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Horse for the Course: Black Maria, Winner of the Kentucky Oaks and Whitney Stakes

The Saratoga standout had a slow start to her career, but quickly made history.

Trained by William H. Karrick for owner William R. Coe, Black Maria posted a career record of 18-14-6 from 52 starts with earnings of $110,350. (National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame)

Black Maria didn’t exactly set the racing world on fire when she made her career debut at Saratoga on August 5, 1925. In a 5½-furlong maiden event, the Kentucky-bred daughter of standout sire Black Toney was never a factor, finishing last in the field of 10. After being defeated twice more at the Spa in the next 10 days, Black Maria broke her maiden on her fourth attempt. She was then trounced in the Hopeful Stakes, finishing ninth, to conclude her 2-year-old summer at Saratoga with a lone victory in five outings. However, there would be better days ahead for Black Maria…much better. 

After a four-length victory in the 1926 Kentucky Oaks, Black Maria returned to Saratoga, finishing second in the Alabama Stakes, first in the Saratoga Sales Stakes, and third to Hall of Famer Crusader in the Huron Handicap. That fall, she won two stakes at Belmont, the Aqueduct Handicap, and the October Handicap at Jamaica. At the close of that season, Black Maria was regarded as the top 3-year-old mare in America, having won or placed in 15 of 17 starts that year and with earnings of $56,380 to top all sophomore fillies. 

Black Maria’s 4-year-old season went largely the same way. The mare was first or second in 12 of her 15 races—including a victory against males in the prestigious Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont—and topped the older filly and mare division with earnings of $39,839. But in 1928, her final season, Black Maria struggled to return to her best form, winning only once in her first five outings. Her sixth race, however, was the inaugural edition of the Whitney Handicap at the Spa, in which she went up against 1927 Belmont Stakes winner Chance Shot and Kentucky Derby winner Whiskery. After jockeying for first with Whiskery early on, Black Maria took the lead in the stretch. But Chance Shot was closing in. “For a moment it looked as if Chance Shot would pass ahead to the victory,” The New York Times reported. “However, Black Maria had something left.” At the finish, it was Black Maria by three-quarters of a length in front of Chance Shot. 

The Whitney was Black Maria’s final victory. Although she won only twice as a 5-year-old, she was again regarded as champion mare for 1928, thanks to her Whitney win. At the time of her retirement in late 1928, Black Maria had won 18 races—14 of them stakes, and many of them at the place her legendary racing career kicked off: Saratoga.  

Track Fact:
A female horse aged three years or younger is called a filly. A female horse aged four years or older is called a mare.

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