Stagehand

Stagehand, only three-year-old 
to win the Santa Anita Handicap, 
with Jack Westrope up and trainer Earl Sande

Stagehand, 1935
Sickle -- Stagecraft, by Fair Play

My sincere thanks to The History of Thoroughbred Racing in America 
by William Robertson
for permission to excerpt this article that we may re-live the moment.

The anticipation of a battle between Seabiscuit and War Admiral
was a fever that permeated the country during 1938. There were other horses running,
 and good ones, too, but this pair had captured the public imagination;
two kinsmen from opposite sides of the tracks: War Admiral, bred in the purple, by Man o' War out of a grandaughter of Ben Brush; his rival.
Seabiscuit, by a son of Man o' War out of a great grandaughter of Ben Brush.
By spring there were firm offers from both Belmont Park and Arlington for a $100,000 match between them. Neither came off -- primarily because Riddle and Howard (who had taken title to Seabiscuit from his wife) were too cautious.
Seabiscuit, in particular, was several times scratched from races when conditions were not right -- but the clamor for a showdown between them continued, until another match was arranged, with the Horse of the Year title at stake.

Ordinarily, such a race would not have been necessary,
for a younger colt had established a strong claim to such honors by March!

A maiden in eight starts as a two-year-old,
Stagehand was purchased for $8,000 from Joseph E. Widener by Dayton, Ohio, paper manufacturer Maxwell Howard (no relation to Seabiscuit's owner)
because he liked the colt's older brother, Sceneshifter. Within about two months, Stagehand had guaranteed Howard a position as leading owner of the season,
Earl Sande a ranking as leading money-winning trainer and helped Nick Wall gain a corresponding title among the jockeys.
Quite a feat for an 8 horse stable, only four of which were winners, but Stagehand was quite a horse, as by himself he contributed $189,710.

He got started immediately, on January 1 at Santa Anita,
running second in a 7-furlong maiden race; then he won three overnight events in succession, significantly, all of them at a mile. (He never did win at a shorter distance.)

In his next start, on February 22, Stagehand, ridden by Jack Westrope,
 beat a good group of previous stakes winners in the $50,000 added Santa Anita Derby, which he won by half a length from Dauber, Sun Egret third.

Since he had been a maiden at the time weights were assigned,
Stagehand was in the "hundred thousand" at the allowable minimum of 100 pounds, but on the scale of weights for March that was equivalent to 122 pounds on a four-year-old or 123 on an aged horse. Seabiscuit, who had disappeared from the work tabs for a while,
emerged from hiding and finished second by a nose to Aneroid in the San Antonio Handicap, carrying 130 pounds, the same weight he had been assigned for the big one;
for his first out, it was a sparkling performance, so he started favorite in the
Santa Anita Handicap March 5.

The race was almost a duplicate of the previous year's renewal ,
Seabiscuit, ridden by Woolf,
 reached the lead in the stretch, but the long-striding Stagehand, ridden by Wall, running the final quarter in less than :24 2/5 seconds,
made up about three lengths to win by a nose. The time of 2:01 3/5 was a new track record, and Pompoon, 
who had received such heavy play in the future books that one of them took him off the board, finished six lengths behind Seabiscuit.

No three-year-old,
before or since, accomplished such a notable, double as Stagehand.
No horse had paid through the nose so heavily as Seabiscuit, for his nose at Santa Anita alone had cost the future world's leading money winner $148,075.

After setting numerous track records
he closed out a campaign of fifteen starts, eight wins, two seconds and three thirds and Stagehand had never failed to bring home at lease part of the purse.