During his outstanding season as a juvenile in 1893, the near-black Domino carried 130 pounds to win the richest race in America, the Futurity Stakes, by a head from Galilee (carrying 115), with chief rival Dobbins (130 also) another head back in third.
Charles Trevathan records the event in The American Thoroughbred (1905), saying that so “close was this decision as between Domino and Dobbins that Mr. Phil Dwyer, leaving the judges’ stand after the race, offered to bet $25,000 that Dobbins could beat Domino.”
The controversy generated by the close race and Dwyer’s comment led to a match between the two leading juvenile colts.
Trevathan details the event:
Because Domino had come to be a sort of public idol there was an enormous interest in the race all over the United States, and wherever there was a pool-room or a bulletin board where the results might be announced almost instantly, there were clustered great crowds of people awaiting the decision between these two.
The race was run at Sheepshead Bay on the afternoon of August 31, 1893, in perfect weather and on a fast track. It was a most exciting contest. The pair ran head and head practically from start to finish, and passed the judges so close together that it was impossible to separate them. Mr. Keene, who viewed the race from the stewards’ stand, just above the judges’ stand, thought Domino had won; and Mr. Croker, who sat in the club-house gallery, was equally confident that Dobbins was the winner. Admirers of the two horses naturally sided as their predilections inclined them, but the race was palpably so very close that no one cared to express any positive opinion. Even the jockeys, Simms and Taral, would not say that they believed either horse had won.
There was betting on the match early in the day. Domino was quoted at three to five and Dobbins at even money. It was the general trend of opinion that Domino would win, and the constant stream of Domino money forced the Keene colt to one to two when the race was called, while Dobbins went back to eight to five. There was a great deal of speculation on the result, and also on the time at four to five under 1:11 4/5 and even money over. Dobbins cantered in front of the grandstand before the race, but Domino was not brought out on the track. He wore his bandages. Both colts were the centre of admiring throngs in the paddock. The race was called for 5:10, and the start was effected at 5:16. There was one false break. Taral moved off a good neck in front of Dobbins, and Mr. Rowe made them come back. At the next trial the pair went away like a team. Domino was just a trifle in front until the horses came up out of the dip, where Dobbins got his head in front. Taral was next the rail, and in making the turn he carried Dobbins out. The horses throughout the race were so close together that on several occasions they slightly bumped into each other.
At the head of the stretch Taral drew his whip with his left hand and began whipping. Dobbins at the furlong pole still had his head in front, and Simms was riding his hardest with hands and heels. All the way through the last furlong up to the last strides it looked as though Dobbins would win. In the last half-dozen jumps Taral crept up, inch by inch, and, as already stated, the colts passed the judges so nearly on a perfect line that every one turned to the bulletin board in expectation of seeing a dead heat announced. Without any hesitation the judges immediately signalled “dead heat.”
The decision was greeted with cheers by the large crowd that had assembled around the judges’ stand. After the race Mr. Keene and Mr. Croker met in the club-house. Mr. Croker expressed a willingness to run the dead heat off. However, he told Mr. Keene that he would leave the matter entirely to him. Mr. Keene consulted with Lakeland [Domino’s trainer], who advised against giving the colts another hard race; and when Mr. Keene himself expressed this view to Mr. Croker, the latter stated that he was entirely willing to abide by the dead heat. The $2,500 added by the association was divided between Mr. Keene and Mr. Croker. The time of the race, 1:12 3/5, was much slower than was expected.
Trevathan creates an interesting amout of suspense by reserving the final outcome of the race to the end of his story, and the tension is resolved with a sane decision in favor of the welfare of the colts involved.
Domino repaid Keene handsomely by becoming a landmark stallion in a brief career. Dobbins went to England with Mr. Croker and stood there with some success.