Aqueduct racetrack first opened on September 27, 1894, on a 23-acre site in Queens, the largest of New York City’s five boroughs. There were fewer than 700 patrons, along with six bookmakers, present for opening day. The first meeting sanctioned by The Jockey Club was run a year later.
Originally a six-furlong track, Aqueduct was enlarged and its stands rebuilt in 1905, the same year the inaugural meeting was held at Belmont Park, eight miles away.
Wagering was declared illegal in New York in 1911 and 12, and the old Gravesend track in Brooklyn was closed, with several of its major races transferred to Aqueduct when racing resumed in 1913. The grandstand was once again rebuilt in 1940, the same year pari-mutuel wagering was introduced and bookmakers abolished.
Major changes came after Aqueduct – along with Belmont, Saratoga and Jamaica – was incorporated in 1955 into the new non-profit Greater New York Association, later to become the New York Racing Association. Aqueduct was once again torn down in 1956 and its stakes races transferred to Jamaica until 1959, when Jamaica was demolished for housing and the new Aqueduct opened. It hosted the second Breeders’ Cup in 1985.
Aqueduct’s present incarnation has played host to such notable champions as Kelso, Buckpasser, Dr Fager, Forego, Secretariat, Cigar - and Affectionately, known to her many fans as The Queen of Queens, after the Big A’s home borough.
A relative of Sea Hero and Allez France
Aqueduct benefitted from the closure of Belmont Park from 1963 through 1967, becoming the sole New York City area track while Belmont’s grandstand was being completely rebuilt (training still took place there). Affectionately won a total of 13 stakes races at Aqueduct.
A dark bay or brown filly, Affectionately was foaled on April 26, 1960, at Dr Charles Hagyard’s farm in Lexington, Kentucky. She was bred by the successful partnership of prominent trainer Hirsch Jacobs and Isidor Bieber and trained by Jacobs. She raced in the colors of Jacobs’ wife, Ethel D. Jacobs.
Affectionately was by 1955 Kentucky Derby winner and 1956 Horse of the Year Swaps. Her dam, Searching, a foal of 1952 by Triple Crown winner War Admiral, was sold by her breeder Ogden Phipps to Jacobs for $15,000 in the summer of her 3-year-old season. She hadn’t been much of a success up to then, going 0 for 13 as a 2-year-old, but under Jacobs’ care she reeled off a string of stakes wins, including Pimlico’s Gallorette, the Correction at Jamaica, the Diana at Saratoga and the Maskette, Top Flight and Distaff, all at Belmont.
Searching went on to even greater prowess as a broodmare. From eight foals, seven were winners and three stakes winners. These included Admiring, who produced Glowing Tribute, dam of 1993 Kentucky Derby winner Sea Hero along with six other stakes winners, and Priceless Gem, dam of 1974 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Allez France.
Affectionately was Searching’s first foal. Not a particularly big filly at 15.3 ¾ hands, Affectionately lived up to her name and was said to have a sweet disposition and a dislike of off tracks.
Affectionately made her first start in her owner’s salmon pink and green colors, also carried by 1945 champion older male Stymie and 1970 Belmont Stakes winner High Echelon, in a three-furlong maiden race at Santa Anita on January 17 of her 2-year-old season, which would be unheard of today.
Six of her nine wins as a juvenile were in stakes, the Fashion and Astoria at Aqueduct, the National Stallion Stakes at Belmont, the Polly Drummond at Delaware, the Spinaway at Saratoga and Monmouth’s Sorority.
Early brilliance recaptured
She raced exclusively in New York as a 3-year-old, but didn’t excel nearly as much as in the previous year, her place being filled by Spicy Living and the ill-fated Lamb Chop. Her first and only stakes win came in November, when she took the Interborough by a length and a half. From nine starts, she won four times.
At four, she recaptured her early brilliance. In April, she led most of the way to land the six furlong Correction at Aqueduct. She came back to win the Interborough for a second time and defeated males twice, in the six furlong Sport Page, the latter under jockey Bill Shoemaker, and the seven furlong Vosburgh in November.
Her final start of the year was at Santa Anita on December 31, in the six-furlong Las Flores Handicap, where she dead-heated under 125 pounds with Chop House, carrying 119. She concluded the season with eight wins, five in stakes, from 15 starts.
Her first start at five was also at Santa Anita in the 1 1/16 mile Santa Maria Handicap in February, where she finished second. In April, carrying 124 pounds and giving weight to males, she became the first female to win the Toboggan Handicap in 55 years. She took the six-furlong event at Aqueduct by five lengths in 1.09 2/5 in front of a crowd of 34,000.
Although her best performances being at under a mile, she won the nine-furlong Top Flight by eight lengths in May. Later that month she was third in the Met Mile behind multiple stakes winners Gun Bow and Chieftain before a then record crowd of 73,435.
In June, she won the seven-furlong Vagrancy under a whopping 137 pounds, including rider Walter Blum, giving from 17 to 28 pounds to her opponents. She led from start to finish and was six lengths in front at the furlong pole before tiring to last home by a head over Sought After, carrying 111 pounds.
Champion sprinter title
She again faced males in the $100,000 Suburban at a mile and a quarter at Aqueduct in July. Gun Bow was the favorite, toting 131 pounds, but the winner was Pia Star under a featherweight of 117 pounds. Gun Bow was fifth, and Affectionately sixth in the field of seven.
She also won the six-furlong Liberty Belle with 132 pounds and the seven-furlong Distaff under 128, both at Aqueduct, and was second in the Sport Page under 127.
The Queen of Queens was crowned champion sprinter of 1965.
In 52 career starts over four seasons, she notched up 28 wins, 18 of them in stakes, and earned $546,660. She was only the second filly, after Cicada, to surpass a half-million dollars in earnings.
In March 1966, Jacobs announced Affectionately’s retirement. She would be bred to Jacobs’ young stallion Hail To Reason, the champion 2-year-old of 1960. The result was Personality, winner of the Preakness, Woodward, Wood Memorial, Jim Dandy and Jersey Derby, and named champion 3-year-old male of 1970. Hirsch Jacobs died in early 1970 and his son, John, handled the training of Personality. Due to fertility problems, Affectionately had just four foals, only two of which raced.
She died on March 31, 1979, and was buried at Spendthrift Farm in Kentucky. She was elected to the Racing Hall of Fame in 1989.
1971 American Racing Manual
1997 NYRA Media Guide
A Second Quarter-century of American Racing, 1941 through 1965, The Blood-Horse, 1967
Matriarchs, Great Mares of the Twentieth Century, Edward L. Bowen, The Blood-Horse, 1999
Thoroughbred Champions, Top 100 Racehorses of the 20th Century, The Blood-Horse
- Joe Hirsch American racing columns in The Sporting Life, 1962-65