Horses – Assault
If seven is a lucky number it certainly was a lucky number in the year 1946 for a horse by the name of Assault who went on to become the 7th triple crown winner in horse racing history.
Assault didn’t have an easy time of it on his way to the triple crown. For that matter, he didn’t have an easy time of it just racing. Coming from a family of horses plagued with health problems and nagging injuries, Assault seemed to fall victim to the same fate. When he was a foal he stepped on a stake at King Ranch and was nearly crippled because of it and it did leave him with a malformed right fore hoof. Because of this, Assault was difficult to shoe. He had a ghastly looking walk and a gallop that ultimately led to him getting the nickname “The Clubfooted Comet”.
As race horses went, against all kinds of odds, Assault was a thing of great beauty. In his first race he finished only 12th and only won 2 of his first 9 races but when the turned three he finally started to get his act together. It was a miracle he could race at all. He won the Wood Memorial Stakes before heading for the Kentucky Derby. Unfortunately, he finished off the board in the Derby trial and was sent away as an 8 to 1 long shot. Ironically, there was another long shot in that race who ended up setting the early pace. He led Assault by half a length at the stretch but Assault turned it on and ended up winning the race by 8 lengths in a runaway surprising everyone.
A week later came the Preakness. The racing world was still stunned by this horse’s victory at the Derby and while nobody really expected him to make a run for the triple crown, his dreams of the crown almost ended at the Preakness. It was obvious that he was bothered early in the race and was 6th in a 10 horse field. In a desperation move, Assault’s jockey decided to let it all out and went after the leaders going around the far turn. He was up by 4 lengths going down the stretch but clearly ran out of gas. By the time he staggered home his lead was almost gone, managing to hang on and win narrowly by a neck ahead of Lord Boswell.
Finally on June 1, 1945, came the Belmont Stakes. Many felt that the long distance of this race would be too much for Assault and that his dreams of triple crown glory would come to an end. Assault wasn’t even the favorite in the race, going off at 7 to 5. When the race started, he stumbled and faltered. But this time his jockey didn’t push him. He stayed cool and let Assault work his way up the pack. In the mid stretch he trailed by only 2 lengths. Suddenly he zoomed into the lead with just 200 yards left and won by a comfortable 3 lengths. He became the 7th triple crown champion and the 3rd one of the 1940’s.