1923 Horse of the Year

The Brown Express blazed across the racing stage in 1923 with twelve spectacular victories, perhaps the most notable of which was his win over the English champion Papyrus in a match race at Belmont Park.

Foaled in 1920, Zev was the fourth of the five Kentucky Derby winners bred by John E. Madden at his Hamburg Place. His sire was the Belmont Stakes winning champion The Finn, also bred by Madden, and his dam Miss Kearney was inbred to the great St. Simon.

John Madden sold Zev as a yearling to Harry F. Sinclair, who gave him his name, in honor of Colonel Zeverely, and turned him over to trainer Sam Hildreth, whose previous charges included Hourless, Jean Bereaud, Joe Madden, Friar Rock, and Grey Lag, all of whom included victories in the Belmont Stakes on their resumes, as well as the champion King James.


Zev carried the silks of Sinclair's Rancocas Stable to the post for the first time on June 14, 1922 at Belmont. He closed strongly, but didn't get past Prince Regent quickly enough and was beaten by a nose.

At Saratoga, Zev made his sixth start and finally broke his maiden, scoring by five lengths. He then reeled off a series of five straight wins, including the Grand Union Hotel Stakes over Dunlin and the Albany Handicap in which he defeated future Preakness Stakes winner Vigil.

In the Hopeful Stakes, Zev was assigned 130 pounds to Dunlin's 115, and the Fair Play colt took the opportunity for revenge, catching Zev in the stretch. Zev wound up third. Next was the Futurity at Belmont, and Zev was again asked to give away weight, this time to the star filly Sally's Alley, and he once again was beaten. Following a training injury, Zev skipped the Pimlico Futurity and was retired for the season.

Second money in the Futurity, paired with his earlier victories, was still enough to top the juvenile colt division, while Sally's Alley was recognized as the champion filly.

Zev's three year old debut came at Jamaica, where despite tiring he gamely held off Dominique in the stretch to win the Paumonok Handicap by a neck.

The Preakness Stakes, run ten days later, was to be the worst showing of Zev's career. He wound up twelfth behind Vigil, a horse he had previously beaten.

Three days later, Zev was back at Jamaica for the Rainbow Handicap, and won by a half length, again beating Dominique.

When Zev went to post in the Kentucky Derby, it was his third start in seven days. His owner didn't even make an appearance at Churchill Downs, agreeing with bettors who sent him off at nineteen to one. He proved everyone wrong. With Earl Sande in the irons, Zev wired the field, holding off Martingale's closing drive to win by a length and a half with Vigil third. A week later he again beat Martingale, this time in the Withers Stakes.

Zev's next accomplishment was a wire to wire win in the Belmont Stakes. In the Queen's County Handicap, he easily beat Hopeful Stakes winner Dunlin by three and a half lengths, and was then given a few months off.

When Zev returned to the races in the fall, he followed an easy six furlong victory with a win in the Lawrence Realization over the champion filly Untidy.

Papyrus, a son of Tracery, was the leading three year old in England. Among his wins was the 1923 Epsom Derby, and when he made the unusual journey to the United States that fall, a match race was set up between the Epsom Derby winner and the Kentucky Derby winner.

Officials were concerned that Zev wouldn't run after learning that he had developed a skin condition, and arranged for a substitute, My Own, to run in his place. Zev did make it to the post, however.

The track was heavy with mud on race day, but only Zev wore mud caulks. Basil Jarvis, who trained Papyrus, worried that his charge would cut himself with the studs. Zev took the lead within the first quarter mile in the International, and led throughout the mile and a half race. At the wire he had bested the English champion by five lengths.

Now hailed as a hero, The Brown Express won the Autumn Championship at Empire City, but his winning streak was ended three days later at Latonia. He tired in the final half mile of the mile and three-quarter Latonia Championship, losing to In Memoriam.

After bouncing back five days later to win Pimlico's Fall Serial #3, Zev met In Memoriam in a match race arranged by the Kentucky Jockey Club and held off his rival's late charge to win by a nose, but the question of which was the superior colt was questioned by many. Films shot from a questionable angle seemed to show In Memoriam to be the winner. Regardless, Zev was named Horse of the Year, and also was the season's leading money earner with $272,008 in winnings. He shared divisional honors with In Memoriam.

Zev had a harder time getting to the winner's circle as a four year old. Still, it took the like of Sarazen to outsprint him in the Arverne Handicap. Big Blaze was getting twenty two pounds when he beat Zev in the Interborough Handicap.

His third place finish in the Continential Handicap proved he had heart. With Clarence Kummer in the irons for the first time, he lead through the early fractions, and then made a second move in the stretch, getting up for third. He was giving twelve pounds to Belmont Stakes winner Mad Play and twenty one pounds Alabama Stakes winner Priscilla Ruley.

Zev finally saw the inside of the winner's circle again after an allowance race at Latonia, and then won five straight starts. He won Pimlico's Fall Serial #1, but was then retired after tiring in his final two starts.

Having won twenty three of forty three starts worth $313,639, Zev had surpassed Man o' War to become the all-time leading earner. He passed that torch to Gallant Fox in 1930.

While Zev failed to become a great success as a sire, he was responsible for two stakes winners, Zevson and Zida. He passed away in 1943. Zev was honored as a member of the Hall of Fame in 1983.

Zev's Race Record

Year Starts Wins Seconds Thirds Earnings
Lifetime 43 23 8 5 $318,048

Zev, 1920 brown colt

The Finn Ogden Kilwarlin Arbitrator
Hasty Girl
Oriole Bend Or
Livonia Star Shoot Isinglass
Woodray Rayon D'Or
Miss Kearney Planudes St. Simon Galopin
St. Angela
Lonely Hermit
Courtplaster Sandringham St. Simon
Perdita II
Set Fast Masetto


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

This text protected by all applicable copyright laws. Do not duplicate or distribute without written permission. © Spiletta42.