Twenty Grand is best known for his many battles on the turf with Equipoise – not his unsuccessful bid for a Triple Crown one year after Gallant Fox took the same award.
But that year was not a battle of two horses, but four (Jamestown and Merit were also outstanding horses that year). In fact, Merit cost Twenty Grand a chance at immortality.
Twenty Grand was good as a 2-year-old, but not great, winning half of his eight starts. Instead, the spotlight shone on Jamestown and Equipoise, who shared 2-year-old Horse of the Year honors in 1930.
The next year was Twenty Grand’s. He opened with a victory in the Wood Memorial and went into the Preakness (which was then run before the Kentucky Derby) as the 8-5 favorite, ahead of Equipoise and Merit.
Problems in the Preakness
Trouble found Twenty Grand from the start. Entering the clubhouse turn, a horse named Solls Gills bumped into both Twenty Grand and Equipoise, causing them to lose considerable ground as they veered toward the outside of the track. Both horses recovered, and the mile pole, almost the entire field of seven was within 3 1/2 lengths of Clock Tower, who set the pace.
But Charlie Kurtsinger, aboard Twenty Grand, found himself boxed in entering the homestretch and had to check his mount to go around horses. The decision cost him; he rallied by finished 1 1/2 lengths behind Mate. Equipoise finished a badly beaten fourth, limping off the track.
The Derby was a different story. Twenty Grand fell behind by almost 10 lengths in the early going and went wide going into the far turn, but Kurtsinger let his colt loose. Twenty Grand responded, winning by four lengths and breaking the 17-year-old track record set by Old Rosebud. Mate finished third.
In the Belmont, Jamestown, fresh off three wins in three starts as a 3-year-old, was one of only two horses to face Twenty Grand, but it was no contest. After falling behind early again, Kurtsinger urged the colt to the lead, and he ran away with the race, winning by 10 lengths over Sun Meadow. Jamestown finished last. The time was 2:29 3/5, about two seconds faster than the stakes record set by Gallant Fox a year earlier.
Following the Belmont, the romp continued. He won the Dwyer Stakes, injuring his back in the process, which may have explained his third-place finish in the Arlington Classic. After a five-week layoff, he won the Travers Stakes by 1 3/4 lengths and then won the Saratoga Cup by 10 lengths over Sun Beau.
Twenty Grand then won the Lawrence Realization by six lengths and won the two-mile Jockey Club Gold Cup as a 1-50 favorite. However, he struck his left leg in the race and suffered nerve damage; he was never the same afterward, winning only two of five races at 4 and 7. He was sterile at stud.
But no one can take away his three-year-old campaign, in which he won 8 of 10 races and won Horse of the Year honors. And if it weren’t for some traffic problems in the Preakness, we might have had two Triple Crown winners in a row.