In the month of May, a young man’s fancy turns to … the horse. More accurately, to horse racing. Despite the fact there has not been a Triple Crown winner in a generation, once the blanket of roses is placed on the winner of the Kentucky Derby, we all join in what is slowly becoming the myth of that same horse winning the Preakness and Belmont stakes.
And just 18 months ago, we were caught up in the quest of Zenyatta to retire unbeaten, only to have our hearts broken with her sole loss in 20 starts.
But before there was Zenyatta, before there was Secretariat; before there was Man o’ War, there was Hanover. Competing in a time that preceded the Triple Crown, Hanover (1884-1899) was a great-grandson of Lexington (memorialized today as the ubiquitous “Blue Horse”) and had the famed American Thoroughbred foundation sire Glencoe in both his sire and dam lines.
As a yearling, Hanover was bought by the Dwyer Brothers Stable to be a stablemate for Tremont, later considered the best two-year-old bred in the United States during the 19th century. Tremont ran a quarter-mile yearling trial in 22.5 seconds –– a mark Hanover beat in a workout.
Trained by future Hall of Famer Frank McCabe, Hanover won all three races of his maiden year. During that same year, Tremont won 13 races in the span of 10 weeks. The stress was too much, however, and Tremont was retired.
Now the pride of the Dwyer Bothers Stable, as a three-year-old, Hanover was entered in 27 races, including the Belmont. In races ranging from four furlongs (about half a mile) to two miles, he won 20 times and finished out of the money just once. Hanover won the Belmont by 15 lengths. Including the three wins as a two-year-old, Hanover had a string of 17 consecutive wins. The following year, Hanover began to show lameness in his front right hoof and was taken off the track after three loses. The nerve in that leg was severed to prevent further pain.