By Dick Jerardi
Jim Maloney wrote two letters to tout the merits of a horse he groomed for a short time. Jockey Tony Black regularly mentioned his favorite horse on Steve Byk’s Sirius radio show.
Whether it was the efforts of Maloney and Black or it was finally just time, the great My Juliet will be honored on Aug. 2 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. as she takes her rightful place in the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame.
My Juliet was selected by the Museum’s Historic Review Committee. The only question is: what took so long?
My Juliet, like Black, a member of Parx Racing’s initial Hall of Fame class, will become the first Parx-based horse to make the National Hall of Fame. She is one of just four divisional champions that have been stabled regularly at Parx, along with Gallant Bob, Smarty Jones and Jaywalk.
My Juliet began her career on April 2, 1974 at Fonner Park and ended it Sept. 24, 1977 at Belmont Park. She won the Black Eyed Susan, Cotillion and Test as a 3-year-old in 1975. She ran really well in the Ashland and Kentucky Oaks.
She ran Kentucky Derby winner Bold Forbes off his feet in the 1976 Vosburgh to clinch her Eclipse Award as Sprint Champion. She won major stakes going long, but was nearly unbeatable sprinting, winning 19 of 24 races between 6 and 7 furlongs.
My Juliet ran at 16 racetracks from coast to coast. She won at Hawthorne, Sportsman’s Park, Keeneland, Churchill Downs, Pimlico, Monmouth Park, Ak-Sar-Ben, Saratoga, Laurel, Aqueduct, Belmont Park, Santa Anita, Delaware Park and Detroit Race Course.
She was at Keystone with trainer Gene Euster from the fall of 1975 to the fall of 1977. Maloney worked for Euster and still remembers where My Juliet was every day – Barn 18, Stall No. 1. She ran four times at her home track and won them all, including the 1977 Neshaminy Handicap when she ran 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:14 3/5, a track record that stood for 32 years. The great Gallant Bob could do no better than fourth in that race.
Black rode My Juliet in the final 12 races of her career. He will be making the trip to Saratoga to be part of the ceremony. Black will never forget her and he will especially not forget the day My Juliet beat Bold Forbes and he got the best of the legendary Angel Cordero.
“I was just a kid,” Black said. “We walked into the gate and (Cordero) said, ‘Just keep ‘em straight, don’t get in my way leaving here.’
“I did what I always did. If you were on the inside, I kinda herded you out of there. If you came around me, I herded you, parked you a little bit.”
My Juliet took the lead at the start and Bold Forbes could never catch up, the filly winning by 2 lengths and running the 7 furlongs in 1:21 4/5. Bold Forbes was second. Cordero claimed foul.
“I’ll never forget going in the winner’s circle, we’re circling, (and) Gene Euster wanted to know what happened,” Black said. “I said, ‘I didn’t do nothing more than I do anyplace else. It ain’t coming down.’”
My Juliet did not come down. In fact, Bold Forbes was the one that got disqualified Maloney was not My Juliet’s regular groom, but had her for a month between races late in her career when her regular groom took ill.
He remembered they called her the “Bionic Filly” after the “Bionic Man” TV series of the time. She won the Vagrancy Handicap on May 3, 1976, but suffered a fractured cannon bone. After getting surgery at the New Bolton Center where two screws were inserted, My Juliet returned that Oct. 1 at Keystone. She won that day and then finished off the year with three more wins, including the Vosburgh. She ran some of her greatest races after the surgery. Thus, the “Bionic Filly”.
“That filly was amazing because she ran against the boys,” Black said. “Gender never intimidated her.”
She finished in front of Preakness winner Master Derby in the 1975 Omaha Gold Cup. In her penultimate race, she won the Michigan Mile and an Eighth over a top field of males that included On the Sly.
My Juliet raced 36 times. She finished second or third just six times. When she was close, she won, 24 times in all from 36 races.
After she retired, My Juliet had some terrific foals, including Stella Madrid who won four Grade I stakes, including the Acorn, Matron, Spinaway and Fritzette. Her daughter Tis Juliet won the Grade I Shuvee.
My Juliet was owned by George Weasel, Jr., a.k.a. the “Radish King of the Midwest”. She was 29 when she died in November 2001.
Now, My Juliet will live on forever in the National Hall of Fame. Black loves talking about her career and especially loves remembering the leadup to that Vosburgh.
“Cordero said it would take a jet airplane (to beat Bold Forbes),” Black said.
Turned out Black was riding a rocket ship named My Juliet.