This will be a new series of that will be posted every Tuesday on Horsin Around. Recognition will choose a horse randomly each week from any division or decade. This week's addition will recognize the "Club-Footed Comet", Assault as one of the best horses of the forties. I know many there were other greats during that time like Whirlaway and Citation, but I just love how this colt just kept on coming on, despite the injuries and illness that plagued his entire career.
Before his career, Assault looked like anything but a potential Triple Crown champion. Ever since stepping on a surveyor's stake, permanently deforming his right front hoof, he had a limp when he walked. Jockey Eddie Arcaro once described Assault as being on the delicate side. During his 42 race career he over came bleeding, kidney, splint bone, ankle and knee problems.
In the first start of his career Assault looked even less likely to make the upper echelon of the greats, finishing 12th. His overall record that year looked more like something you would see on the record of a bottom of the barrel claimer, winning two out of nine starts. As a three year old things began to click, as he came back to win the Wood Memorial which, even today, is a prestigious prep race leading to the Kentucky Derby. Thanks to an off the board finish in the Derby Trial he entered the Kentucky Derby as a long shot.
In the prestigious Run for the Roses Assault couldn't have looked farther from a long shot, blowing by his rivals to win the Derby by the largest margin in the race's history, which stands still today, an unprecedented eight lengths. Thanks to being aggravated early on in the race, Assault was pushed early in the Preakness, as won by a much less dominating neck, which fans of the game took as a lack of stamina. Stumbling at the start of the Belmont, this time Assault was content to lag behind the pack, waiting patiently to make his run. In the final 200 yard of the race Assault kicked it into high gear, blowing the doors off his rivals by eight lengths, making him the seventh Triple Crown winner.
A win in the Dwyer Stakes validated his Triple Crown wins, catapulting him to the top of the three year old division. After a last place finish in the Arlington Classic, he was quickly demoted to the status of just an OK three year old again. It turned out that Assault had a kidney infection and was given some R&R.
After his return, Assault seemed changed. He was running well, but with a bad case of seconditis. That is when jockey Eddie Arcaro took over the mount. With Arcaro holding the reins, Assault trounced the fields in the Pimlico Special and Westchester Handicap. These last couple of wins reaffirmed his status, earning him the title of Horse of the Year.
Assault's four year season was probably his best year on the track. Assault came back, after a winter break, all filled out and as handsome as could be, despite that club hoof and limp. He raced seven times during the course of 47', never running worse than third. He faced the likes of Stymie and Armed, battling over the earnings title with Stymie. He carried weights up to 135lbs, a brick load for many of today's champions. His most notable wins his four year old season were the Brooklyn and Suburban Handicaps.
Assault raced for three more years, never finding the form he had while a champion three and four year old. From 42 races Assault won 18 and was in the money 32 times. Despite all his health issues he still found a way to win. This is why he is being recognized as one of the best horses of the 40's. He really was the "Club-footed Comet".