Triple Crown profile: Gallant Fox

Profile Picture: Ashley Anderson

April 23rd, 2020

The Kentucky Derby has been postponed until September, but Churchill Downs will still celebrate the first Saturday in May with a nationwide virtual "Kentucky Derby at Home" party. This special, day-long event will aim to raise $2 million for COVID-19 emergency relief efforts and will feature a thrilling simulated race that includes the 13 Triple Crown winners.

To get you ready for the virtual race, BetAmerica is publishing a profile on each Triple Crown winner leading up to the big day. Get ready to travel back in time to some of the greatest moments in Thoroughbred racing history.

Gallant Fox (1930)

Owner: Belair Stud

Trainer: James Fitzsimmons

Jockey: Earl Sande

Before the Derby

Gallant Fox hardly jumped on anyone’s radar at the beginning of his 2-year-old season. In his first start, the son of Sir Gallahad III finished third in an allowance at Aqueduct in June 1929. He then pulled up in eighth in the Tremont S., after an airplane flying by distracted him at the gate.  

Famed trainer "Sunny Jim" Fitzsimmons conditioned the horse by running stablemates relay style, because no one challenger could keep up with Gallant Fox throughout an entire workout. The tactic paid off, as the large bay colt with a white blaze won the Flash S. at Saratoga and never finished worse than third again in his career.

From seven starts in 1929, Gallant Fox won just two races (the Cowdin S. the second). He kicked off his 3-year-old season with a four-length victory in the Wood Memorial in late April, then claimed the Preakness by three-quarters of a length May 9 (the Preakness was before the Kentucky Derby).

Gallant Fox experienced trouble from the start at Pimlico. Running along the rail, he lost position on the clubhouse turn but fought his way into second at the top of the backstretch. In a neck-and-neck battle, he eked out a first-place finish, which left the crowd of 40,000 shocked by his unexpected comeback.

The Derby

On May 17, 1930, a rainy Saturday at Churchill Downs, Gallant Fox started out of post 7 as the favorite in the Kentucky Derby. Aboard was jockey Earl Sande, who came out of retirement to ride the colt as a 3-year-old.

Gallant Fox broke slowly and was challenged for the first three-eighths of the race. He gained the lead on the backstretch, never relinquished it, and had a little something left in the tank at the finish.

Gallant Fox stopped the timer in 2:07.6 on the muddy track and beat the runner-up, Gallant Knight, by two lengths. It marked the colt’s fifth victory in his 10th start, while Sande earned his third Derby win (his first came aboard Zev in 1923 and his second occurred in 1925 on Flying Ebony).

Completing the Triple Crown

On June 7, Gallant Fox matched up against Whichone, who had already beaten the Derby winner and came in as the 4-5 favorite in the Belmont Stakes. Only two other horses — Questionnaire and Swinfield — competed against these mighty Thoroughbreds in the final leg of the Triple Crown.

At Belmont Park, Gallant Fox got off to a quick start, while Whichone brought up the rear. Sande moved Gallant Fox out from the rail, and Whichone began to gain ground, but Gallant Fox triumphed by four lengths to become the second Triple Crown winner.

While the term “Triple Crown” had been in use at least by 1923, Daily Racing Form writer Charles Hatton made it common, when he used it to describe Gallant Fox's string of success.

After the Triple Crown

Following his win at Belmont, Gallant Fox claimed the Dwyer and the Arlington Classic.

His only loss during this period occurred at the Travers, where he again met Whichone. Going after his seventh straight win of the year, Gallant Fox went off as the 1-2 favorite and battled early against his Belmont rival on a heavy, muddy track.

However, on the final turn, a 100-1 longshot, Jim Dandy, came up the rail and blew by the tiring speedsters to spring an unthinkable upset.

Fitzsimmons blamed Gallant Fox's second-place showing on the track conditions and claimed owner William Woodward insisted on running in the race.

Gallant Fox later notched victories in the Saratoga Cup, Lawrence Realization, and the Jockey Club Gold Cup, before he retired to stud as the world’s leading money earner.

His son, Omaha, became the third Triple Crown winner in 1935, which made Gallant Fox and Omaha the only father-son duo to accomplish the feat. Gallant Fox also sired Granville, who won the Belmont and was the first to be named Horse of the Year in 1936.

In addition to Gallant Fox and Omaha, Fitzsimmons trained Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes winner Johnstown (1939). He trained four Preakness winners and six Belmont victors. His 13 Classic victories was tied by D. Wayne Lukas in 2000, then broken by Lukas in 2013.

Gallant Fox died on Nov. 13, 1953 and is buried at his birthplace, Claiborne Farm. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1957.

Tune into Churchill Downs’ virtual ‘Kentucky Derby at Home’ party on NBC on May 2 from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. EDT