Assault – 1946 Triple Crown Winner
Assault, the seventh winner of the U.S Triple Crown, was born on March 26, 1943. He was chestnut in color and foaled on Robert Kleberg Jr’s King Ranch in Texas. His sire was 1936 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner Bold Venture. His dam was Igual.
It took Assault four tries to break his maiden, and then he lost once more before his first stakes victory. He won the August 5 Flash Stakes with starting odds of 70 to 1. He raced twice more as a juvenile. Running third behind Southern Pride and Tidy Bid in the Babylon Handicap, then in the Cowdin Stakes he finished fourth. After only winning twice in nine tries Assault was sent to winter in South Carolina.
Assault started the 1946 season by winning the Experimental Handicap, he then went on to win the Wood Memorial Stakes. In the Kentucky Derby Trials he ran a badly beaten fourth behind Rippey, Spy Song, and With Pleasure. At the Kentucky Derby Spy Song was the early leader, and Assault, with Warren Mehrtens in the saddle, caught and passed him to score and eight length victory. Which equaled the largest winning margin in Derby history, his time though was a relatively slow 2:06 3/5. The Preakness Stakes was held on May 11. Early traffic problems forced Warren Mehrtens to use his mount early in the race. At the top of the stretch Assault was in front with Lord Boswell running four lengths behind. Lord Boswell closed strongly but Assault held on, winning by a neck. Lord Boswell went off as favorite for the Belmont Stakes. Assault stumbled at the start, and Warren Mehrtens waited until the head of the stretch to ask his horse to make a move. He moved to the outside and asked his mount the question, Assault responded with a powerful stretch drive and won by three lengths. That completed his U.S Triple Crown win, but Assault had yet to gain respect, earning relatively slow times in all three races.
Two weeks later, in an effort to gain the respect of the racing world, Assault won the Dwyer Stakes. But his somewhat slow time did nothing to improve his reputation. He was written off as simply the best horse in a poor group of three year olds. Then he ran sixth in the Arlington Classic, when he returned to the barn, he showed signs of distress. A few days later he was diagnosed with a kidney infection. The resulting layoff lasted only a month, but it took him much longer to return to winning condition. After he returned he finished third in the Discovery Handicap, then a week later he ran second in the Jersey Handicap.
Assault met the great Stymie for the first time on September 25, 1946 when the two ran in the Manhattan Handicap at Belmont Park. Stymie won, with Assault third behind Pavot. When the two met an exciting rivalry was born. After that, Assault was beaten by a neck by champion filly Bridal Flower in the Roamer Handicap. Then in the Gallant Fox Handicap he challenged Stymie again. Eddie Arcaro, riding Assault for the first time, led him into an exciting stretch drive where Assault scored his first victory since the Dwyer Stakes, beating not only Stymie, but Bridal Flower as well. His final start of 1946 was at the Westchester Handicap, which he won by two lengths. He was named Horse of the Year and was the years leading money winner, earning $424,195.
Assault began the 1947 season with a win in the Grey Lag Handicap with Warren Mehrtens back in the saddle. Six days later Eddie Arcaro rode Assault to victory in the Dixie Handicap. Then he won the Suburban Handicap by two lengths, beating both Stymie and Natchez. He then won the Brooklyn Handicap from Stymie, becoming the world new all-time leading money winner. In his fifth race at age four, Assault met Stymie and the great mare Gallorette in the Butler Handicap, he won by a head. Stymie put an end to Assaults seven race winning streak in the International Gold Cup at Belmont Park. Assault then became injured and was out for the rest of the season
After another few months of rest in South Carolina he began his five year old career. He finished fifth in the Widener Handicap and was sent back to South Carolina. Later that August he tried again and lost by only a nose and then came back to win his second Brooklyn Handicap. Then he finished fourth in the Massachusetts Mile. He won the Edgemere Handicap, but after losses in the Manhattan and Grey Lag Handicaps, he was retired.
Plans were made for Assault to be retired to stud, but tests revealed he was sterile. To the surprise of his owners, he was blessed with two sons and two daughters in the spring of 1951. He returned to racing, scoring a first, a second, and a third in three starts. After that he was permanently retired. Assault passed away on September 2, 1971. He was buried at the spacious King Ranch, where he had been foaled.
Assault was inducted to the Racing Hall of Fame in 1964. He was ranked #33 on the Blood-Horse magazines ranking of the Top 100 Thoroughbred Racehorses of the 20th century. His final record was 42 starts, 18 wins, 6 seconds, and 7 thirds. And his total earning were $675,400.