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Assault

Assault
Induction Year: 
1964
Foaled: 
1943
Breeder: 
King Ranch
Owner: 
King Ranch
Trainer: 
Max Hirsch
Sire: 
Bold Venture
Dam: 
Igual
Damsire: 
Equipoise
Career Years: 
1945-1950
Starts: 
42
First: 
18
Second: 
6
Third: 
8
Earnings: 
$675,470.00

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Bio

Bred in Texas by King Ranch, Assault was a son of 1936 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner Bold Venture out of the Equipoise mare Igual. Trained by Max Hirsch, Assault didn’t show much as a juvenile, but blossomed as a 3-year-old in 1946, winning the Triple Crown and setting a single-season earnings record.

 

As a weanling, Assault stepped on a nail or sharp stick that went through the front wall of his right forefoot. While the foot was injured, Assault acquired the habit of protecting it with an awkward gait.

 

“He never showed any sign that it hurt him,” Hirsch said. “When he walked or trotted, you’d think he was going to fall down, but he galloped true. There wasn’t a thing wrong with his action, though, when he went fast.”

 

Dubbed “The Club-footed Comet” because of his limp and the odd shape of the injured foot, Assault arrived at the races as a 2-year-old in 1945. He won two starts that year, including the Flash Stakes at 70-1 odds, but did little to indicate he was special.

 

Assault opened his 3-year-old campaign April 9, 1946 at Jamaica in the six-furlong Experimental Free Handicap No. 1, winning by 4½ lengths. Eleven days later, he defeated favored Hampden by 2¼ lengths in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. However, he was a dull fourth 10 days later at Churchill Downs in the Derby Trial and was 8-1 when he entered the Kentucky Derby.

 

On a slow track, Assault won the Derby by eight lengths, but his time of 2:06⅗ still didn’t inspire any comparisons to greatness. In the Preakness, Assault opened up a four-length lead at the top of the stretch and was able to hold off Lord Boswell by a neck.

 

The Preakness finish caused some to think Lord Boswell would be able to handle Assault at the Belmont distance of 1½ miles. Assault was kept off the pace by jockey Warren Mehrtens and made a strong move down the stretch to win by three lengths to become the seventh Triple Crown winner. Lord Boswell, who was slightly favored over Assault, finished fifth.

 

Two weeks after the Belmont, Assault was again impressive in winning the Dwyer Stakes. However, he followed that effort by finishing last in the Arlington Classic as the 7-10 favorite. It was determined that Assault’s poor showing in the Arlington Classic was the result of a kidney ailment, which sent him to the sidelines for the next six weeks.

 

When he returned to the races in September, Assault was third in the Discovery Handicap, second in the Jersey Handicap, third in the Manhattan Handicap, second in the Roamer Handicap and second in the Gallant Fox Handicap.

 

Hirsch decided to replace Mehrtens with Eddie Arcaro for the winner-take-all Pimlico Special. Leading the field was Stymie, who had defeated Assault in their previous two meetings. A speed duel up front between Bridal Flower and Turbine left the field 15 lengths back, but Arcaro sat chilly until Stymie made his move. Once the pacesetters faded and once Stymie kicked in, Arcaro turned Assault loose to win by six lengths in 1:57 flat, six seconds faster than he ran in the Preakness on the same track six months earlier.

 

Assault added a victory in the Westchester Handicap at Empire City to conclude his season with a record of 8-2-3 from 15 starts. His earnings of $424,195 broke the previous single-season mark of $308,275 set by Gallant Fox in 1930.

 

Assault opened his 4-year-old season with a 2½-length victory over Stymie in the Grey Lag Handicap. He then won the Dixie Handicap under 129 pounds and carried top weight of 130 pounds in winning the Suburban Handicap. Assault had no problem with 133 pounds in the Brooklyn Handicap, defeating Stymie (124 pounds) by three lengths.

 

With his victory in the Brooklyn, Assault earned $38,100 to push his career bankroll to $576,670, surpassing the all-time record of $561,161 set by Whirlaway. Assault then defeated Stymie and Gallorette in the Butler Handicap, carrying 135 pounds, while Stymie had an impost of 126 and Gallorette 117.

 

Assault and Stymie exchanged the lead on the career earnings list a couple times in 1947. Assault owned the lead after winning the Brooklyn, but Stymie went back on top when Assault took a breather following that race. Assault once again took the top spot following the Butler, but Stymie defeated Assault in the International Gold Cup to go back on top.

 

Injuries began to take a toll on Assault. He had a nail in his shoe during training for a match race he lost to Armed in late September 1947 and managed only two starts in 1948 at age 5. As a 6-year-old, Assault won the Brooklyn Handicap for the second time in what was his final stakes victory.

 

Assault was retired to King Ranch after finishing seventh in the 1950 Hollywood Gold Cup. He concluded his career with a record of 18-6-7 from 42 starts and earnings of $675,470. Assault died Sept. 1, 1971 at the age of 28 at King Ranch.

 

“I never trained a better horse,” Hirsch said. 

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