As Bulldog Hanover continues to make history, a colorful look at the sport’s major speed records

by Bob Heyden

If you watched the Aaron Judge home run chase you likely knew all about the history of the home run record. If you are at the World Series Game 7 You more than likely know the amount of championships your team has won prior. If you are at the Masters, you know history is likely just around the corner.

Same with Sunday Oct. 9, 2022. Bulldog Hanover.

In order to more fully appreciate what this incredible horse has done and what still might come, here’s a colorful look at the speed records from 1897, when the first sub-2:00 mile was posted just four years after the start of the Kentucky Futurity.

In 1897, Star Pointer was simply not on his game pre-time trial. He was sluggish his first warmup trip and broke his second. But, they turned and went anyway and he posted a 1:59.1/4 new all-time best. There was a band present and they played “Hail To The Chief.” Driver Dave McClary was hoisted up on the fans shoulders and paraded around.

Dan Patch. Four times he would lower this mark and then the world had to wait another 33 years!

In 1903, big crowds were the norm for Dan Patch. He was the attraction and many would say the biggest sports star of the first decade of the 20th century. or even longer. Myron McHenry time trialed him in 1:59 in 1903, then again the same year in 1:56.1 in Memphis, TN. He would take that down a tick to 1:56 flat in 1904.

In 1905, Harry Hersey set the new all-time mark of 1:55.1 with the now 9-year-old Dan Patch on Oct. 5, 1905 at The Red Mile. Prompters were called “pacemakers” then. Fractions were :29.1/2, :57.1/2. 1:26.1/4 and 1:55.1/4.

He raced at the Minnesota State Fair in 1906 and lowered it another fifth, but not officially as the sport didn’t allow the use of “windshields”. So it would be over three decades before that number was actually reached.

1938 Billy Direct with Vic Fleming. The same week that Greyhound set his trotting mark (1:55.1/4) that would hold for 31 years, Billy Direct posted a 1:55 time trial. John Hervey summed it up best, “Without warning and without any special preparation for a record breaking attempt.” Billy Direct lived only another decade, but he sired the great Tar Heel.

1955 Adios Harry, a son of the 15-year-old stallion sensation Adios, was sold as Hip #951. Luther Lyons was his trainer/driver. He took his mark in a race — the $26,000 American Pacing Derby at Vernon Downs on July 16, 1955. A January 29, 1951 foal, the 4-year-old invoked this kind of response from the Horseman and Fair World, “ No contest. He was never as much as shaken up and won by 8 and a half lengths.” Adios Harry set 13 world race records in his career at various distances.

Adios was at it again five years later and with the first Horse of the Year to do so — Adios Butler in 1:54.3 lowering the mark for the first time in 22 years. Paige West handled him while Eddie Cobb his trainer was the prompter that made it. The other quit from exhaustion at the 5/8ths. Defending HOY Bye Bye Byrd tried time trialing earlier that day and won in 1:56.1, but not enough for a new all-time standard. They would go 1-2 in the 1960 HOY balloting. Fractions were :29, :56.2, 1:25.3, 1:54.3 at the Red Mile on Oct. 4, 1960. Interesting that Bullet Hanover had set a world record earlier that week of 1:56.1 for sophomores, and he too tried time trialing. He came closer than Bye Bye Byrd at 1:55.3.

Bret Hanover lowered the mark twice to 1:54 then to 1:53.3. He might have had a home field advantage of sorts — 62-year-old Frank Ervin’s barn was 150 yards from the draw gate at the Red Mile. Bret Hanover had worked a 1:56.2 mile on Monday and Ervin wanted to time trial on Saturday. But, the weather forecast was ominous for Saturday so they went Friday. Ike Bailey and Del Miller were the prompters with Miller joining the party just past the half mile pole. The three-time HOY set fractions of :27.4, :55.2, 1:24 and only had to come home in sub-30 for the successful try. He did. 1:53.3.

Steady Star. He may be the oddest member of this elite group. He simply was not a great horse. Many felt even less than very good. But, he did time trial as a 3-year-old in 1970 in 1:54.4 and no one knew how to time trial quite like Joe O’Brien. His career numbers of $131,000 on the strength of 51 20-9-5 notwithstanding, he set a new mark of 1:52 at The Red Mile on Oct. 1, 1971. Not many thought this would hold nine

Niatross on Oct. 1, 1980. Sixteen world records. Clint Galbraith and Elsie Berger homebred. Two time HOY winner of the sport’s first ever million-dollar race and the first ever $2 million winner career. He time trialed in 1:49.1 that day at Lexington electrifying the harness world. It would be five years until his first crop yielded Nihilator — the first sub-1:50 in a race — and eight years until his time trial was lowered to 1:48.2 by Matts Scooter in 1988. Niatross’ first crop saw him bred to an elite group of mares than included six world champions and nine national seasons champions.

Matts Scooter did this-1:48.2 before he was named HOY in 1989. He was 3YOCP of 1988 and a dominant force his entire career. He is the grandsire of Somebeachsomewhere who set his lifetime mark at the Red Mile in the early fall of 2008 — 1:46.4.

Cambest 1:46.1 Time trail of 1993 at DuQuoin with Bill O’Donnell driving. His individual quarters were :26.1, :25.3, :27.1, :27.1. He raced early on in his career for Dan Altmeyer and Dave Rankin. Later Fred Grant. Out of a Harold J mare Oxford Mary Ann. O’Donnell had set the racing mark of 1:48.2 with HOY Staying Together at the Meadowlands in the Driscoll/Haughton.

Always B Miki 1:46 at the Red Mile in 2016 — :26.1 last quarter to just edge by Cambest. The fastest race ever.

Lather Up 1:46 at the Meadowlands in 2019. Montrell Teague who already had a HOY with Wiggle It Jiggleit was back for more.

2022 1:45.4 Bulldog Hanover. Meadowlands, after he had knocked on the door with a 1:46.1 and a 1:46 flat.