Those who have seen Dr Fager race have said with confidence that he was unbeatable in any distance up to a mile. This massive thoroughbred racehorse made a name for itself in 1968 when he became the only horse to ever hold four titles in one year. In that year he became the Handicap Champion, the Sprinter Champion, the Grass Co-champion and he won the Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year. This was an amazing accomplishment at best, let alone on a grass surface that didn’t agree with him.
Dr Fager started life in Florida as a bay colt sired by Rough ‘n Tumble in 1964. He was bred by his owner, the Tartan Stable of William L. McKnight, and trained by John Nerud who has since been inducted to the Hall of Fame. John Nerud decided to name the colt after Dr Charles Fager, the brain surgeon who saved his life after Nerud has a serious fall from his pony as a child. Nerud willingly admitted that Dr Fager was an arrogant, headstrong and conceited colt and that he was difficult to rate. However he made his juvenile debut as a two-year-old in 1966 at Aqueduct – a race he won by seven lengths. His success didn’t stop there, and he went on to win an allowance race by eight lengths, then the World’s Playground Stakes by 12 lengths and yet again at the Cowdin Stakes by three-quarters of a length. His success was curbed in Champagne when he finished second to Successor. As a three year old, he finished first in every start except for one – the Woodward Handicap at Belmont Park in 1967. Despite all this early success, he only really made his name in 1968 when he won his four different titles in the same year.
This fantastic horse raced 22 times, won eighteen races and had two places and one show. He was only beaten by three other horses and his lifetime earnings amounted to $1,002,642. He set the record for the fastest one mile in the world in 1968 – a staggering 1:32 1/5 – which was set at the Washington Park Handicap at Arlington Park and achieved while carrying 134 pounds of weight. He still holds this record. It was said that Dr Fager hated to see horses in front of him – he was even outwardly aggressive to them. Perhaps it was this arrogant, die-hard attitude that helped to etch his name into the record books.