Unofficial Thoroughbred Hall of Fame


1945 Horse of the Year

Colonel E.R. Bradley sent his mare Baby League, a daughter of his Kentucky Derby winner Bubbling Over and his great foundation mare La Troienne, to War Admiral on three occasions. For Bradley's Idle Hour Stock Farm, she produced three stakes winners to the cover of the Triple Crown winner, including Busher, Striking, and Mr. Busher. Before taking a liking to War Admiral, Colonel Bradley had always avoided the Fair Play line, due to the reputation the descendants of Hastings had for displaying a hot-blooded temperament. The cross to War Admiral produced Busher, the last champion to carry Colonel Bradley's silks.

Idle Hour's chestnut daughter of War Admiral began her career in May of 1944, breaking her maiden at first asking with a half length score for rider Ted Atkinson at Belmont Park. Busher was a small filly, and trainer J.W. Smith gave her several months to mature before racing her again. Upon her return, she cantered to a four length victory in a purse before meeting stakes company for the first time. The betting favorite, she ended up fourth in the Spinaway Stakes, but her closing drive showed promise for the future.

The next time out she had Eddie Arcaro in the irons, and she took the Adirondack Handicap by two lengths, giving nine pounds to War Date, future winner of the 1945 Beldame Stakes. Her time of 1:11 3/5 was three-fifths of a second quicker than Price Level's winning time in the Spinaway.

Busher at two

In prepping for the Matron Stakes, Busher gave away eleven pounds in a six furlong sprint. Running out of ground in the final strides, she finished second by a head to the lightly weighted Nomadic. Calumet Farm's Twosy proved a worthy adversary in the Matron, but the Idle Hour filly prevailed by a neck. Price Level was third.

A three length win over Ace Card and Gallorette in the Selima Stakes wrapped up the divisional championship for Busher, who had earned $60,300, and she was then sold for a stunning $50,000 to L.B. Mayer, who proved success could be bought in the sport of racing.

George Odom took over the job of conditioning Busher, and after the temporary ban on racing was lifted in May of 1945, Busher began her three-year-old career at Santa Anita with a five length triumph in an overnighter. Johnny Longden, her new regular rider, was in the saddle for the first time.

Busher took the Santa Susana Stakes by seven lengths, and then stepped out of her division to beat colts in the San Vicente Handicap. She won by a length and a quarter despite interference by a riderless horse.

Again challenging the colts, she met up with Colonel Bradley's Bymeabond in the Santa Anita Derby, and missed first money by a half-length, probably due to pilot error on the part of Johnny Longden, who was criticized for taking her wide. Busher returned to the winner's circle after an easy score over older mares in the Santa Margarita Handicap, and then traveled east.


Three-year-old fillies proved no challenge in the Cleopatra Handicap in Chicago, and Busher was sent against a field of older males in the Arlington Handicap. Despite giving away weight and going to the lead early, she and Johnny Longden scored a five length victory.

The belief that Busher couldn't be beat, an impost of 128 pounds, and the speedy Durazna conspired to break Busher's winning streak in the Beverly Handicap. She finished third behind Calumet Farm's speedball while giving her twelve pounds. Place finisher Letmenow carried a mere 102 pounds.

A one mile match race was then set up with Durazna, the Bull Lea filly who had shared juvenile honors with Calumet Farm's Twilight Tear two years before. Busher soundly beat the older mare, and set her sights on the Washington Park Handicap.

Also entered at Washington Park was Calumet Farm's champion gelding Armed, conqueror, in the Pimlico Special, of handicap champion Stymie, Preakness winner Polynesian, and the future champion Gallorette. Giving four pounds to the Calumet entry, Busher won by a length and a half, setting a new track record of 2:01 4/5 in the process.

Returning west, Busher missed victory in the Will Rogers Handicap by a head, then easily handed defeat to colts in the Hollywood Derby despite being bumped. Older mares also swallowed Busher's dust in the Vanity Handicap, which she won by two lengths. With career earnings of $334,035, Busher was now the leading money winning mare of all time. She was named Champion Three Year Old Filly, Champion Handicap Mare, and 1945 Horse of the Year.

After skipping the 1946 season with an injury, Busher ran fifth in her only try at the age of five, and was retired from racing. Mrs. Elizabeth Arden Graham paid $150,000 for the great mare, and she spent her broodmare career at Mrs. Graham's Maine Chance Farm. Her son Jet Action, by Mrs. Graham's 1947 Kentucky Derby winner Jet Pilot, won the 1954 Withers Stakes, as well as the 1955 Olympic Handicap in Atlantic City, and earned a career total of $308,225. He was her only foal to race, although Busher's daughter Popularity was the dam of three stakes winners.

Sadly, Busher passed away March 22, 1955, having produced only five foals. She was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1964. Blood-Horse ranked her fortieth in their end of the century poll.

Busher's Race Record

Year Starts Wins Seconds Thirds Earnings
Lifetime 21 15 3 1 $334,035

Busher, 1942 chestnut filly

War Admiral Man o' War Fair Play Hastings
Fairy Gold
Mahubah Rock Sand
Merry Token
Brushup Sweep Ben Brush
Pink Domino
Annette K. Harry of Hereford
Bathing Girl
Baby League Bubbling Over North Star III Sunstar
Beaming Beauty Sweep
La Troienne Teddy Ajax
Helene de Troie Helicon
Lady of Pedigree


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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