A good-sized and good-looking horse, Vanlandingham was probably the most talented of the many very good offspring by the important Claiborne Farm stallion Cox’s Ridge.
Racing from 2 through 5, Vanlandingham won 10 of 19 starts. Yearly starts below:
1983 1 1 0 0 $7,280
1984 5 3 1 0 $99,280
1985 10 5 1 3 $1,223,156
1986 3 1 1 0 $79,760
Total 19 10 3 3 $1,409,476
The raw stats are just an outline of the horse’s best qualities. He was a compelling racer who put himself into the teeth of the race from the break, typically leading from start to finish. In fact, all of Vanlandingham’s best efforts were races where he made the pace and galloped his opponents into the dust.
When he was hooked early and pushed to race too fast, he did not perform as well, although he was game. Vanlandingham’s racing style caused him to be misunderstood first as a racehorse and then as a stallion. He was not a sprinter, but as a result of his naturally high cruising speed, many handicappers labeled him a “speed horse” and did not expect him to prosper at distances past a mile.
But when racing in front going a distance, Vanlandingham actually improved his earlier form and scored two of his most impressive victories in the 12-furlong Jockey Club Gold Cup and Washington DC International.
That he was good racing in front and improved going a distance tells us a lot about him biomechanically. For one thing, he wasn’t a horse who got his speed from powerful muscling and quick propulsion; he got his speed from his length of stride and smooth efficiency.
Considered another way, a horse who can string together :12 second furlongs going three-quarters is nothing special (because lots of horses can do that), but one who can string them together going 10 or 12 furlongs is a championship contender. And the quality that allows a racehorse to do string together :12s is a strong, elastic stride.
This is a very similar profile to Secretariat, although not quite as exceptional as that for the great son of Bold Ruler. And both were somewhat misunderstood as stallions because they needed either mares that overwhelmed their own genetic tendencies or mares that matched their own fairly uncommon physical types very well.
And either way, there weren’t going to be all that many mares who fit the bill.
Secretariat, because of his charisma and mighty splendor, got more chances at the gold ring, and he sired a few horses worthy of their sire, and he got a goodly number of useful or better broodmares who improved their own racing class with a subsequent cross of Northern Dancer, Seattle Slew, or Mr. Prospector. That delivered Storm Cat, Gone West, A.P. Indy, and so forth.
When Vanlandingham didn’t come up with the goods pretty quick, however, he had to find a new home, and in 1996, the bay son of Cox’s Ridge was exported to Saudi Arabia. That is actually not a bad thing for Vanlandingham, since the racing in Saudi Arabia puts more value on stamina and distance sport, which should have allowed him to improve his standing as a sire.
Despite his shortcomings as a sire in America, Vanlandingham is secure in his status as an outstanding racer and a premium example of the kind of athlete that Cox’s Ridge could sire.
A really big, rangy, somewhat coarse stallion, Cox’s Ridge was a lot like Babe Ruth: home run or nothing.
But when he got hold of the ball, Cox’s Ridge was purely top class. His best racers include champions Vanlandingham and Life’s Magic, as well such G1 winners Twilight Ridge, Sultry Song, and Little Missouri.