May 29, 2023

Legacy of Drumtop lives on early in Saratoga meet

This portrait by Charles Manley Tyler commemorates Drumtop's win in the 1971 Hialeah Turf Cup with jock Chuck Baltazar

The victory by Proctor’s Ledge in last Friday’s Lake George (G3) at Saratoga finally gave me a reason to dig deeper on a particular horse that I’ve been meaning to for years but had never got around to.

Proctor’s Ledge won on the turf at Saratoga, just like her great-grandmother Drumtop did in 1969 (Adam Coglianese Photography)

The three-year-old Proctor’s Ledge is a homebred racing for Patricia Moseley, the widow of James B. Moseley, a banker and former Massachusetts legislator who helped revive racing at Suffolk Downs in the 1990s. The best horse the Moseley family has owned was Drumtop, Proctor’s Ledge’s third dam.

By Round Table and out of Zonah, a *Nasrullah half-sister to the Hall of Fame filly Gamely, Drumtop was a foal of 1966 who retired with a lifetime mark of 44-17-9-3, $493,738 (over $3 million in 2017 dollars). Her stakes record was 29-10-6-1, and while on the surface that doesn’t seem overly remarkable, a closer examination of how that record was compiled makes it all the more incredible, at least by modern standards.

In an era (1969-71) when there were far fewer turf stakes opportunities restricted to fillies and mares, Drumtop spent two-thirds of her stakes career facing North America’s best grass males from coast to coast. On seven occasions, she beat them.

Trained by Roger Laurin, Drumtop made an inauspicious stakes debut in the fall of her three-year-old season in 1969, finishing ninth in the Indian Maid Handicap at Hawthorne after lacking room in the stretch. However, she rebounded to win divisions of the Princeton Handicap at Garden State Park and New York Handicap at Aqueduct, the latter against older mares, before running out of the money in her final two starts of the season.

At age four, Drumtop endured a busy campaign of 14 stakes starts. She started the season winning a division of the Columbiana Handicap at Hialeah and ended on a high note beating the boys in the Canadian International at Woodbine, but made only one other visit to the winner’s circle in between following the Edgemere (now Red Smith) Handicap at Belmont.

In her defense Drumtop was constantly tested against males that season, 10 times altogether. She faced grass champion and co-Horse of the Year Fort Marcy four times, getting closest in the Bowling Green Handicap when finishing second to that Hall of Fame gelding by a half-length. She also placed in the Hialeah Turf Cup, Santa Barbara Handicap, Massachusetts Handicap (contested that year on turf), and Man o’ War, and with better trips could have also hit the board in her Sheepshead Bay division and the Manhattan Handicap.

Even if there had been a separate championship category for turf females in 1970, Drumtop might have fallen short in the voting to Pattee Canyon, who beat her six lengths in the Arlington Matron while giving three pounds. It’s unlikely anyone would have outpolled her in 1971, though.

While it was a generally feast-or-famine season, Drumtop made every single one of her 10 stakes appearances against males, winning five. In addition to a successful title defense in the Edgemere, Drumtop set course records winning the Camden Handicap at Garden State Park, the Hialeah Turf Cup and the Bowling Green, the latter two at 1 1/2 miles over her old nemesis Fort Marcy. She also won a division of the Palm Beach Handicap at Hialeah and finished second in the Century Handicap at Hollywood Park, but ran out of the money in four other tries.

With 1971 being the first year of the Eclipse Awards, Run the Gantlet was awarded the sole turf title on the basis of wins in the Tidal, Kelly-Olympic (Drumtop was seventh there in her final stakes appearance), and United Nations Handicaps, Man o’ War, and Washington D.C. International. Dahlia would become the only female ever to win the single turf championship in 1974, and it wasn’t until 1979 that a separate Eclipse category for female turf runners was created.

While Drumtop was born too early to receive her just due as a champion, she later reared stakes winner and Saratoga track-record holder Topsider, who sired champion older mare North Sider and Grade/Group 1 winners Top Corsage, Assatis, Salse, Twafeaj, and Fraar. Yet another connection Drumtop had to Saratoga was as the second dam of Brigade of Guards, who captured the A.P. Smithwick Memorial Steeplechase in 1997.

Although she died in 1983 at Rokeby Farm while foaling a Mr. Prospector filly, Drumtop’s legacy continues on through Proctor’s Ledge, who sports the same Moseley colors her great-grandmother did to so many major victories all those years ago.