Onion (horse)

Onion (horse)
Sire Third Martini
Grandsire Hasty Road
Dam With a Flair
Damsire Beau Gar
Sex Gelding
Foaled 1969
Country United States
Colour Chestnut
Breeder Hobeau Farm
Owner Hobeau Farm
Trainer H. Allen Jerkens
Record 54: 15-12-5
Earnings $243,547
Major wins
Whitney Handicap (1973)
Horse (Equus ferus caballus)
Last updated on May 4, 2009

Onion (1969-1995) was a U.S. thoroughbred whose victory in the 1973 Whitney Handicap is considered to be among the most dramatic upsets in the history of horse racing.[1]

The chestnut gelding was bred and owned by Hobeau Farm, based outside of Ocala, Florida, and was trained by Allen Jerkens. Onion was initially not considered a top-tier horse and the early part of his career was focused on lower grade non-stakes races. On July 24, 1973, Onion achieved his first claim to notability by breaking the Saratoga Race Course track record for a six-furlong race.[2]


The Whitney Handicap upset

Jerkens entered Onion in the Whitney Handicap, which was receiving added attention because of the presence of Secretariat, the winner of the Triple Crown, in his first race against older horses. Jerkens later stated that he was skeptical on whether Onion could defeat Secretariat, but he noted that Secretariat’s pre-race workout was flat and surmised the champion thoroughbred was not performing at his best.[3]

The Whitney Handicap was held on August 4, 1973, at Saratoga in front of a record crowd of 30,119.[1] Secretariat was the 1:10 favorite, with Onion a 5:1 second choice among bettors.[1] Three other horses participated in the race.

When the race began, Jacinto Vasquez, Onion’s jockey, took the early lead and never relinquished control. Secretariat, who was bumped against the rail in the course of the race by Eddie Belmonte riding on West Coast Scout, attempted to overtake Onion during the latter part of the race. But by the 16th pole, Onion pulled ahead and won his first stakes race by a length.[1]

After the race, Secretariat’s jockey Ron Turcotte and trainer Lucien Laurin debated the unexpected upset, with Laurin publicly questioning Turcotte’s handling of the race.[3] Penny Tweedy, Secretariat’s owner, later acknowledged the horse was running a low-grade fever on the racing day, but agreed to keep him in the race because she felt he could triumph over the field.[1] Even Vasquez noted Onion’s victory as a fluke, telling an interviewer: "I probably caught him on a bad day. Onion wasn't the same caliber. It's just that he loved Saratoga and had a good day."[1]

Later career and retirement

Onion and Secretariat met for a second and final time on September 15, 1973, for the inaugural running of the $250,000 Marlboro Cup Invitational Handicap at Belmont Park. Secretariat had returned to full health by this time and won the race while setting a new world record of 1:45 2/5 for 1⅛ miles; Onion finished in fourth place.[4]

Onion never won another stakes race, and his post-Whitney career was undistinguished and troubled with injuries.[1] Before his retirement in 1977, he was running in low-grade claiming races. Onion was retired to Hobeau Farms and died on October 24, 1995.[1]


External links

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