Purchased late in his 2-year-old year by Alfred G. Vanderbilt II, Discovery came into his own as a 3-year-old in 1934 and dominated the handicap division the next two years.
A son of Display out of the Light Brigade mare Ariadne, Discovery was a golden chestnut bred by Walter Salmon, Sr., owner of Mereworth Farm near Lexington, Ky. When Salmon discontinued racing and began breeding for the market, he arranged with Adolphe Pons to race some Mereworth-breds. Discovery was among the 2-year-olds Pons selected and was sent to trainer John R. Pryce.
Slow to develop into his large frame, Discovery was described as a gawky juvenile and had little success as a 2-year-old in 1933, winning only twice in 14 starts. Discovery, however, began to show some promise late in the year and finished second in the Breeders’ Futurity, prompting Vanderbilt to purchase him for $25,000 upon the advice of his trainer, J. H. “Bud” Stotler.
Six times in the spring and early summer of his 3-year-old campaign, Discovery faced Cavalcade. Although he could not defeat the Brookmeade Stable colt, Discovery was always able to beat just about everything else.
Discovery was then pointed toward the handicap ranks, a division in which he thrived. Discovery proceeded to win three consecutive editions of both the Brooklyn Handicap and the Whitney Stakes, set world records in both the Brooklyn and Rhode Island handicaps and a track record in the Arlington Handicap.
Horse of the Year in 1935 and Champion Handicap Horse in 1935 and 1936, Discovery carried 135 pounds or more 11 times in his career, including a victory in the 1935 Merchants’ and Citizens’ Handicap under 139 pounds. The weight assignments began to take a toll on Discovery during his 5-year-old season in 1936, but not until he was able to win both the Brooklyn and Whitney for a third time, repeat in the Wilson and win his first Saratoga Handicap. Discovery was retired with a career record of 27-10-10 from 63 starts and earnings of $195,287.
Stotler, after sending Discovery out for his final race said: “The good Lord makes one like him every 50 years or so, and sometimes not even then.”
“There is no other horse in the entire range of Turf history, American or foreign, that ever attempted to do anything so tremendous or came anywhere near Discovery in doing it so successfully,” said racing historian John Hervey.
Discovery ranked among the top 20 on the sire list seven times during his 21 seasons at stud. He sired 26 stakes winners, including champion Conniver, while his daughters produced Native Dancer, Bold Ruler and Bed o’ Roses. He died Aug. 28, 1958 at Vanderbilt’s Sagamore Farm in Maryland at the age of 27.