Colonel E.F. Clay, who had co-owned Hanover, Miss Woodford, and Ben Brush, among others, passed his interest in thoroughbreds to his sons. On a spring day in 1910, their farm was the site of an accident which every breeder dreads. A fence was jumped, and the farm teaser bred one of the mares, a blind daughter of Bona Vista named Rose Tree. The incident could have been viewed as disastrous, but Rose Tree had done little to distinguish herself on the track, running in the claiming division, and was therefore not a highly prized broodmare. The teaser was a thoroughbred, and a fairly well bred one at that, for despite his lack of racing success, he was the son of a St. Simon mare, and his sire Trenton was by the good sire Musket. The Clay Brothers had their greatest success as breeders as a result of that accident, for the influence of the more distinguished members of the family tree shown through, and it resulted in the champion and Hall of Fame member Roamer.
The bay gelding made his racing debut on May 1, 1913, winning a maiden race at Lexington by five lengths. After several seconds and thirds, a couple of which were to Old Rosebud, who ended the season as the divisional champion, Roamer went to New York.
Woodford Clay then entered the young gelding in a claiming race, and nearly lost him for two thousand dollars. The winners purse of three hundred and eighty dollars paled in comparison to the two thousand five Clay spent to buy his way out of the claim.
It was only days later that Jack Goldsborough approached with an offer of $2,500, and a deal was made. It is interesting to note that had Clay let Roamer go in the claiming race, he would have had a gross profit of $2000, but after buying out the claim and selling the horse for more, he grossed only $495. Either history has not recorded the full details of the bargain struck, or Clay made several mistakes in the course of that week.
Jack Goldsborough was the trainer for Andrew Miller, and it was on his behalf that he had purchased Roamer. The gelding carried Miller's cardinal silks for the first time at Saratoga, running second to Little Nephew. Four days later Roamer beat Gainer, Black Toney, and nine others in the Saratoga Special, winning by a length and a half.
By the end of his juvenile campaign, Roamer had run seventeen times, earning $8,480 with four wins, six seconds, and a third. In addition to winning the Saratoga Special, he had also finished second in the Lafayette Handicap.
Roamer made his three-year-old debut at Belmont, wading through the slop to score a four length victory in an overnight handicap on May 27. Three days later he ran third in the Withers Stakes. After running out of the money behind Rock View in the Toboggan Handicap, Roamer scored in another overnight handicap.
In the Carter Handicap Roamer finally began to show his true ability, cantering away from the top handicapper Borrow to win the Carter Handicap by two lengths.
After another successful overnight handicap, Roamer went wire to wire to win the Brooklyn Derby by eight lengths. Gainer, who had beaten Roamer in the previous year's Lafayette Handicap, was second.
Roamer was third in the Empire City Handicap, then won the Midsummer Stakes at Empire City while under severe restraint. Next Roamer turned the Travers Stakes into his own private show, cantering to a ten length win over Surprising, Gainer, and four others.
After carrying 128 pounds to victory in the Huron Handicap, beating Gainer by eight lengths in the State Fair Stakes in Syracuse, and holding off Addie M. to score by a length in the Municipal Handicap at Belmont, Roamer found himself unchallenged in the Autumn WFA, and he won in a walkover.
At Laurel, Roamer succumbed to Stromboli in the Baltimore Handicap while giving him six pounds. He came back nine days later and won the Washington Handicap, setting a new American record of 1:49 3/5 for a mile and an eighth. Earnings of $29,105 made Roamer the season's leading money winner, while twelve wins in sixteen starts made him the Champion Three-Year-Old Colt and Horse of the Year.
Roamer won the first time out at four, beating Short Grass and Prince Hermis in an allowance race at Churchill Downs. He tired in the heavy going at Douglas Park a few weeks later, finishing out of the money in the Kentucky Handicap.
Back in New York, Roamer just missed in the Brooklyn Handicap, running second to the lightly weighted Tartar, who carried 103 to Roamer's 125. Borrow, the previous season's handicap champion, was third.
Roamer beat Stromboli in a fierce stretch battle to win the Queen's County Handicap, then was assigned 130 pounds for the Carter Handicap. After getting away badly, the gelding wasn't pushed, ending up sixth.
He proved the Carter was a fluke five days later, cantering home five lengths the better in the Brookdale Handicap, equaling the track record at Aqueduct despite a 128 pound weight assignment.
Traffic problems again got between Roamer and the winner's circle in the Empire City Handicap, which fell to his old rival Gainer. Then Roamer carried 128 pounds to a ten length victory in the Saratoga Handicap.
Roamer ran fourth in a sloppy Champlain Handicap, giving twenty two pounds to the winner. A week later he carried 129 pounds to a wire to wire score in the Merchants and Citizens Handicap. Borrow made a strong move in the stretch, but Roamer dug in and held him off to win by a half length. Stromboli was third.
Next came an eight length romp in the Saratoga Cup, then an easy score in the Havre de Grace Handicap. Roamer finished out the season by carrying 132 pounds to victory in the National Handicap at Laurel. He gave nine pounds each to Stromboli and Short Grass, but was still eased as he cantered under the wire three lengths in front.
With eight wins in thirteen starts and $15,320 in earnings, Roamer was named the Champion Handicap Horse, but Regret denied him Horse of the Year honors by becoming the first filly to win the Kentucky Derby.
As a five-year-old, Roamer won only once in thirteen starts, but six seconds under top weights gave him the championship. His victory had come against Spur and Ed Crump in the Yonkers Handicap, under a burden of 127 pounds. Roamer was second in the Saratoga Handicap while giving fourteen pounds to three-year-old champion Friar Rock, winner of the Belmont Stakes and the Suburban Handicap.
At six, Roamer came back to beat Ed Crump and Old Rosebud in an allowance race at Churchill Downs. He met Old Rosebud a week later in the Clark Handicap, and finished second while conceding eleven pounds to his rival.
Roamer was then third behind King Gorin and Cudgel in the Kentucky Handicap, giving weight to both, before returning to New York.
In the Excelsior Handicap, Roamer gave six pounds to his old rival Borrow, and beat him by a length and a half. A week later he met an outstanding field for the Brooklyn Handicapand was assigned top weight of 128 pounds. Borrow, under 117 pounds, was the winner, nosing out Regret, with Old Rosebud third and Roamer fifth.
Roamer was a game second to Old Rosebud in the Queen's County Handicap, giving his rival four pounds. He was second to Boots a week later, in the Brookdale Handicap, then ran fourth in both the Empire City Handicap and the Mount Vernon Handicap before winning the Saratoga Handicap, in which Old Rosebud ran fifth.
When Roamer tired and finished third behind Old Rosebud in the Delaware Handicap he was given some time off, and when he returned the gelding won by three and a half lengths while giving his nearest rival twenty-three pounds. A week later he won the Aqueduct Handicap by three lengths, carrying 127 pounds and finishing eased up.
Assigned 130 pounds for the Edgemere Handicap, Roamer tired in the slop, finishing second to Chiclet, who carried 114 pounds.
Roamer beat the champion mare Wistful in an overnight handicap at Laurel, then went to Pimlico and won the Arlington Handicap by two lengths. In his final start at six, Roamer ran fourth behind Spur in the Monumental Handicap. He had won seven of his seventeen starts that year, earning $16,501. He and Old Rosebud had met seven times, with Old Rosebud winning three races and Roamer two. Old Rosebud was named champion.
Roamer was back again at seven. It took him a few races to get back into stride, but after second place finishes to George Smith in the Excelsior Handicap and to Cudgel in the Brooklyn Handicap, Roamer won the Queen's County Handicap by two and a half lengths. After being bumped at the start of the Carter Handicap, he recovered to turn in a strong second place finish, closing well to finish just a neck short of Old Koenig.
Roamer had lost the Empire City Handicap three times, but carried 128 pounds to an eight length victory on his fourth attempt, equaling the track record of 1:51 for a mile and an eighth in the process.
He carried 133 pounds in the Mount Vernon Handicap, beating Carter Handicap winner Old Koenig by two lengths. Next, Roamer beat the four-year-old star Cudgel by three lengths in winning his third Saratoga Handicap.
This series of wins prompted a match against time at Saratoga. Leaving his so-called pacemaker Lightning in the dust, Roamer blazed home in 1:34 4/5, taking two-fifths of a second off the previous mile record set by Salvator in 1890.
Roamer gave Belmont Stakes winner Johren fourteen pounds in the Saratoga Cup, and ended up second. He was third behind George Smith and Preakness winner War Cloud in the Edgemere Handicap, then rallied to win the Pierrepont Handicap by a neck. After two more seconds and a third, Roamer retired for the season.
He had won six races, been second in six more, and had earned $21,950 in sixteen starts. The younger Cudgel got the handicap division championship, although no other was ranked above Roamer.
At the age of eight Roamer battled soundness problems, but still finished in the money in four of his six starts. He was expected to return to the races the following year, if only to attempt to push his earnings over the $100,000 mark. At $98,828 he was well on his way.
Tragedy struck twice on New Years Eve. First, Andrew Miller died of a heart attack. Then, only hours later, Roamer slipped on some ice in his paddock, and had to be put down. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1981, and when Blood-Horse ranked the top one hundred horses of the twentieth century, Roamer made the list.
|Mare by West Australian|
|St. Mildred||St. Simon||Galopin|
|Lady Fitz-James||Scottish Chief|
|Rose Tree II||Bona Vista||Bend Or||Doncaster|
|Fanny Relph||Minting||Lord Lyon|
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