March 30, 2023

Politely: Often second best, but always first class

Politely 1968
Politely pictured in 1968 (Photo courtesy of the Keeneland Library/NYRA)

They say one should never settle for second best. For the filly Politely, that would prove unavoidable from birth in one respect. In another, it was simply the way things shook out at the height of a distinguished racing career.

When Politely entered the world in 1963 at Woodstock Farm in Maryland, the farm’s most famous (and often absentee) resident was Kelso, who had just secured the third of five consecutive Horse of the Year titles. That seemingly indestructible achievement guaranteed that any horse subsequently to sport the gray and yellow silks of Allaire duPont’s Bohemia Stable would eternally be in the gelding’s legendary shadow.

Politely was the result of a mating between the Virginia-based stallion *Amerigo and the mare Morn Again, whom duPont had acquired for $10,500 at the 1961 Maryland Fall Sales. *Amerigo flamed out quickly in England after a stunning victory in the Coventry S. at Royal Ascot at two, but found new life as an older horse in America. Although his signature victories occurred over 1 1/2 miles or longer on turf, in the 1960 editions of the Hialeah Turf Cup and San Juan Capistrano H., *Amerigo had also placed in a number of the most significant dirt handicaps of his era from coast to coast.

Morn Again, a daughter of Sun Again, hailed from an accomplished family, but was an unremarkable performer herself. A winner in two of seven starts, Morn Again was a half-sister to the durable stakes-quality jumper Hustle, who won 20 of 110 starts, and the multiple stakes-winning Good Morning, whose offspring included Battle Morn, the beaten favorite in the 1951 Kentucky Derby.

Described by noted turf writer Charles Hatton as “a medium-sized chestnut mare with a narrow blaze and a white stocking on her rear hind leg,” Politely was handled by a succession of Bohemia’s private trainers, including Kelso’s Carl Hanford. She reached her zenith, however, under the tutelage of George Baker.

There’s not much to reflect on about the early part of Politely’s career. It took six starts for Politely to break her maiden, in a seven-furlong event at Laurel, in which she defeated Shenanigans, who later produced the legendary filly Ruffian. Through the summer of her three-year-old season, Politely had placed in just two of seven stakes appearances. However, like many prominent offspring of *Amerigo, she simply proved a late bloomer.

Politely began to turn the corner in the fall of 1966. In the Princeton H., a 1 1/16-mile event restricted to three-year-old fillies at Garden State Park, Politely defeated Kentucky Oaks winner Native Street to secure her first stakes victory. She would lose her final two outings of the season, but her second-place finish in the Chrysanthemum H. at Laurel on the turf proved that the apple hadn’t fallen far from the tree with regards to surface versatility.


Politely enjoyed a breakout season at four in 1967, winning five of nine stakes engagements. She came out swinging in her stakes debut, the Molly Pitcher H. at Monmouth Park, handing division leader Straight Deal a 2 3/4-length defeat while in receipt of 11 pounds. A mare of hickory who would make 22 starts that season for trainer Hirsch Jacobs, Straight Deal hit back in the Delaware H. later that summer, giving Politely eight pounds and a beating by more than four lengths. The two would continue to trade punches into the fall.

The next meeting between the two occurred in the inaugural Matchmaker S. at Atlantic City over 1 3/16 miles. An instantly popular innovation, whereby participants competed for both a lucrative payday and a free season to a choice of three prominent stallions, the Matchmaker attracted a field of 13. But the race wound up being dominated by the top three betting choices.

Getting five pounds from Straight Deal, Politely got the jump on her late-closing rival to win by three parts of a length. Finishing a head behind Straight Deal in third was future Hall of Famer Gamely, of whom more will be told. Politely set a new track mark of 1:55 1/5 for the little-used distance, but her free season to Hail to Reason (who, ironically, had raced for the connections of Straight Deal) went unused.

The championship-deciding showdown between Politely and Straight Deal occurred in the Vineland H. at Garden State over 1 1/8 miles. In addition to the two protagonists, the decorated field of seven included Gamely, who would be named co-champion three-year-old filly; Lady Pitt, the 1966 champion three-year-old filly; and Too Bald, the sprint specialist who later reared Hall of Famer Exceller and juvenile colt champion Capote.

In midstretch of the Vineland only two heads separated Gamely, Politely, and Straight Deal, but at the finish it was Straight Deal’s neck that was thrust in front of Politely’s. Straight Deal was again conceding weight to Politely, this time two pounds. A fifth meeting between the two, in the Ladies H. at Aqueduct, proved anticlimactic with Straight Deal finishing fifth and Politely seventh.

In addition to her two victories over Straight Deal that season, Politely also captured three stakes at Aqueduct: the Maskette H. over a mile, the Firenze H. (now Personal Ensign [G1]) over 1 1/8 miles in the slop; and the New York H. on turf, a race her sire had won in 1959 when it was open to males.


Politely 1968
Politely 1968 (Photo courtesy of the Keeneland Library/NYRA)

Kept in training at five, Politely turned in another stellar campaign. In addition to successful title defenses in the Molly Pitcher, Matchmaker, and Firenze (under 131 pounds), Politely made amends for losses the previous season by taking the Delaware, Vineland, and Ladies handicaps. She also continued to show a fondness for turf, winning a division of the Sheepshead Bay H.

Erstwhile rival Straight Deal was a shell of her former self in 1968, but Politely’s path to the championship was again blocked. Her bête noire this time was Gamely. The pair met twice, in the Diana H. at Saratoga and then in the Beldame S. at Aqueduct. 

In the Diana, both Politely and Gamely toted 130 pounds. However, as Charles Hatton explained, “[Politely] tried to anticipate the start, banging her head into the door of her stall. This stung her and matters were made worse when an assistant starter tailed her in the gate. The upshot of these contretemps was that she broke badly and sulked, thought to be the only such instance in her career.”

Gamely passed the wire first in the Diana by a neck, but was disqualified and placed second after bearing out into the runner-up. Politely was beaten about three lengths into fourth.

In the weight-for-age Beldame, also at 1 1/8 miles, a ding-dong, three-horse stretch battle between Gamely, Politely, and Amerigo Lady (also a daughter of *Amerigo) enlivened a race that attracted only five starters. Per Hatton, “Gamely came out on [Politely] atop the stretch, while Amerigo Lady simultaneously came in, with the result [Politely] could scarcely get her legs under her. But she fought back valorously so that Gamely beat her only desperate inches.”

A claim of foul against Gamely by Politely’s rider, Angel Cordero Jr., was controversially disallowed.

At season’s end, Politely was retired to the Woodstock paddocks with a record of 49-21-9-5, $552,972, the equivalent of more than $4.75 million today. Politely was twice voted Maryland Horse of the Year (1967-68) and was the fifth-highest earner among fillies and mares at the time, trailing only Cicada, Straight Deal, Tosmah, and Old Hat.

Although she never produced a foal by either Hail to Reason or *Ribot, whose season she claimed winning the 1968 Matchmaker, Politely did produce offspring by Dr. Fager, Northern Dancer, Damascus, Hoist the Flag, The Minstrel, Alydar, Halo, and Smarten. She raised two stakes winners, most notably the multiple Grade 2-placed Northerly.

Politely passed away in 1987 at age 24. While often second best, she was one of the first class.