Unofficial Thoroughbred Hall of Fame

Domino

Major Barak G. Thomas bred for speed, during an era in which many still valued stamina above all else, and in breeding Himyar, winner of the 1877 Colt Stakes, the 1878 Belle Meade Stakes, and the Phoenix Hotel Stakes, he had been successful. Sired by Alarm, America's first great sprinter, and out of Hira, a daughter of the legendary Lexington, Himyar had been the fastest horse of his generation, winning fourteen of twenty-seven starts and $11,650. Major Thomas' broodmare Mannie Gray, conqueror of 1875 Belmont Stakes winner Calvin, had already produced five stakes winners, including Lady Reel, Bandala, and Ten Strike, when she foaled a brown son of Himyar on May 4, 1891.

Mannie Gray's colt, named Domino, became part of Major Thomas' consignment to the Tattersall's sale in New York the following year. He was purchased by Foxhall Keene for three thousand dollars, a sale-topping figure well above the $895 average. Put into training with Billy Lakeland, hard workouts caused the young horse to bow both front tendons. Domino came to the races at two nevertheless, sporting bandages on both forelegs and earning a record $170,790 for Foxhall Keene and his father, James R. Keene. Known as the "Black Whirlwind," Domino raced undefeated through the season, epitomizing equine speed.

After breaking his maiden in a six length romp, Domino beat Dobbins by four lengths in the Great American Stakes at Gravesend. He went wire to wire again in the Great Eclipse Stakes at Morris Park, winning by two lengths. Dobbins was once again second.

The track was listed as heavy for Sheepshead Bay's Great Trial Stakes. Domino therefore limited the effort he put forth. Even merely galloping, the Black Whirlwind held the lead from start to finish, beating Hyder Abad, to whom he conceded seven pounds, by a neck.

After easy victories in the Hyde Park Stakes and the Produce Stakes, Domino once again met Dobbins, this time in the Futurity. Carrying 130 pounds, the Black Whirlwind sidestepped a fallen horse to once again beat his persistent challenger. In doing so, he passed Kingston in earnings and became the all-time leading money winner. Domino held this position until 1920, when Man o' War surpassed him in winning the Kenilworth Gold Cup, worth $80,000 to the winner and bringing his career earnings from $169,465 to $249,465.

After the Futurity, Boss Croker, who owned Dobbins, suggested a match between his colt and the still unbeaten Domino. The race accomplished little, however, as it was declared a dead heat. In his final race at two, Domino set a new track record of 1:09 in the six furlong Matron Stakes at Morris Park while giving away weight. His earnings that season totaled $170,790, a record which stood until 1931, when C.V. Whitney's brilliant filly Top Flight earned $219,000 as a juvenile.

Domino made his three-year-old debut at Morris Park, running in the one mile long Withers Stakes. He was forced to extend himself, and in a driving finish beat Henry of Navarre by a head in the Withers Stakes, with Dobbins three lengths back in third.

This winning form did not carry into his next race, however, and Domino ran last in the American Derby. Coming out of the race lame, he was given a two month layoff, while Henry of Navarre won the Belmont and the Travers Stakes.

Assigned 130 pounds for the Flying Stakes, Domino proved he had returned to his old form. After an easy victory in the Ocean Handicap, he met Clifford, that season's champion in the handicap division, in a one mile match race. He held off the older champion throughout, winning by three-quarters of a length.

After defeating the older champion, Domino added the Culver Stakes to his list of wins before meeting Henry of Navarre in a match race. The famous gambler Pittsburgh Phil bet a rumored $100,000 on the Black Whirlwind, then calmly ate a bag of figs as he watched. For nine furlongs, the two horses were inseparable, and they swept under the wire as a team. Unable to determine the winner, the judges declared a dead heat. A rematch was quickly scheduled.

In meeting Henry of Navarre a second time, Domino pulled up lame, ending his three-year-old campaign. Henry went on to beat the third entry, Clifford, by three quarters of a length. The interruption of Domino's sophomore campaign left Henry of Navarre as the season's champion, yet even in eight starts, The Black Whirlwind had won six times, bringing his career earnings to $189,940.

Domino began 1895 with an easy two length score in a six furlong sweepstakes at Gravesend. A month later he went to post in the Suburban Handicap, but was pulled up lame again. A three length allowance victory was followed by to impressively easy wins in the Coney Island and Sheepshead Bay Handicaps, in which he carried 130 and 127 pounds.

When asked to carry 133 pounds in the Fall Handicap, Domino was beaten a head by the champion mare The Butterflies, who carried a mere 109 pounds.

In his next start Domino was caught caught by Henry of Navarre in the final strides, although he was three lengths ahead of third place finisher Rey el Santa Anita.

Domino's career ended in the mile and a quarter First Special at Gravesend. Henry of Navarre cruised home in front while a lame Domino ran fifth. His four year old season thus ended with victories in half of his eight starts. It was almost thirty years before Domino's earnings record of $193,550 was broken.

The Black Whirlwind stood only two seasons at stud, siring 1901 Horse of the Year Commando, the sire of the classic winners Colin and Peter Pan; Cap and Bells, the first American-bred winner of the English Oaks, and the talented Disguise, who ran third in the Epsom Derby.

His record as a broodmare sire was equally impressive. His daughter's produced the juvenile champions Pebbles and Dominant, as well as Sweep, whose victories included the Futurity Stakes, the Belmont Stakes, and the Lawrence Realization, and earned him championship honors for two seasons.

The brilliant sprinters Ultimus and High Time were both inbred to Domino, and both sired a number of stakes winners. Both John P. Grier and Upset were out of granddaughters of Domino.

The great stallion died on July 29, 1897, a victim of meningitis. His tombstone reads:

"Here lies the fleetest runner the American turf has ever known, and one of the gamest and most generous of horses."

Even as the sire of only nineteen foals, Domino strongly influenced breeding in the twentieth century. His line was a source of speed in the pedigrees of numerous champions, including Bimelech, Equipoise, Stymie, Whirlaway, Carry Back, Alsab, and Ack Ack.



Domino's Race Record

Year Starts Wins Seconds Thirds Earnings
Lifetime 25 19 2 1 $193,550


Domino, 1891 brown colt

Himyar Alarm Eclipse Orlando
Gaze
Maud Stockwell
Countess of Albemarle
Hira Lexington Boston
Alice Carneal
Hegira Ambassador
Flight
Mannie Gray Enquirer Leamington Faugh-a-Ballagh
Mare by Pantaloon
Lida Lexington
Lize
Lizzie G. War Dance Lexington
Reel
Mare by Lecomte
Edith


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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 .
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