To some harnesshorsemen, Adios is merely the greatest of standardbred sires. To his extremeadmirers, however, this 22-year-old patriarch is the mightiest father of allthe mammals, past or present. Really far-out Adios buffs such as James C.Harrison of Pennsylvania's giant standardbred nursery. The Hanover Shoe Farms,throw in the fish and the birds.
This is an article from the May 14, 1962 issue
"I know of nomale of any species," says Harrison, "who has dominated his field theway Adios has harness racing. He gets champions out of any mares, by anystallions, out of any bloodlines."
Since HanoverShoe happens to own a one-third share of Adios, Harrison is perhaps a touchbiased. But he, and anyone else who goes to the record, can justify allextravagant superlatives.
Take Adios'achievements in the Messenger Stake, the richest harness race of, all. Hisoffspring have won four of the six Messengers so far, twice finishing one, two,three. Next Friday's $169,000 Messenger at Roosevelt Raceway will make specialnews for horsemen only if the sons of Adios get whipped. There are three Adios3-year-olds in the race, including the redoubtable Lehigh Hanover. "Whenyou get the Adioses to the head of the stretch," says Stanley Dancer,-theNew Jersey reinsman who drives Lehigh, "they dig in and go."
Because they doso in large numbers and with fantastic consistency, new glory accrues to Adiosevery year. As things stand now, this bold-eyed, smallish, symmetrically formedstallion has:
•Led the sirelist in earnings by his sons and daughters for seven consecutive years, toppingthe No. 1 Thoroughbred sire the last four years as well (although flat-racingpurses add up to three times the amount raced for by standardbreds).
•Accumulated10-year earnings of $10,099,726 by his get—a figure more than twice that of hisleading contenders, Rodney and Hoot Mon.
•Sired theabsolute speed record holder for harness racing's standard one-mile distance,Adios Butler, whose mark is 1:54 3/5 and who has just entered the stud at afancy $3,000 service fee.
•Sired the worldrecord holder at ages 2 and 3, Bullet Hanover, whose clockings are 1:57 and1:55 3/5, respectively.
•Sired 52performers who have been timed in two minutes or less. (Timed speed is far moreimportant in harness racing than in flat racing, and two minutes for the mileis par; two-minute horses automatically join the sport's elite. Nearest toAdios in two-minute production is the late, much esteemed Volomite, with 33performers).
•Sired thehighest-priced standardbred yearling, Dancer Hanover ($105,000 in 1958). Onlytwo racehorses, both Thoroughbreds, have brought more as yearlings. They are aSwaps-Obedient colt ($130,000 in 1961) and England's Sayajirao, for whom theMaharaja of Baroda paid $117,600 in 1945.
•Earned a milliondollars, before taxes, for Driver-Trainer Delvin Glenn Miller, the incomparablehorseman who picked up Adios for $21,000 in 1948. This is above and beyond the$500,000 for which Miller sold him in 1955 to Hanover. After the capital gainstax, the sale left Miller with a juicy lump sum of $375,000.
Shortly afterselling Adios, who had never left his farm, Miller repurchased a one-thirdinterest for $166,666. The Pennsylvania road contractor and horseman, MaxHempt, also bought in for a third. Hanover already has collected $1,307,500 inAdios yearling sales for its one-third share. Even if Adios dies after thecurrent breeding season (he is in excellent health), Hanover stands to earnnearly $1 million more from the three Adios crops on their way to the sales andthen the races. Hempt also has made a massive profit, as has Miller.
All this isremarkable enough, but perhaps the most arresting aspect of the Adios story isthat horses of his gait were the humble proletariat of harness racing not sovery long ago. Adios is a pacer, as are most of his offspring. They move bylifting both legs on one side simultaneously, then those on the other, and soon. (The other light-harness gait, and until recently the proud and dominantone, is the trotting gait. Trotters lift the left front and right rear legs atthe same time, then the right front and left rear legs.)
Two hundred yearsago George Washington lent his aristocratic presence to a pacing race atAccotink, near Mount Vernon. He entered a horse and paid a jockey 12 shillingsto ride—not drive—him (these were saddle horses). When in the 19th century thepacer was hitched to cart and sulky, "his loss of vogue was immense andimmediate," according to the late John Hervey, the foremost historian oftrotting.
"No gentlemandrives a pacer," sneered the bloods who flashed over the roads of theAtlantic seaboard behind the smart, jaunty trotters who were the forerunners oftoday's standardbred racers. This dictum, though watered down as years passed,forced second-class status upon the pacer until after World War II, but now thetables are turned. The new, postwar breed of owners like pacers very much,because they can hang a pair of hobbles on them and get them racing without allthe fine, expensive tuning trotters require.
Moreover, thepacing strain seems to be a dominant one in breeding. A trotter-bred sire oftenproduces pacers; pacers rarely father trotters. Today the pacer isking—outnumbering the trotter two to one on the racecourses—and nothing betterepitomizes his climb than the career of Adios. Bred in Indiana by the late LeoC. McNamara, Adios was sold for $2,000 as a yearling to one Thomas Thomas, aCleveland meat dealer. If the colt's pedigree was not quite classic it was agood, solid one, stemming in male line from Leland Stanford's trotter,Electioneer, a son of the fabled Hambletonian. Adios' sire was Hal Dale, whosename reflects a splash of the blood of the Tennessee pacing Hals, and his damwas Adioo Volo, a daughter of the immense trotting-bred pacer Adioo Guy(2:00¾).
As a racehorse,Adios was one of the two finest pacers of his day, the other being King'sCounsel. It was wartime, and they paced for everything but money. In four yearsand a fraction Adios started 88 races, won 44 and earned precisely $33,329,although he set six world records.
His finestperformance was in Lexington, Ky. in 1944. There, at 4, he outpaced King'sCounsel in two straight heats, each in 1:58¼. The cumulative time lowered atwo-heat world record of 30 years' standing.
Adios was drivenat 2 and 3 by the late Rupert Parker. Falling ill in the spring when Adios was4, Parker handed the horse over to Frank Ervin, who found the pickings paltry."When the horse was 5 I could only get two races for him," recallsErvin, who has since become famous as a colt trainer. "We went for $1,200at Goshen and $1,000 at Lexington, and we couldn't get another blessed race.There just wasn't any money for fast-class pacers in those days. Oh, yes, wedid get $500 for lowering the track record at Du Quoin, Illinois from twominutes to 1:57½, against time.
"It was ashame, because Adios was grand-looking and great-gaited, with a very highflight of speed. His only fault was that he raced better on the front end thanbehind. Coming from behind he'd sometimes get lapped on the leader and justhang there and sulk. But when he was cuttin' out all the pace he was awful hardto catch."
Ervin tried topeddle Adios for Thomas at Lexington, in 1945, asking $7,500 but finding notakers. During the winter, though, he sweet-talked the late Harry Warner,eldest of Hollywood's Warner Brothers, and a West Coast textile man named L. K.Shapiro into buying the horse for $16,500.
Ervin raced Adiosthree times as a 6-year-old at Santa Anita, where Warner and Shapiro were amongthe organizers of a harness race meeting. The second time out, Adios set aworld record of 1:44 for the seldom-raced distance of seven furlongs. The nextweek he was defeated. As Ervin recalls the aftermath, Warner was critical.Ervin quit him, and Driver Neal Boardman guided Adios in his next and lastrace, which he narrowly won in cheap company after starting with a 130-foothandicap. Adios was trained at 7 and 8 and booked to a few nondescript mares inthose years, but he raced no more. During 1948 Warner and Shapiro decided todisband their standardbred stable, and Adios went into the auction ring inLexington in the fall of the year.
Here entered DelMiller. There probably never has been a man to equal Miller as an all-roundharness horseman. He is affable, he is shrewd and it detracts nothing from hisfame to say that he also is very lucky. Adioses do not fall to unlucky men.
In 1948 Millerwas private trainer for W. N. Reynolds of the Carolina tobacco people (Camelcigarettes). Miller had bought a 360-acre dairy farm in Meadow Lands, a drablittle town in the hilly bituminous coal country of southwestern Pennsylvania.He wanted to start breeding harness horses on his own. Above all, he needed asuperior stallion.
As all horsemenknow, picking stallions is like drilling for oil. You can't tell in advancewhether you will bring in a gusher or hit a duster. Miller sought expert advicefrom the man whose counsel he most respected—the late H. M. (Doc) Parshall, afirst-rate driver-trainer who was also a veterinarian.
"BuyAdios," advised Doc Parshall. "Look back at his dams. This horse isgoing to sire great fillies, and that will make his chances all thebetter."
Miller, who hadseen and admired Adios as a racehorse, became obsessed with the idea of buyinghim. But he had just $5,000 in the bank; the horse might sell for anything from$10,000 to $50,000.
One angel who hadpromised to back Miller deserted him on the very morning of the sale. A secondangel materialized, however, in Duke Kelly, a used-car dealer pal of Miller'swho had flown to Lexington with him from Winston-Salem.
At ringside thatnight, among others, were Lawrence B. Sheppard, the master of Hanover ShoeFarms, who then had no designs on Adios ("The horse had been buried out inCalifornia"); Frank Ervin, who did; and a mysterious character in levis andcowboy boots.
"There was alot of bidding on Adios up to $10,000," Miller recalls, "and then itseemed to hang there. I said, "$10,100.' All of a sudden it pops up to$11,000. I look around to see who's bidding against me, and there's this guywho looks like a cowboy. We go along like that, with me raising the price ahundred every time he jumps to the next thousand. When he gets to 20 thousand Ihold up one finger, meaning $20,100.
"GeorgeSwinebroad, the auctioneer, says, 'I have $21,000,' and now the cowboy quitsand I own Adios. But I was pretty mad about getting soaked for the extra $900and I raised a fuss. The auction people offered to send him back through thering. I said, 'No, thanks, I guess I'll keep the horse.' "
The cowboy, itdeveloped, had been sent to the sale by Harry Warner to protect Adios to$20,000. It is Frank Ervin's recollection that he was in the bidding to$14,000. He hadn't wanted to go above $10,000 but "got fiddling around"because he and another horseman wanted to stand Adios in Kentucky.
Adios was a hitfrom the start. From his very first crop of California-bred foals came thetwo-minute pacer Prince Adios. Miller scuffled mightily to find decent maresfor Adios at the then somewhat steep service fee of $300, but he often had tosettle for mediocre ones. Thus it was with the produce of ordinary matrons thatAdios began to make his reputation. Breeders speak of "nicks," or theaffinity of one bloodline for another. "Adios didn't nick with thosemares," says one horseman, "he overwhelmed them."
In dazzling andunparalleled succession came the great sons and daughters of Adios: Adios Boyand Adios Betty, Adios Harry (1:55!) and Dottie's Pick; the Butler, the Bulletand the marvelous free-legged mare Countess Adios—boys and girls together,overrunning the classic colt races and the now-rich free-for-alls in astupefying display of speed and stamina.
Adios leads acomfortable life at Miller's Meadow Lands Farm, but one devoid of showplaceplush. His large and airy stall is at one corner of a plain wooden barn. Hespends a great deal of time listening to the light classical FM music pipedinto the barn, standing quietly, with his glistening, finely crested neck heldlow toward the horizontal and his magnificent head still. Sloping away belowthe barn is his private paddock, where he sports when the weather is fine. Itcontains an apple tree, and Adios sometimes nibbles the windfalls.
Although stillremarkably handsome at 22 (he'll be living on borrowed time after 25), Adios isbeginning to show his age in white hairs among the bay on his forehead and in anoticeable decline in energy. He once covered as many as 70 mares in a season.This year it is 45, next year it will be fewer. For the outside mare owners whocan get to him, his service fee is $12,500—the highest ever, except for a fewprivate deals, for any sire.
Adios haseveryone's awe, but there has been no greater tribute to his eminence thanthis, from E. Roland Harriman, probably the sport's most respected seniorcitizen and a trotting-oriented man who despises hobbles and will not own ahobbled pacer:
"Adios is outof this world. I am glad that I have lived long enough to see himproduce."
[This articlecontains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]
ADIOS' REMARKABLE STUD CAREER
EARNINGS OF HIS GET
*Year of horse's best time