21/5/2020 6:02 pm  #1

Bing Crosby's champion racehorse

In 1965, Bing Crosby entered his racehorse "Meadow Court" into the English Derby held on 2nd June at Epsom, Surrey. The Derby was first run in 1780.

Lester Piggott was Bing's chosen jockey (also remembered for his smooth Derby win on "Nijinsky", the son of the great sire "Northern Dancer", in 1970 - "Northern Dancer" himself being the grandson of "Native Dancer" on his mother's side).  "Meadow Court" (No.1) was the runner-up that day, which was not surprising as he faced one of highest-rated horses of all time "Sea Bird" (aka "Sea Bird II") (No.22), the grandson of "Native Dancer" on the male side.  For the 1965 Epsom Derby, Monsieur Etienne Pollet ("Sea Bird"'s French trainer) had alerted his jockey, Australian-born Pat Glennon, to the public road crossing at the end of the Derby race track and the jockey took care to ease off at the end of the race lest "Sea Bird" got injured, otherwise he would have won by a few more lengths ahead of "Meadow Court".

"Sea Bird" went on to win the Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp in Paris in fine style by 6 lengths defeating an immensely strong international field which included "Diatome" subsequent winner of the Washington DC International at Laurel Park, the unbeaten French Derby, French St Leger and Grand Prix De Paris winner "Reliance", the Kentucky Derby winner "Tom Rolfe" (son of the unbeaten Italian horse "Ribot" a mighty dual winner of the Arc), the Russian champion "Anilin" and Bing Crosby's "Meadow Court" who had since won the 1965 Irish Sweeps Derby.

A combined film of Sea Bird's victories in the 1965 Epsom Derby and the Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe is on the web as below:

"Sea Bird" also won the first ever Racehorse Association’s "Horse of the Year" Award and was named "Horse of the Century" by John Randall & Tony Morris in their esteemed millennium book "A Century of Champions", while his jockey Pat Glennon simply described him as “by far the best horse I have ever seen – let alone ridden.”.

9 years later, "Allez France" daughter of "Sea Bird" and winner of numerous major prizes including the Criterium des Pouliches, Poule d'Essai des Pouliches, Prix de Diane, Prix d'Ispahan, Prix Vermeille and Prix Ganay emulated her brilliant father by winning the Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe in 1974 (but with an injured jockey, only by a head).

Bing's "Meadow Court", the son of "Court Harwell" (GB) & "Meadow Music" (USA) was the great-grandson of the 1933 Derby winner "Hyperion" (owned by the 17th Earl of Derby) on his mother's side, won the Irish Derby at The Curragh racecourse in the same year as being runner-up to the incomparable "Sea Bird".

There is an in-colour film (Pathe News) of the English Derby Day in 1965 at the following link:

Bing's victory at the 1965 Irish Derby with "Meadow Court" was also filmed by "Pathe News" (in black & white) as can be viewed via the link below and Bing in his hat and with a cigar can be seen smiling after his victory:

After his Irish Derby victory, Bing had sang "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling" in the winners' circle for the assembled racegoers and cracked a joke about Bob Hope.

BRITISH MOVIETONE NEWS reported "IRISH DERBY - BIG DAY FOR BING"  - "his first big win ever on this side of the Atlantic" which had prize money of nearly £56,000 (today the prize money is 855,000 Euros or £764,280).

Lester Piggott also had his first win in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes on "Meadow Court" at Ascot on 17th July 1965.  

The photo below is of Lester Piggott on Bing Crosby's "Meadow Court" at Ascot and Lester went on to win the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes race 7 times in all - with "Meadow Court" (1965), "Aunt Edith" (1966), "Park Top" (1969), "Nijinsky" (1970), "Dahlia" (1974), "The Minstrel" (1977) and "Teenoso" (1984).

Below:  Bing Crosby with "Meadow Court" at the Irish Derby in 1965.

In his book "Hollywood At The Races" and after first referring to "Sea Bird" siring the Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe winner "Allez France", the champion hurdler "Sea Pigeon" and the Preakness and Belmont Stakes winner "Little Current", Alan Shuback states:-"conversely, Meadow Court - who was, by any measure, the best horse Bing Crosby ever owned - was a dud at stud. After suffering fertility problems at Sandley Stud in Dorset, England, he was brought back into training as an eight-year-old but failed to regain his old sparkle. He was sent to stud again but never sired anything of value."

Last edited by VictorM (10/11/2021 12:33 pm)


22/5/2020 4:35 am  #2

Re: Bing Crosby's champion racehorse

A racehorse which Bing owned didn't have to settle for second place in November 1941 when his colours were first carried in Australia. Miss Hua won at Sydney's Victoria Park racecourse in the Juvenile Handicap. It won by four lengths, equalling the race record. Of course, Bing did not see the race.


22/5/2020 3:42 pm  #3

Re: Bing Crosby's champion racehorse

Thank you very much Graham for telling us about Bing's racehorse "Miss Hua" and her 4-length victory in November 1941 at Sydney's Victoria Park racecourse..

There is a press article of the time on the Web reporting:


Bing Crosby, famous American crooner, who runs a string of racehorses and is one of the leading figures in racing on the Pacific coast, will soon have his colours carried in Australia. He has leased from Mr. W. J. Smith the filly Miss Hua, daughter of the Victoria Derby winner Hua.

Miss Hua was unplaced when racing in the nomination of Mr. W. J. Smith at Ascot on Wednesday. She is engaged in the Debutante Stakes at the Caulfield Cup meeting, but, according to advice from Sydney, is not likely to run in that event.
Another famous film figure who will soon race horses in Australia is Louis B. Mayer. A few months ago he purchased several yearlings from Mr. Smith's St. Aubin's Stud. They have been named Dinkum Aussie, Bardia, Yarrawonga, Corroboree, and Hughette.
“The Argus” - Saturday 4th October 1941

I looked up "Miss Hua" in the Pedigree Query Web records and see that she was the daugther of "Hua" (Aus) and "La Rasade" (Aus).  "Miss Hua" was the great great great grand-daughter of the amazing and undefeated racehorse "St Simon" (born in 1881) on both her father and mother's sides and similarly for "Carbine" (NZ born in 1885 the great grandson of "West Australian" and the winner of 33 races with 9 placings) also on her mother's side.

Back nine generations from "St. Simon" is the famous unbeatable "Eclipse" (born in 1764) winner of all of his 18 races and about whom the saying goes "Eclipse first, the rest nowhere!".

Last edited by VictorM (12/12/2022 11:47 pm)

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23/5/2020 12:33 am  #4

Re: Bing Crosby's champion racehorse

Bing Crosby's horse "LIGAROTI"

In 1938, racehorse owner Charles Howard arranged a match race for his horse "Seabiscuit" (grandson of the famous horse "Man o' War") against "Ligaroti", a highly rated horse owned by Bing Crosby and Howard's son, Lindsay, through the "Binglin Stable" in Moorpark, California in an event organised to promote Bing Crosby's resort and the Del Mar Racetrack in California. The stable was owned by Bing and close friend, Lindsay. In 1937, Bing Crosby had become a founding partner and member of the Board of Directors of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, operators of Del Mar Racetrack in Del Mar. "Seabiscuit" won that Match Race despite apparent fouling from "Ligaroti"'s jockey but both riders were suspended for rough riding. Because of the row over this with both jockeys blaming the other, Bing's wife Dixie Lee Crosby was left to award the prize trophy whilst Bing and Lindsay looked on!

"Ligaroti" who was the great great grandson of the unbeaten racehorse "St. Simon" had been the winner of 13 of his 21 races including a track record at Hollywood Park racecourse in the Amercican Handicap race. Bing used him in his movie "Sing You Sinners" (1938). Race track scenes were filmed at the Pomona Fairgrounds and at Santa Anita racecourse using two dozen of Crosby's horses in the movie.  

Film critic Bosley Crowther writing in The New York Times liked it saying: "The happily accidental conjunction of Bing Crosby and horse racing (which is Bing’s other love, besides crooning, as you may have read somewhere) has turned out to be the funniest comedy on Broadway, including all the side streets. The only noteworthy difference between reality and Sing You Sinners at the Paramount, is that in the movies Crosby’s horse wins—an unprecedented thing which may be explained by the fact that Bing undoubtedly must have had a hand in the script."  

Bing defied Paramount Pictures in taking the day off on Friday 10th June 1938 whilst fiming "Sing You Sinners" to attend "Hollywood Park" racecourse's opening day (it was originally named "Inglewood Park"). On the 11th June, Bing's horse "Ligaroti" won the Inglewood Handicap race and on 13th June, Bing's horse "High Strike" won the fifth race at odds of 2 - 5.

Note the young jockey and pictures of horses on the movie poster.

On 12th August 1938, with Bing in attendance, the famous match race between "Ligaroti" and "Sea Biscuit" was run over 9½ furlongs (1 3⁄16 miles). The racecourse was packed with some 40,000 racegoers and in addition the race was heard by some 40 million fans listening in to their radios.  A black & white film of the race can be seen via the link below with Bing included watching the race:

"Seabiscuit" later was set to go head-to-head with "War Admiral" (the USA Triple Crown Winner and son of "Man o' War") in the Pimlico match race in November 1938 in Baltimore, Maryland. On November 1, 1938, "Seabiscuit" duly met "War Admiral" in what was called the "Match of the Century".

"War Admiral" was the favourite at odds of 1–4 however "Seabiscuit" won by 4 lengths.

Family Tree: "Man o' War" (born in 1917) was the great great great grandson of "West Australian" (born in 1850) and "West Australian" was the great great great grandson of the unbeatable "Eclipse" (born in 1764) on his mother's side. In 1853, "West Australian" was the first ever winner of the English "Triple Crown".  The last winner of the English "Triple Crown" (the 2000 Guineas, the Derby and the St.Leger) was "Nijinsky", the son of "Northern Dancer" (winner of the 1964 "Kentucky Derby") and ridden by Lester Piggott in 1970 and fifty years on, no other horse has yet managed to repeat this achievement.

29 years after the "Ligaroti" match race, is a short film clip of Royal Ascot 1967 - where gentleman have to follow a "dress code" with a big smile from Bing Crosby at the end of the film (British Pathe) and you'll note that the ladies have imaginative hat creations,

Royal Enclosure "dress code" was decreed at the urging of Beau Brummell (1778 - 1840), once a close friend of Prince Regent (later King George IV), Today, gentlemen must wear morning suits with equally respectable clothes for ladies, who must wear hats. Ascot’s fashion; especially that seen in the Royal Enclosure, has been a main draw to the famous race. Inappropriate dress can get one expelled from the Royal Enclosure - apparently Rod Stewart was once asked to leave for not adhering to the dress code and even Bing Crosby himself was once turned away as he wasn't wearing a tie.  At the time, Bing, it was reported, said to the press "they were right to throw out scum like me"! 

Last edited by VictorM (29/5/2020 8:28 pm)

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25/5/2020 1:46 pm  #5

Re: Bing Crosby's champion racehorse


The "Bing Crosby Stakes" is a yearly horseracing event held at the Del Mar racecourse in California, USA for three year-old horses and older run over a distance of ¾ mile (6 furlongs). Bing was a founding partner in the racecourse property.

The "Bing Crosby Stakes" were first run in 1946 when the dead-heat winners were "War Allies" and "Indian Watch". The most recent 2019 winner was "Cistron".  

Amongst the other 73 past winners of the "Bing Crosby Stakes" were "Olympic Prospect" and "Christmas Boy" horses co-owned by Frank Sinatra!
"Where the Turf meets the Surf"


Bing Crosby greets Del Mar’s first patron, Mrs W.R. Richardson, on the venue’s opening day on 3rd July 1937.
(Photograph: Del Mar Thoroughbred Club)

Bing Crosby sings "Where The Turf Meets The Surf" to promote the Del Mar Turf Club, near San Diego. Bing was a part-owner of Del Mar. The song was written by Johnny Burke, James Vincent Monaco and Bing and it was recorded in Los Angeles with John Scott Trotter & his Orchestra on 5th July 1941.

"Pataha Prince" the winner of the "Bing Crosby Stakes" in 1973 was trained by Robert Julian Frankel who is described as "one of the most successful and respected trainers in the history of thoroughbred racing" winning several trainer awards.  Robert Julian Frankel won several "Eclipse Awards", the year-end thoroughbreds racing awards for best trainer and he set earnings records, Grade 1 stakes victory records and others, also winning the Pacific Classic Stakes for a record 6 times.   

In 2008, a horse from Juddmonte Stud was named "Frankel" in honour of the famous trainer. The colt, son of the great racehorse "Galileo" and "Kind", was trained in Newmarket by the late Sir Henry Cecil, and was victorious in every one of his 14 races receiving the highest rating ever awarded by the British publication "Timeform". However, it should be noted that unlike "Sea Bird", "Ribot", "Nijinsky", "Mill Reef", "Secretariat" and other great racehorse winners, "Frankel" did not tackle any of the longer races like The Derby, etc.

Via the link below, there is a full history of Del Mar on film including Bing Crosby speaking entitled "WHERE THE TURF MEETS THE SURF" and produced in 1990:

Below is a photo taken at another racecourse supported by Hollywood stars "Hollywood Park" (Bing's idol, Al Jolson, was a Director). The three persons on the right-hand side in the first photo below are moviestars Don Ameche, Hedy Lamarr & James Stewart. 

Bing & friends at Del Mar

Bing Crosby with co-founder Pat O'Brien addressing the racegoers at Del Mar in 1937

Dorothy Lamour in the above photo with Bing Crosby at the opening day of Del Mar Racetrack 3rd July 1937.

Bing's horse "High Strike" won the first race on opening day at Del Mar.

Celebrities and filmstars attending Del Mar Racecourse during the 1937 - 1940s & in the 1950s include Dorothy Lamour (gracing the winner's enclosure in 1937), Dick Powell, Joan Blondell, Robert Taylor, Betty Grable, Barbara Stanwyck,  Paulette Goddard, Ava Gardner, Rita Hayworth, Jimmy Durante, Eddie Cantor, George Jessell, Hoagy Carmichael (composer of "Stardust" - recorded by Bing Crosby with the Victor Young Orchestra on Brunswick in 1931), Mickey Rooney, George Raft, Oliver Hardy, Gloria Swanson, W.C.Fields, Gregory Peck, Ann Miller, Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Edgar Bergen and Jayne Mansfield

Bing Crosby sold his interest in Del Mar Racecourse in 1946. The following year, Bing lent his name to a horse-racing board game called "Crosby Derby" (similar to "Monopoly") advertised as the "Closest thing to a real horse race!  Packed with hours of fun and excitement! Everybody plays!".

After Bing Crosby had sold his interest in Del Mar Racecourse and the Binglin Stables, he was largely absent from the racing scene throughout the 1950s. However, his role in the movie "Riding High" (1950 ) allowed Bing to shift from actual racehorse owner to cinematic racehorse trainer.

Bing's wife, Dixie Lee, died on 1st November 1952 of ovarian cancer, Dixie Lee had been a partner in many of Bing's business interests.  The inheritances taxes were so great that Bing was forced to sell off all of the horses he then owned to meet these taxes. 

Bing Crosby won the Irish Derby with "Meadow Court" in 1965 and the film of the race is elsewhere in this topic. The Irish Derby is run over a distance of 1½ miles at the Curragh in County Kildare, now on the last Sunday of June or the first Sunday of July.

The Irish Derby is much younger that its famous counterpart at Epsom, Surrey, as it was not staged until 1886, by which time the (English) Derby had already been established for 86 years. The Irish Derby is Ireland's most prestigious horserace and many of its winners have been of the highest class.  Bing Crosby had high hopes for a second Irish Derby winner in 1967 with a horse named "Dominion Day" he owned in partnership but a few days before the big race, his trainer Paddy Prendergast reported that the colt was unwell and he was withdrawn. Subsequently, "Dominion Day" won the Blandford Stakes at the Curragh in September 1967 and also won three stake races at Woodbine in Canada. "Dominion Day" would be the last of Bing Crosby's notable racehorses. A Grade 3 race named after "Dominion Day" is now run at Woodbine every July.

Just 2½ months before his own demise at the age of 73 after playing golf with three Spanish champions at La Moraleja Golfcourse just outside Madrid, Bing Crosby had made a nostalgic farewell visit to his former Del Mar Racecourse on 31st July 1977 to see the race that bears his name, the "Bing Crosby Handicap".  It was the first time that Bing had been back to his old racetrack in 30 years. Tragically, 16 days later after that final July visit, the young artist that Bing had once kindly praised years before, Elvis Presley, also died on 16th August 1977 aged only 42.

Columnist and foreign correspondent for the "Daily Racing Form" and American correspondent for the British "Sporting Life" daily paper, Alan Shuback, wrote in his book "Hollywood at the Races" that "Del Mar is a fitting tribute to Bing Crosby's enduring legacy as a sportsman and a showman".

In the sleeve notes to his book, Alan Schuback quotes Ed Sullivan saying in 1939 "Hollywood has gone nuts over horse racing, and by the same token racing has gone nuts over Hollywood.".  The author says "Horse Racing was so popular and influential between 1930 and 1960 that nearly 150 racing themed films were released in that thirty-year period" and in his book, he explores the relationship between the Hollywood film industry, the horse racing industry, and the extraordinary participation of producers, directors, and actors in the sport of kings and points out that the stars' presence at the track attracted the attention of eager photographers and gossip columnists, generating free publicity for their new films mentioning Louis B Mayer, Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, Betty Grable and Don Ameche as all being major thoroughbred owners, while Mickey Rooney, Chico Marx and John Huston were notorious for their gambling losses.

Last edited by VictorM (10/11/2021 1:39 pm)

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