Roman Brother did not begin life with any great expectations. Born at Florida’s famous Ocala Stud in 1961, he was sired by Third Brother, a good stakes winner but nowhere close to the ability of his champion full brother Hill Prince or his champion half brother First Landing. Third Brother was not a particularly distinguished sire, and while Roman Brother’s dam Roman Zephyr was herself a minor stakes winner, her four foals prior to Roman Brother had not been outstanding. The colt himself was a small, lightly made animal who was not particularly attractive, leading to his being gelded as a young horse, and he fetched a relatively modest $23,500 at the 1963 Ocala Breeders’ Sales auction of two-year-olds in training. The purchaser was Mr. and Mrs. Louis E. Wolfson’s Harbor View Farm, later to gain its greatest fame by breeding and racing Triple Crown winner Affimed.
The little gelding proved businesslike and useful, with no particular vices. Nonetheless, he began his racing career in the shadow of a stablemate, the brilliant Raise a Native. A son of the mighty Native Dancer and the stakes-winning Case Ace mare Raise You, Raise a Native was a handsome half brother to the good stakes winner Kingmaker and hit the races with high expectations. He did not disappoint, though his career was all too brief. He won his debut over five furlongs by six lengths. Two months later, in his second start, Raise a Native set a new track record for five furlongs at Aqueduct. He equaled that track record in his next start, the Juvenile Stakes, and set another new track record, this for five and one-half furlongs, while defeating the good colts Mr. Brick and Chieftain in the Great American Stakes. That was all for Raise a Native, however, who injured himself while in training for the Sapling Stakes and was forced into retirement. Despite his brief campaign, he was voted champion two-year-old male in one poll and was assigned highweight of 126 pounds on the Experimental Free Handicap.
Roman Brother was not so brilliant, but he proved an excellent second-stringer. Coming into his best form late in the season, he won the Champagne Stakes and might have shared the juvenile championship with his stablemate had he won the Garden State Stakes. He was beaten decisively by Hurry to Market, however, and had to settle for second place in the race and third place in the division in the year-end rankings. He shared his ranking with two other colts: the Arlington-Washington Futurity winner Golden Ruler, who like Raise a Native did not outlast his juvenile season, and the Cowdin Stakes winner Chieftain, who would emerge at four as a good handicapper.
The little gelding (he stood about 15.2 hands and was of similar size to the diminutive Northern Dancer, though more lightly built) did not fill out much over the winter of 1963, but in 1964 showed himself to be among the best of his division. After winning the Bahamas and Everglades stakes and running second in the Fountain of Youth Stakes in Florida, he prepped for the Kentucky Derby with a third behind Quadrangle in the Wood Memorial. He did not get the best of trips in the Kentucky Derby, finishing fourth behind Northern Dancer while in close quarters, and ran second to the strapping Quadrangle in the testing Belmont Stakes. He improved through the summer and fall, winning the American Derby and Jersey Derby, the New Hampshire Sweepstakes (in track record time), and the Discovery Handicap. He also ran second to Kelso in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, outfinishing his old rival Quadrangle, and was rated third among the sophomore males by the Blood-Horse at season’s end. In the Daily Racing Form’s year-end rankings, Roman Brother was rated at 127 pounds, equal with Quadrangle and one pound below division champion Northern Dancer.
Roman Brother had gone wrong over the winter of 1964 and was slow coming into his best form in 1965 although he finished ahead of defending champion Kelso in both the Brooklyn Handicap and the Aqueduct Stakes, running second and third, respectively, in those races. With a smashing eight-length score in the Stymie Handicap (in which Roman Brother did not participate), Kelso seemed to be announcing that he was fully prepared to defend his crown. But an eye injury suffered during the running of the Stymie knocked Kelso out for the remainder of the season, and in his absence, Roman Brother came into his own with a ten-length score over the good stakes winners Royal Gunner and *Malicious in the Woodward Stakes. He then won the Manhattan Handicap by eight lengths and the Jockey Club Gold Cup by five in a performance so easy that jockey Braulio Baeza later said, “He just galloped.”
Attempting to emulate Kelso’s victory in the 1964 Washington, D.C., International, Roman Brother could do no better than third behind *Diatome (who had been third behind the great *Sea-Bird in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe) and *Carvin II. Roman Brother finished best of the American contingent, however, and on the basis of these performances was named champion older male in all three polls then extant. He was also named Horse of the Year in the Triangle Publications’ year-end poll, splitting the honors with the sensational juvenile filly Moccasin. Undefeated and unextended in eight starts within her own division, Moccasin was named Horse of the Year by the Thoroughbred Racing Association and Turf and Sport Digest polls, causing a certain amount of controversy since there were some voters who doubted whether she was the superior of the Futurity winner Priceless Gem within her own division.
Nonetheless, Roman Brother had finally ended Kelso’s long reign atop the handicap ranks. He was not, however, to start a run of championships of his own. He made but two starts at five, winning an allowance race at Hialeah and running fourth in the Seminole Handicap at the same track. He retired with sixteen wins, ten seconds, and five thirds from 42 starts, earning $943,473. Not bad for a horse who started his racing career as a second stringer.
© 2005 by Avalyn Hunter