Kennedy Road

Thoroughbreds
Hall of Fame Inductee, 2000

Kennedy Road

The mahogany-colored Kennedy Road was quite unlike any previous winner of the Queen’s Plate; as he aged, he excelled. He was a tall, lean colt with bulging muscles and he looked invincible when he sprinted away from the field at Woodbine in 1971.

Owned and bred by Arthur and Helen Stollery’s Angus Glen Farm of Unionville, Ont., Kennedy Road had an ornery, temperamental streak that severely tested the patience of the men who trained him – Jim Bentley, California legend Charlie Whittingham and Clarke Whitaker. Stable hands and grooms had to be wary of his roguish antics. The colt often dictated the terms to his riders of how he would perform. One day he would streak into the lead against the best horses in North America, and oftenwin, then there would be afternoons when he sulked and refused to respond to his jockey’s desperate urging. However, it was not Kennedy’s behavior that distinguished him from any number of Plate winners. Instead of fading into oblivion after his day in the sun, he developed into a great race horse, maturing from a wild-eyed sprinter with an uncontrollable habit of attempting to flee from his opponents, into a swift older horse who occasionally could be “rated” and perform in a more relaxed style.

At ages two, three and four the son of Victoria Park was Canada’s champion colt before being honored with Horse of the Year honors in 1973, the year of his brilliant performances in California against Autobiography, Quack, Cougar II and Big Spruce. He won the Hollywood Gold Cup and three stakes. He was also invited for the first running of the Marlboro Cup Handicap at Belmont that year, competing against Kentucky Derby champions Secretariat and Riva Ridge and stablemate Cougar II but wasn’t a factor, finishing sixth ahead of Key to the Mint.

Although he was older and cagier at five, he was still the old “Kennedy” in his final week at the track. He was entered in the Canadian International Championship, a demanding mile and five-eighths test against many of the top grass specialists. Also in the field, and making his final career start, was Secretariat. To prep him for the race, his young trainer, Whitaker, ran Kennedy Road in a six-furlong sprint a week before the International. He was never quicker, setting a track record of 1:08 3/5, a clocking that stood for 26 years at Woodbine.

The effort was costly as he came out of the race with a bowed tendon. However, that didn’t stop him and Avelino Gomez from exciting the huge throng on International day. Kennedy barged to the lead and dueled with Secretariat for more than a mile before he slowly backed up, perhaps in pain. Sandy Hawley, who won the Plate on him in 1971, said: “Kennedy was the greatest. He was the type of horse who would fight you. But on that (Plate) day he simply waited for horses to come to him after we took the lead”. Bentley, who performed a training miracle just to get him to the Plate following an operation that winter to remove a piece of bone from a hind ankle, observed: “He was a great horse.the best horse I ever had. He had the confirmation and power, and was very sound. He was also masculine, with a great idea of his own strength; rough, tough and hard, which is as it should be. There were times you had to put the fear of God into him, or he wouldn’t put out.”