Portrait of Neji by Richard Stone Reeves
Neji dominated the sport in the late 1950's and was a three time national steeplechase champion. He won the American Grand National three times and the Temple Gwathmey twice. Jockey Paddy Smithwick described his favorite horse as knowing "what it means to pace himself...." This quality permitted Neji to carry burdens as high as 173 pounds in two of his races.
At 4, Neji won the Brook Steeplechase Handicap and earned a second place finish in the Grand National. The following year he won the Brook, and carried 167 pounds while winning the Grand National and the Temple Gwathmey. He was also named Steeplechase Horse of the Year for 1955.
A fractured splint bone hindered Neji's six year old season, but the following year he was in fine form. At 7 Neji was named Steeplechase Champion after winning the Grand National and carrying a record 173 pounds to victory in the Temple Gwathmey. At 8 Neji won the Grand National under 173 pounds, 22 pounds over the next highest weight in the field. He carried 176 pounds in the Temple Gwathmey but lost by a head to Benguala, who carried 147. Neji was named Champion Steeplechase horse for the third and final time at the end of the season.
Neji spent 1958 racing abroad. With three starts, his best finish was winning third place. After one final season at 10, Neji retired with record earnings that were not surpassed for 22 years.
Neji was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 1966.
Neji takes the lead in the Broad Hollow