My annual tax meeting with my pal GG is typically the usual exchange of information followed by an hour of horse talk. He's one of the best handicappers I know (I've bragged about his cappin' prowess in previous posts - see Giacomo Derby trifecta), but I never really knew how deep in his blood the Sport of Kings really was. A few weeks ago you may remember, I met the good doctor from UB who was telling me racing stories, and I remember he mentioned a fellow Buffalonian who turned him onto racing 30 plus years ago. Now some people call Buffalo "one big room" and this was just one of those moments. The good doc mentioned the name "Roxie Gian" to me and I pondered for a second whether he could be related to my pal, GG? Come to know it, it was GG's grandfather, a real estate and construction tycoon from Buffalo who loved the ponies and owned a terrific filly who had a great run in 1975, a year where a certain filly captured the nation's fancy.
What made it even more special was the scrap book that he brought with him, a family heirloom, which he left with me to read about the one super horse that his grandfather, Roxie, treasured more than any other horse he ever owned. The horse's name was Hoso (love the War Admiral in her pedigree). In early 1974 after breaking a track record at Hialeah Race Track going 5 furlongs in 57 4/5 and winning by 11 lengths, Roxie Gian purchased the two year filly by Solo Landing, out of Holly-0 for $250,000. He purchased her from Guy Burt, who said after selling Hoso, "I had been turning down offers my horses for years, after Holly-O beat Moccasin I turned down half a million dollars for her. I rejected a bid for Solo Landing after he won the Swift. A couple other horses also brought big offers. When this one came up for Hoso, I decided I had better take it." (DRF, Fred Galiani, June 5, 1974) Within the scrap book I read three articles that put the "price at $175K", "more than $200K" and "reportedly paid $250K", records must have been a bit thin back then.
Her next race was scheduled for Belmont Park and a matchup with a highly touted filly named Ruffian (!!!!) who had won her debut by 15 lengths. The morning line had Ruffian as the 7-5 favorite and Hoso at 2-1. In an unfortunate incident, the night before the race, Hoso became unnerved and rolled over in her stall breaking her cannon bone, thus she was scratched the morning of the The Fashion, a 5 1/2 furlong sprint, that Ruffian won going away.
In February 1975, Hoso bounced back in her second race of her 3yo season (after being upset in her 1975 debut in January by Laughing Bridge) beautiful Hialeah in the $33,150 Jasmine Stakes, where she ran 6 furlongs in 1:09 2/5 (winning by 5 1/2 lengths) with Mickey Solomone up, she grabbed the lead after the first half furlong and never looked back. The owner of second place longshot Iris Star said "My filly ran well, but I never had a chance to catch the one in front." A filly named Sun and Snow happened to finish 7th (more on her later).
Milt Dunnell in a column in the Toronto Star on February 14, 1975 wrote "if she hadn't been hurt, trainer Merrill believes she would have been one of the best-known fillies as a two year old. There was one 2 year old filly that every racing buff knew. That was Ruffian, undefeated until she, too suffered a hairline fracture. Ironically, Hoso was in New York to run against Ruffian, when she was injured. They may meet eventually as 3 year olds. Ruffian is not back to the races yet, but she is galloping every day in South Carolina."
A week later on February 19th, in front of 15,525 at Hialeah she bested a field of 14 as the odds-on favorite by 6 lengths in winning the $33,600 Camellia Stakes and suddenly was on the trail to the Kentucky Oaks and the first Friday in May. Joe Hirsch wrote in the DRF before the race, "Roxie Gian's Hoso is a bullet on four wheels, but can she carry her speed an extra furlong?" She paid $3.60 to win and beat major challenger Aunt Jin handily. After the race, Hirsch wrote, "Hoso was simply sensational. If Hoso can do that to Aunt Jin, how good is she?"
Next up was the 9 furlong Poinsettia Stakes and another large field of 12 fillies, going two turns for the first time. "My filly is as good as she has ever been or perhaps even better, trainer Merrill said, I don't think that she will have any trouble getting the distance." (DRF, Jack Smallwood, March 1, 1975) After opening up an eight length lead, she coasted to a two length victory over Sun and Snow (there's that name again) to win her third straight Hialeah stakes race on the closing day of the 50th anniversary meeting at odds of 3/5. "She won with authority", jockey Solomone said, "She might have got a little tired. But she was being asked to go a quarter mile more than ever before. I hand rode her to the eighth pole. Then I hit her once and threatened her once." "I wouldn't take a half million for her," owner Roxie Gian said in the paddock. The price undoubtedly went up another half million a few minutes later. (Miami Herald, Luther Evans, March 5, 1975.)
The biggest race in the young filly's career loomed in the third running of the $199,550 Fantasy Stakes at Oaklawn Park facing five other fillies. Going off at 4/5 odds, she won by 1/2 length over Luxury, wiring the 9 furlong race over an off track. "The only thing that bothered me before the race was the track condition, said trainer Frank Merrill. Hoso had never run on an "off" track before. She's been in Florida where it's warm, and so that concerned me. Now after the race the only thing that concerned me was Roxie. I thought he was going to have another heart attack. He popped a nitroglycerine pill right at the finish, I'm glad the horse won or the pill might not have worked!" (DRF, Don Grisham, April 2, 1975).
In the final prep race for the Kentucky Oaks, Hoso was upset by 10-1 shot High Estimate in the 7 furlong La Troienne at Churchill Downs, a week before the Oaks.
Before the Oaks, Gian was interviewed by Hirsch and commented, "I've been offered almost $1 million for her, not by one group but by three. But I don't want to sell her. A man gets a horse like this once in a lifetime. I've had some nice horses with Frank Merrill over the past 20 years. Chic Miss, Mooney, Puss n' Boots and All View each earned over $100K. But there has never been anything like Hoso." (DRF, Hirsch, April 25, 1975)
Hoso went off as the 6/5 favorite in the Oaks on May 2, 1975, a day before Foolish Pleasure would win the Derby, but it wasn't her day. Starting from post position 11, jockey Solomone took her to the lead a quarter mile into the race, from their she faded to last place. "As far as I'm concerned, it wasn't a race at all. Down the stretch Hoso swung deep to the outside, nearly seven shoulders from the rest of the pack. Everything was out of my control. With this horse, you just get on and hope she stays between the fences." (Lexington Courier-Journal, Tom Patterson, May 3, 1975). Sun and Snow won the 1975 Kentucky Oaks.
After the Oaks, Gian decided against taking her on the New York circuit to face the legendary Ruffian, and returned her to Canada to race at Fort Erie where 12,000 cheered her on to an allowance victory in July 1975 with Sandy Hawley aboard. She would run in the Cotillion Stakes in August at Keystone Park, finishing fifth.
GG is very proud of his grandfather and the accomplishments of the wonder filly Hoso. I'm glad he took the time to share it with me. I hope you enjoyed the story of Hoso. And by the way, Roxie ended up selling her for that $1 million bucks....