In light of the clamor for match races between Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra, in one permutation or another, it is interesting to find that there have been races not against horses but against time itself.
In the effort to defeat the infinite, one of the most famous records was the mile race against time by the gelding Roamer, one of the most popular American racers in the early 20th century.
On August 21, 1917, Roamer took the track at Saratoga to race against the mile speed record of Salvator, which he had established at Monmouth Park 27 years before. In that time trial, Salvator had raced the mile in 1:35 1/2.
Unlike Salvator, Roamer ran without pacemakers, and the report of the race included these comments:
“Roamer was kept in hand for most of the way, Schuttinger using admirable judgment and keeping Roamer to an almost level pace for the entire journey, Roamer buckling to his task in courageous style and doing his best near the end without extra urging from his rider.
“The fractional time as recorded by Official Timer Jack Odom follows: :12 1/5, :23 3/5, :34 3/5, :46, :58, 1:11 1/5, 1:22 2/5, 1:34 4/5.”
If the race against time seems dull, it is only from a betting standpoint. For this exhibition at the track, “turfmen began cheering the hosrse long before he reached the finish. After the display of the time, on Roamer’s return to the stable, the applause for the great gelding was tumultuous, each trying to outdo his neighbor in according homage to the fleet-footed and game racer.”
A good horse can bring out the best in anyone.