'Sunny Jim'
Seabiscuit's First Trainer

Sunny Jim was Seabiscuit's first trainer.  He was delivered to Fitzsimmons care at his Aqueduct stables, as a yearling, in 1934. He had little or no success with him and he was later sold to Howard for a 'claiming price'. Sunny Jim had also trained Seabiscuit's dam Swing On. (This is beautifully detailed in Laura Hillenbrand's Seabiscuit: An American Legend.)

My thanks to The History of Thoroughbred Racing In America
 for permission to excerpt their material . . .
that those new to the sport of racing may also relive the moment.

Click photo to enlarge.

Gallant Fox
 by Sir Gallahad - Marguerite
Painting by T. Ivester Lloyd

Gallant Fox, the first American thoroughbred to be recognized as the world's leading money winner, and the first Triple Crown winner to sire a Triple Crown winner.
'Sunny Jim' Fitzsimmons


It's difficult to think of James Edward Fitzsimmons as anything other than "the Sage of Sheepshead Bay," but the worlds most successful horse trainer, born on the land that later became a noted race course, began his turf career unobtrusively enough. He was a dishwasher in the track kitchen at the age of ten.

He tried riding for a time, but as he himself phrased it, "I was vaccinated for jockey, but it didn't take." He rode his first winner in 1890, but it was " . . . a bad ride. The horse was a sixteenth of a mile in front in the stretch, and I started whipping him."

After his saddle career ended, Mr. Fitz was urged to give up the barnstorming race track life and take a job jockeying a streetcar around Philadelphia but he stayed on the track as a trainer. Beginning with Agnes D. at Brighton Beach on August 7, 1900, Fitzsimmons had developed numerous winners, including Dice and Diavolo for Wheatley Stable.


Gallant Fox was the first of numerous champions Fitzsimmons was to train for Belair, and perhaps the most expressive single clue to his personality lies in the circumstance that his association with Belair, and with Wheatley, never was interrupted. "Sunny Jim's" rule was to take good care of his owners.
Be the time he retired on June 15, 1963, shortly before his eighty-ninth birthday, after an association with the sport of more than three-quarters of a century, Mr. Fitz had saddled winners of more than 2,300 races. Because formal training records were not maintained during the early years of his career, the total of his purse winnings must be estimated, but the figure is in excess of $13-million. There are authentic records of stakes races, however, and James Fitzsimmons saddled 149 stakes winners during his time, some of whom won repeatedly in added money competition.