Unofficial Thoroughbred Hall of Fame

Silver Spoon

Kicked by another mare as a foal, Citation's chestnut daughter Silver Spoon almost never made it to the races. The resulting hip injury caused her to drag her left hind foot and move quite oddly at slower speeds. Silver Spoon's dam was Silver Fog, a daughter of Mahmoud and the Equipoise mare Equilette. Her third dam was Frilette by Man o' War. As for her female line, she was a descendant of Maria West through the Whitney matriarch Elusive. This family produced Counterpoint and Tompion in the fifties, and Maria West's earlier descendants included the great filly Regret and her famous third dam Modesty, as well as Exterminator and Ballet. C.V. Whitney was Silver Spoon's breeder, and it was in his colors that she raced.

Despite her lack of complete soundness, Silver Spoon was a sight to behold. She stood 16.2, and was very powerfully built. Dark chestnut in color, she sported a star with a bit of a stripe, white hind stocks, and white pasterns in front. Her length of forearm and gaskin enabled her long stride, and while some might call her wasp waisted, she was by no means lightly built. She had impressively wide quarters with great muscle development, and a flat croup inherited from her sire.

Silver Spoon did not race until the fall of her juvenile year. Under the management of trainer Sylvester Veitch she made her first start at Belmont Park on September 23, 1958. She carried rider Eldon Nelson and a $8,000 claiming tag to a stunning six length victory. She was immediately withdrawn from an upcoming sale to which she had been consigned.

Sent to Bob Wheeler in California, Silver Spoon came off the boxcar lame at Santa Anita, but nonetheless followed an allowance race with impressive wins in two sprints, the La Centinela Stakes and the Santa Ynez Stakes. The second of these sprints was actually her first race at three, falling in January.

Asked to stretch her speed to a mile and a sixteenth in the Santa Susana Stakes, Silver Spoon pulled ahead after a half mile and moved away steadily to win by ten and a half lengths. Her time for the distance was 1:41 4/5, despite the fact that she was unchallenged in the stretch and distracted by the fact that she was in heat.

Following the Santa Susana, Wheeler announced that the Citation filly would be supplemented to the Santa Anita Derby, at a cost of five thousand dollars, and would then go on to the Kentucky Derby. Questioned by writer Oscar Otis about the ambitious decision, he replied:

"...I first became high on her when she gave us that work of a mile in 1:36 and accomplished it so an individual against colts, she figures to get better as she grows older. She is 16 hands now and has a big frame, and she will develop into a sturdy filly...she will have the physique which will enable her to race classic distances."

On March 7 Silver Spoon went to post as the favorite in the Santa Anita Derby against a field of nine colts, including Royal Orbit, winner of the previous year's California Breeders Stakes. She overcame much bumping and gamely battled her way through traffic to gain the lead at the head of the stretch. The winner by two and a half lengths over Royal Orbit, she was only one-fifth of a second off the stakes record. Rider Ray York described the race:

"We were in awfully tight and I had to ride her hard all the way. Ole Fols and I made contact a number of times, but she fought her way out of it. I knew Royal Orbit was the horse to beat and I really wasn't sure until the sixteenth pole. Then I knew I was on the best filly I've ever ridden."

The win made the filly a national hero, and she was the subject of much talk. Both turf writers and the popular press wrote of her chances in the upcoming Derby, and it seemed everyone had praise for the filly. Many wrote glowing comparisons to previous champions without ever laying eyes on the filly. Hirsch Jacobs, famous for his success with Stymie, had wintered in California, however, and his praise a week after the Santa Anita Derby was far from hollow:

"Silver Spoon is a really good filly. I believe the colts she beat were as good if not better than those in Florida. She is a good-sized filly and runs gamely. She kept developing and filling out with each race."

Comparisons with her great sire were inevitable, and on that subject trainer Bob Wheeler replied:

"They are both the natural athlete type, can sprint, go a distance and handle any kind of track. While she has never run in mud... on several occassions last winter we worked her over 'off' tracks and she appeared right at home."

Reggie Cornell, trainer of Royal Orbit, was naturally asked about the filly who had denied his colt the Santa Anita Derby. Asked about her prospects in Kentucky, he replied:

"All I know is she beat the h-ll out of me and Finnegan at a mile and an eighth and she was going like h-ll at the end"

Upon arriving at Churchill Downs, Silver Spoon finished third behind eventual Horse of the Year Sword Dancer in the seven furlong Stepping Stone Purse. She received much attention Derby week due to the fact that she was the first filly to start in the famous race in nearly fifteen years. Misweet had been twelfth in 1945, and it was another ten years back to fourth place finisher and post time favorite Nellie Flag. Many Californians also hoped she would make up for the disgraceful performance turned in by Santa Anita Derby winner Silky Sullivan the year before.

Bill Boland, who had the mount on Sword Dancer in the Kentucky Derby and had finished third in the Santa Anita Derby on Fightin Indian, was quizzed about his opinion of the female Derby contendor. He answered, "She's tall in rough going. I had her in a pocket and she kept bumping my horse to get out."

Come the first Saturday in May, First Landing, half brother to 1950 Horse of the Year Hill Prince, was the favorite, having won the Everglades Stakes. Other contendors included recent Stepping Stone Purse winner Sword Dancer, Santa Anita Derby runnerup Royal Orbit, Flamingo Stakes winner Troilus, Florida Derby winner Easy Spur, and the English bred Blue Grass Stakes winner Tomy Lee.

Silver Spoon stumbled at the start, and was ninth in the early going while Troilus led for the first five furlongs. When Tomy Lee took command with a half mile still to run, York asked his filly to make her move. She rapidly improved her position to third, while Sword Dancer moved up to gain the advantage. For the final half mile, while Sword Dancer and Tomy Lee battled head and head in their own seperate match race, Silver Spoon fought to hold the show spot she had gained at the head of the stretch. She was beaten a head by Royal Orbit, who was in turn beaten a head by First Landing. They were all two and a half lengths back from the leaders, however, and Tomy Lee claimed the roses by a nose in a photo finish.

Despite the failure in her Kentucky Derby bid, Silver Spoon had given a good account of herself. Some blamed York for moving prematurely, but while that probably made the difference between fifth and third, a better timed move might not have been enough to have caught the dualing Tomy Lee and Sword Dancer.

Like the Derby winner, Silver Spoon returned to California after the Derby to rest. Royal Orbit defeated the favored First Landing in the Preakness, and a rapidly improving Sword Dancer won the Belmont as he began his bid for a championship. Following York's Derby error, Bill Boland became Silver Spoon's new regular rider.

The meeting of Tomy Lee and Silver Spoon in the upcoming Cinema Handicap was much anticipated. In preperation for the big event, Silver Spoon turned in three spectacular works. She breezed three furlongs in :35 3/5 on June 5, then went a mile in 1:35 1/5 the following day. On June 12 she turned in a blowout of 3 furlongs in :34 2/5.

On June 13 Silver Spoon met Tomy Lee and six others at Hollywood Park for the mile and an eighth Cinema Handicap. Bill Boland held her in the early going, and when he asked her to move, she exploded. When she went under the wire, she was the winner by four and three-quarter lengths, and despite being eased had covered the distance in 1:47 3/5. While short of the track record the time was a record for her age and sex. Tomy Lee suffered his own troubles, bore out badly and ended up sixth.

While Silver Spoon was in California, the Champion Two Year Old Filly of 1958 was campaigning in New York. Quill had scored easy victories in the Acorn and Mother Goose Stakes, and had the NYRA Filly Triple Crown in her sights. She met a field of seven others in the Coaching Club American Oaks. Caught in an early speed dual, Quill was passed at the mile mark by King Ranch's Resaca, then gamely fought her way back to make a second run in the stretch. She failed to overtake Resaca, but beat the third place finisher by fourteen lengths.

After being scratched from Hollywood Derby due to a high weight assignment, leaving Bagdad to win, Silver Spoon headed east again. The traveling had its effect on the filly's nerves, and she started to lose weight. Her feed tub had to be hung in the back corner to minimize distractions.

Despite a loss of condition Silver Spoon met the game Quill and her conqueror Resaca in the Delaware Oaks on July 11. The track was rated as good, but was in fact deep and cuppy along the rail. When Silver Spoon outraced the King Ranch filly to gain the rail in the turn, she forced Resaca to run wide, but on significantly better footing. Silver Spoon was beaten two lengths, but held on for second money. The winning time of 1:51 3/5 was much slower then several of Silver Spoon's more successful previous efforts. Quill finished fifth, and was promptly retired when osselets were discovered in her fetlocks.

Thirteen days later Silver Spoon went to post at Monmouth, and even though she was obviously not at her best, she still carried 126 pounds to victory against lighter weighted rivals Indian Maid and Royal Native.

Silver Spoon gave eight pounds to Royal Native as the highweight and heavy favorite in the Monmouth Oaks. After pressing the pace she lacked a closing kick and ended up third in the deep going. When she ran a lackluster fifth at Saratoga, Silver Spoon was sent back to the farm in Kentucky for some much needed rest.

Her drop in form nearly cost her any year end recognition, and she had to share championship honors with Royal Native, who in the fall had won the Spinster Stakes at Keeneland and the Pageant Handicap in Atlantic City. The Eclipse Awards had yet to be founded, and therefore disagreement resulted in both Royal Native and Silver Spoon being named Champion Three Year Old Filly, but by separate organizations. The turf writers selected Royal Native in a close vote, while the Thoroughbred Racing Association selected Silver Spoon. An experimental handicap published by the Daily Racing Form assigned Silver Spoon a pound more than Royal Native.

The champion daughter of Citation returned to California from her farm stay in much improved condition. She began her four year old campaign in the Las Flores Handicap, but suffering traffic problems in the six furlong race she could do no better than a fast closing fourth.

Two weeks later Silver Spoon won the Santa Monica Handicap, beating Las Flores winner Margaretta by two lengths while giving her three pounds. She won again in the Santa Maria Handicap, carrying 127 pounds and winning by a length and three-quarters.

As a result of those wins, she was assigned 130 pounds for the Santa Margarita Handicap, but still scored by a length and three-quarters. She was the first mare to carry 130 pounds and win at Santa Anita.

After running out of the money in the Santa Anita Handicap, Silver Spoon was given another rest. She returned to run third in an allowance race at Hollywood Park after suffering interference. She finished second in the Sequoia Handicap while conceding ten pounds to the winner, then tired behind Fleet Nasrullah in the Californian Stakes.

Silver Spoon returned to the winner's circle again after the Milady Handicap, which she won by two and three-quarter lengths. She carried 130 pounds to victory again in the Vanity Handicap, then went to Chicago.

At Arlington, Silver Spoon ran out of ground going a mile in the slop and was nosed out by Wee Fleet, to whom she had conceded seventeen pounds. She then finished third behind Royal Native in the Arlington Matron after rearing at the start.

After suffering traffic problems and running third behind Berlo and Royal Native in the Beldame, and finishing out of the money in an allowance event at Keeneland, Silver Spoon was retired.

As a broodmare, Silver Spoon produced seven foals including the stakes winner Inco Queen, as well as Silver Coin, Silver Chip, and Inheritance. Silver Spoon lived until 1978, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame that year.

Silver Spoon's Race Record

Year Starts Wins Seconds Thirds Earnings
Lifetime 27 13 3 4 $313,930

Silver Spoon, 1956 chestnut filly

Citation Bull Lea Bull Dog Teddy
Plucky Liege
Rose Leaves Ballot
Hydroplane II Hyperion Gainsborough
Toboggan Hurry On
Silver Fog Mahmoud Blenheim II Blandford
Mah Mahal Gainsborough
Mumtaz Mahal
Equilette Equipoise Pennant
Frilette Man o' War


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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