Gallant Fox: The Fox of Belaire
By Jenny Kellner
Foaled at Claiborne Farm on March 23, 1927, Gallant Fox was a leggy bay son of the imported sire, Sir Gallahad III, and William Woodward Sr.’s prized mare, Marguerite, also the dam of Belair Stud’s 1928 Wood Memorial and Carter winner Fighting Fox and later, 1938 Travers winner Petee-Wrack.
After a spotty two-year-old campaign that included victories in the Flash Stakes at Saratoga and the Junior Champion Stakes at Aqueduct, Gallant Fox returned at age three a far more mature individual, impressive enough to entice Earle Sande, who had lost considerable sum of money in the Wall Street crash of 1929, to come out of a two-year retirement to ride him.
Unlike his predecessor, Sir Barton, Gallant Fox was a gregarious animal who enjoyed the company of both humans and horses. He preferred to work in company, and trainer Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons would send out a veritable team of horses with him in the mornings, relay-style, as no other horse in the barn was fast enough to keep up with him.
In 1930, the Preakness was run before the Derby, on May 9, and Sande’s ride was nothing short of brilliant. “Finding a hole here and a gap there,” wrote The New York Times, “Sande snaked his way through the field and was third at the far turn." Set down for the drive at the top of the stretch, the “Fox of Belair” fought his way to a three-quarter length victory.
Eight days later, Gallant Fox gave Sande his third Derby victory with an easy win over Gallant Knight at Churchill Downs, but the handsome colt was not the favorite in the June 7 Belmont Stakes. That honor went to the previous year’s two-year-old champion, Whichone, who had missed the Preakness and the Derby with knee problems but had posted an eye-catching win in his return in the Withers.
It was, at this time, that the phrase “Triple Crown” first began to be associated with the Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont.
Prior to the Belmont, the New York Times wrote: “In America, the idea of the Triple Crown being duplicated came when the Preakness, the Kentucky Derby, and the Belmont Stakes reached such prominence as to overshadow all other Spring 3-year-old events in this country. And as in England, to win the Triple Crown in America carries with it the utmost that can be won on our race courses.”
Unimpressed by Whichone, Gallant Fox carried Sande to a wire-to-wire, three length victory over the champion over a track rated “good,” replacing Zev as the nation’s all-time money earner with the winner’s purse of $66,040, and more importantly, cementing the notion of an American Triple Crown comprised of the Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont.
Gallant Fox would go on to race six more times as a three-year-old, piling up victories in the Dwyer, the Arlington Classic, Saratoga Cup, Lawrence Realization and Jockey Club Gold Cup, but his name would also be associated with one of the biggest upsets in horse racing.
Sent off as the 1-2 favorite in the 1930 Travers Stakes over a muddy track, Gallant Fox would get hooked into a speed duel with Whichone, setting the race up for 100-1 shot Jim Dandy, who went on to a stunning eight length victory.
Retired at the end of the season, Gallant Fox retired to his birthplace and stood at Claiborne Farm for many years. Among his progeny were 1935 Triple Crown winner Omaha, 1936 Horse of the Year Granville, and 18 other stakes winners. He died on Nov. 13, 1954, and is buried at Claiborne, not far from his sire.
Click here to view the 1930 Belmont Stakes results chart