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Bon Nouvel

1995.2.1823 Bon Nouvel_Blood Horse small.jpg

Bon Nouvel (The Blood-Horse)
Bon Nouvel
Induction Year: 
Theodora A. Randolph
Mrs. Theodora A. Randolph
D. M. "Mikey" Smithwick
Duc de Fer
Good News
Happy Argo
Career Years: 

Tab Wrapper


Bon Nouvel — meaning “good news” in French — was the stop steeplechaser in North America in 1964, 1965 and 1968.


Breeding pundits had difficulty predicting steeplechasing success for Bon Nouvel, who was bred to be a sprinter. His sire, Duc de Fer, was a sprinter and the son of a sprint champion, Spy Song. Bon Nouvel’s dam, Good News was a daughter of Happy Argo, also a top sprinter. Bon Novel, however, grew to be 17 hands, the opposite of the short, stocky types generally associated with sprinting.


Unraced as a 2-year-old, Bon Nouvel was sent to trainer D. M. “Mikey” Smithwick in 1963 as a 3-year-old. He won a race on the flat at Pimlico and broke his maiden at Aqueduct in his fourth start over hurdles ridden by A. P. “Paddy” Smithwick, the trainer’s brother. Bon Nouvel’s debut over big fences (a steeplechase, rather than a race over hurdles) at Saratoga that summer was most impressive. He won by 25 lengths and set a course record with Jamie Hruska up because Paddy Smithwick couldn’t come close to making the weight of 135 pounds.


Next out, with Paddy Smithwick up, Bon Nouvel easily won the Harbor Hill Steeplechase at Aqueduct then added wins in the Broad Hollow and Brook handicaps. After the Brook victory, the Morning Telegraph said: “When Bon Nouvel, carrying 152 pounds, coasted to the finish of the Brook a dozen lengths in front, he confirmed what had been suggested here before, that he’s the best young steeplechase horse in years.”


Bon Nouvel then won the 1964 Grand National by more than 20 lengths, defeating Amber Diver, the prior year’s winner. He carried 156 pounds, the most ever carried by a 4-year-old in the Grand National to that date. Bon Novel finished his 4-year-old season with a record of 5-3-3 from 13 starts and earnings of $62,823 to earn the first of his three championships as North America’s top steeplechaser.


In 1965, Bon Nouvel was brought along slowly with the rich fall races in mind. Tommy Walsh took over as his regular rider because Paddy Smithwick had other commitments. Bon Nouvel won the Broad Hollow, Brook and Temple Gwathmey. In the latter, Bon Nouvel carried 170 pounds and won by 30 lengths, cutting 3⅖ seconds from the course record. His impressive performances led to a second consecutive championship as top steeplechaser.


Bon Nouvel suffered a tendon injury in 1966 that shelved him for the majority of the year as well as all of 1967. Returning to the races as an 8-year-old in 1968, Bon Nouvel won the William C. Langley Memorial Cup, Beverwyck Steeplechase Handicap and three other races to join the great Neji as the only three-time champions to date.


Bon Nouvel was retired in 1968 with an overall record of 16-11-7 from 51 starts and earnings of $176,148. He died at the age of 26 in 1986.