When we think of horses that lucky us in the 20th century, one might have to include Dr. Fager. The Great Doctor was foaled in Tartan Farm in Florida in 1964 and was sired by Rough And Tumble.
The major bay was a yearling when Tartan Farms breeder and trainer John Nerud suffered a terrible fall from a steady pony and suffered a subdural hemorrhage that was placing pressure on his brain. He traveled to Boston, where he was operated on by the very best neurosurgeon on the east coast who saved his life. That doctor was one Charles Fager, and the horse had been named in his honor.
Dr. Fager broke his maiden at first asking by seven lengths and won his next two starts by a combined 20 lengths! His beginning was The Stakes at Aqueduct, also he had been the favorite. The great Bill Shoemaker will be riding the horse for the first time along with the high-strung colt was a handful. He broke in the area of ten but was very intent on making up that ground and nearly ran over the buddies in front of him while doing so.
Shoemaker had to test sharply to keep him off the heels of the front runners but when Shoe directed him into the exterior to get a clear run, the horse relaxed, got in stride and prevailed by 3/4 of a hard earned length. After the race, Shoemaker said,”He is green, and I guess this should be anticipated, but this might be a good horse.”
Ten days after Shoemaker and Dr. Fager showed up at Aqueduct for the Champagne Stakes and was made the even-money favored. He wound up becoming cooked in a pace duel and suffered his first defeat by just a length to Successor, who would later be termed champion 2-year-old.
Dr. Fager took the upcoming six-months off due to an illness but came back with a vengeance on April 15 to acquire The Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct with a 1/2 length over the very demanding Damascus. He won his second start in The Withers Stakes by six-lengths and then traveled to Garden State Park for The Jersey Derby.
Dr. Fager faced a little field of four and has been sent off as the .30 cent on a dollar preferred. Rider Manny Ycaza was instructed by Nerud to deliver Dr. Fager to the guide and improve his position out there and that’s precisely what the pair did. Moving wire-to-wire unchallenged, Ycaza guided Dr. Fager to a decisive six-and-a-half span victory. But several horses were banging off each other behind the leader and the stewards could have overestimated the involvement of Dr. Fager. He was shot down and put for”herding,” even though he was clear during the race and was all alone in the wire. The runner-up, In Reality was awarded the win.
You couldn’t have a story like this without a small conspiracy factor. Rumor has it that a certain steward named Keene Daingerfield did not like Nerud and loathed Ycaza due to his aggressive riding strategies. Nerud always felt that the disqualification was”prejudiced.”
What makes the disqualification a complete shame is there weren’t many flaws on Dr. Fager’s record but the rumble in New Jersey was one of them. The colt would go on to win his next 13 of 14 races, his only loss in the sequence happened while running behind a couple decent horses named Damascus and Buckpasser. At the final race of his career, Dr. Fager would take a remarkable 139 lbs., spotting his rivals up to 34 pounds. In The Vosburgh Stakes at Aqueduct. He won the race by six lengths and set a new track record for seven furlongs.
But later that season, Dr. Fager would dismiss a tendon and was retired. Only three horses had ever finished facing him, Damascus, Buckpasser and Successor.
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