets O' Blue, was sired by Sir Charles, whose defeat by American Eclipse in 1822 had sparked the first national match race. The filly was ridden in the match by her regular rider, Joe Laird.

Gilbert Patrick, usually listed as Gilpatrick, who was up on Boston for the great race, was perhaps the greatest rider of the nineteenth century. His first important race had been a losing effort aboard Post Boy in consecutive heats at Union Course on May 31, 1836. Gil Patrick's career spanned four decades, and he was a success first during the era of the four mile heat, during which he rode not only Boston, but most of the famous horses of the time, including Lexington and Charmer. As racing changed, with shorter distances and different racing strategies coming into use, he continued to be one of the nation's top riders, with his victories including the first Belmont Stakes, which he won aboard the filly Ruthless in 1867.

For the match, nine-year-old Boston gave away fourteen pounds to the younger filly. Coming into the fourth mile of the first heat, Boston was on top, but when Laird asked Fashion the question she flew by Old White Nose. Boston went after her, then was taken back by Patrick. Coming into the turn he hit the fence, bruising his hip badly. Recovering, Boston closed on the mare three lengths ahead. Two furlongs from the wire, both Laird and Patrick went to the whip. Boston began to catch Fashion in the stretch, when someone on the rail shouted "Rouse up the mare! Boston's on you!" Fashion responded to Laird's whip and beat the mighty Boston by a length. The time for the four miles, 7:32 1/2, was a new record.

The second heat was a back and forth battle through the first two miles, with Boston taking the track half way through the third mile. An eye witness described the situation:

"The scene which ensued we have no words to describe. Such cheering, such betting, and so many long faces were never seen nor heard before."

Having lost his lead, Joe Laird, up on the chestnut mare, sat "with utmost prudence and good sense," giving Fashion a chance to rest. Boston had paid dearly for his lead, and Gil Patrick gave him no time for recovery. The grandson of Sir Archy kept up his blistering pace, running the third mile in 1:51 1/2. The eyewitness commented on Boston's grueling effort:

"The pace was tremendous. Nothing short of limbs of steel could stand up under such a press. On the first turn after passing the stand, Fashion, now fresh again, rallied, and as Boston had not another run in him she cut him down in her stride opposite the quarter mile post, and the thing was out. The race, so far as Boston was concerned, was past praying for."

Fashion was the winner in 7:45, while Boston, exhausted, was pulled up and came home at a walk. As a result of his impact with the rail, Boston carried a long, jagged scar on his hip. The blemish on his record was considered more painful, however. In addition to the loss to the filly, Boston raced four other times that season, winning three starts and earning $2400.

After a final start at the age of ten, in which he was victorious, Boston retired to stud in Hanover County, Virginia for the 1843 season. He then moved to Washington, D.C. for a period of three years before finally moving permanently to Colonel E.M. Blackburn's farm in Woodford County in Kentucky. There, he was finally bred to mares of real quality, and despite blindness and deteriorating health became a leading sire. By 1849 Boston was unable to stand without the help of a hammock, used to hoist him to his feet each morning so that stable hands could massage his legs until he could stand unassisted. Boston died in January of 1850, yet his final crop of foals, born that spring, included his two finest sons, Lexington and Lecomte.

Boston's Race Record

Year Starts Wins Seconds Thirds Earnings
Lifetime 45 40 2 1 $51,700

Boston, 1833 chestnut colt

Timoleon Sir Archy Diomed Florizel by Herod
Sister-to-Juno by Spectator
Castianira Rockingham by Highflyer
Tabitha by Trentham
Daughter of Saltram Eclipse by Marske
Virago by Snap
Wildair Mare Symme's Wildair by Fearnought
Driver Mare by Brent's Driver
Robin Brown's Dam Ball's Florizel Diomed Florizel by Herod
Sister to Juno by Spectator
Daughter of Shark Shark by Marske
Mare by Harris' Eclipse
Daughter of Alderman Alderman Pot-8-o's by Eclipse
Lady Bolingbroke by Squirrel
Daughter of Clockfast by Bay Richmond
Mare by Symme's Wildair


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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