by Bob Gates
In 2015 the Wheat City Stakes was renamed the Manitoba Mile and Friday, July 28 marks the 40th Anniversary of Stuart Polet's "Fud the Stud's" win in the Wheat City in 1977.
What? You've never heard of Fud the Stud? Well, I'm just having a little fun, Fud was his barn name, perhaps his race name, "Federal Ruler" is more familiar! On the anniversary of his Wheat City win 40 years ago we remember and pay tribute to Federal Ruler or as his friends knew him, Fud the Stud or Ruler.
If you owned a stakes race quality thoroughbred in the '70s and hoped to make any money at the racing game you needed a horse with chops. With competition like Macale, Turn to Rule, Lexico, Michael Magee, Victor's Pride, Sunraysed, Taboga, Persian Memories, Merry's Jay, Icy Welcome and Island Fling, there was no room for mediocrity in the stakes/allowance ranks from 1975 to 1977.
In 1974 Stuart Polet decided he wanted to give horse racing a go. To start, he picked up a couple of "Ribot" horses from Bill Wysocky. He then spoke with trainer Brian Palaniuk about finding a quality runner to head up his small stable. A few months later Palaniuk and Polet partnered on a $4,200 stallion they purchased in Kentucky. Fud was a handsome looking chestnut grandson of Bold Ruler with Man O' War blood on the female side of the family tree, albeit several generations back. Both were satisfied that they had found themselves a horse that might be a keeper.
After the 1975 season Polet bought out Palaniuk's interest in Fud. Oh my, was he a keeper! How good was Federal Ruler? I'll let his race record speak for his ability on the track.
His racing career at the Downs lasted three short years. Fud racked up 11 wins, 7 seconds and 5 thirds in 35 outings! That's a win clip of 31% and he was in the money a remarkable 66% of his races. The multiple stakes winning stallion amassed career earnings in excess of $100,000, which was fantastic money for a horse in the '70s.
In the races he won he beat Macale six times, Turn to Rule and Sunraysed four times, Jack's Charger, Michael Magee, Persian Memories and Island Fling twice and Merry's Jay and Lexico once!
1975: Won the River Park Handicap, third in the Gold Cup
1976: Second in the River Park Handicap and the Canada Day Handicap
1977: Won the Wheat City, second in the Gold Cup and the River Park Handicap
Ironically in his first two races at the Downs in 1975, Fud ran for a tag. He made his first start for a claiming price of $5,000 and his second for $6,500, but thereafter he was strictly an allowance/stakes race specialist. Wouldn't he have been a great claim for $5,000?
For a stallion, Fud was reasonably well behaved, but he was a tough nut to work on the race track. His regular exercise rider was Tom Windross, who found it better to gallop Fud along the power lines north of the track. Just a quick word on Tommy, I doubt that there's anyone who has galloped more horses, and I'm told the red head was one of the toughest hombres around.
I spoke with Kenny Hendricks, who rode Fud several times. He said Fud was a good looking chestnut and a character who liked to clown around when he was feeling good. On days when Fud was particularly frisky Hendricks said he knew he was in for the ride of his life!
The race I will always remember was the July 1, 1977 running of the Golden Sweepstakes Handicap. The race wasn't without its controversy and some even say that not all the gates opened at the same time in that race. Others said the starter's bell sounded a split second before the gates opened, but something weird occurred at the start of the race.
When the gates opened Fud spooked, unceremoniously dumped Dean Kutz on his butt and took off on a solo mission around the track. Officially Macale was the race winner, but Fud with no jockey to guide him beat Macale to the wire with a proud, postured head that said "I'm the Best!"
Eventually Fud was retired to do what stallions do, father babies. Polet had a profitable career with Fud and sold him (for more than his original purchase price) to Saskatchewan interests for stud purposes. Without Fud, racing wasn't as much fun for Polet, and as quickly as he entered racing he was gone, to once again concentrate solely on his construction business.
When I spoke with Stuart about his racing days, he explained how exciting it was and how much fun he had in the sport. He fondly recalled the good times and wondered where the 40 years had gone. It's funny how fast time flies, and I got the sense that if Polet could, he would rewind the hands of time and go back to the good ol' days and give it another go…
with Fud the Stud!