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Chestnut filly, 1837.
By Trustee - Bonnets O' Blue by Sir Charles.
Darley Arabian Sire line:
Eclipse Branch.


Fashion is one of the all-time great race mares of the American turf. Game, sturdy and long-running, she was the celebrated winner of one of the most important races held in 19th century America, a four mile match against the famous Boston, held at the Union Course on Long Island, New York. She set a new American record for that distance in the process, and became the adored banner-carrier for the northern states in this most famous of the North-South sectional matches held in the years prior to the Civil War.

Fashion was bred and owned by William Gibbons of Madison, New Jersey, who raced only his home-breds for "public money," and never bet on them. Gibbons had secured her dam, the grey Bonnets O' Blue, from Philadelphian John C. Craig, who had had a half-interest in Bonnets O' Blue during her racing career, and who had purchased her outright for $2,000 from her breeder and co-owner, Col. William R. Johnson, when she was retired from the turf.

Bonnets O' Blue
Bonnets O' Blue
Bonnets O' Blue was by Sir Charles, five times leading sire in the U.S., and one of Sir Archy's best sons. Her dam was the great race mare Reality, who beat both Timoleon and Sir Charles on the turf, and who was later rated by her owner, Col. William Johnson, as better than or equal to two other famous horses he owned, Sir Archy and Boston.

Bred by Marmaduke Johnson, owner of the famous Medley mare, and raced by his son, Col. William Johnson, Reality retired to a glorious stud career at Johnson's Virginia Oaklands farm; she was later purchased by John Craig, a long-time associate of the younger Johnson. Reality produced Johnson's Medley, a sucessful race horse and highly influential sire, and Slender, who won eleven races, four at four miles, before falling and breaking her neck.

Bonnets O' Blue was a top class race mare who won five of her seven races to age six, including two two-mile sweeptstakes over the Union Course and at Tree Hill, and a $5,000 four-mile match race in which she beat Goliah, Black Maria, and St. George. Gibbons purchased her in the fall of 1836 for $2,500, with a colt, Mariner, by Shark, at foot, and carrying Fashion. Mariner later became a very good four-mile race horse for Gibbons. Bonnets O' Blue produced nine foals in all, three of which died early; her first two, Mariner and Fashion, were by far her best.

Fashion's sire was the chestnut Trustee, who was imported and owned by an early steamboat and railway mogul, Robert Stockton, a principal figure on the northern turf, whose estate and stud, Morven, was located at Princeton, New Jersey. Trustee, a foal of 1829, was by Catton and out of the good Whisker mare, Emma, later dam of Derby winner Cotherstone and of Mowerina, the dam of West Australian. He was a fair race horse in England, running third in the 1832 Derby; his younger brother, Mundig, did win the Derby in 1835. Stockton purchased Trustee in 1835 in London from the Duke of Cleveland. He stood his first season at Morven -- where Mariner's sire, Shark, also stood -- when he was bred to Bonnets O' Blue, and then was sold to Walter Livingston of New York; he was later sent to Virginia and Kentucky, but ended his life, age 27, back in New York in Westchester County. Despite a low stud fee throughout his career, his patronage was never high. Regardless, in addition to Fashion, he sired Revenue (1843, in Virginia) and Levity (1845, in Kentucky). Levity became the ancestress of such great race horses as Luke Blackburn, Salvator, Tammany and The Bard. Revenue was a great race horse who later led the sire lists in 1860, and was second in 1861.

Fashion was born in 1837. She was described as a "rich satin-coated chestnut with a star and a ring of white above the coronet of her left hind foot; on her right quarter she is marked with three dark spots, like Plenipo {Plenipotentiary]..." When grown, she stood 15 1/2 hands high, with prominent withers, a "light" head and neck, a sloping shoulder, and well-sprung ribs. She had "faultless legs," and "though finely put up forehanded, her great excellence consists in the muscular developments of her quarters, thighs and gaskins."

Fashion on the Turf

Because Mariner, her half-brother, had come close to being ruined when broken for saddle, Gibbons delayed Fashion's training until she was three, and sent her to a new trainer, former jockey Samuel Laird, with instructions to start her slowly. Laird remained her trainer throughout her career, and his son, Joe, rode her in all her races. She ran with "a long, rating stroke, gathers well, and moves with the utmose ease to herself...she runs with a loose rein; she is as true as steel, has a remarkable turn of speed, can be placed anywhere and nothing can be finer than her disposition..."

She began her career in the fall of her three year old year with wins in two two-mile races at Camden and at Trenton in New Jersey. Her four year old season began with a three mile heats race at the Union Course on Long Island, which she won, beating four others. Her second race consisted of a four-mile heat race, where, beset by a cough, she placed third. Sent home to recuperate, she did not start again until the fall, where she ran at the Union Course, beating Trenton in two-mile heats over a muddy surface. Shipped to Baltimore, she defeated John Blount in three-mile heats over a slippery course.

In October, she met Boston for the first time, and also John Blount, at Camden, New Jersey, in her first four-mile race. She won the race, John Blount having broken down during the second heat, and she easily distanced the aging stallion Boston. Boston never really contested; he was coming off a hard-fought win at Baltimore, was eight years old, and had spent the spring covering 42 mares. The defeat of Boston stunned his legions of fans, and soon thereafter his owners, James Long and Col. William Johnson, who had sold Gibbons Fashion's dam, issued a challenge to "the Friends of the distinguished Race Nag, Fashion" for a $20,000 match race to be held in the following spring, 1842, in four mile heats over the Union Course on Long Island.

Gibbons was adverse to running any of his horses in matches, but gave way to public sentiment and private pressure, finally accepting the challenge--through his friend, New York Jockey Club secretary Henry Toler--on November 30, the day of the challenge's expiration. Over the winter and through the early spring -- up to the day of the agreed-upon match, May 10 -- excitement over the upcoming race spread well beyond the sporting world, not only for the anticipated re-match between the great champion Boston and the fresh, fast mare Fashion, but for the regional competitiveness and increasing sectional division between the northern and southern states. Large wagers were placed on both sides, with the stakes being as diverse as sections of land, bales of cotton, horses, and all other manner of goods.

For eyewitness account of the match race between Boston and Fashion on May 10, 1842, and for additional observations about the horses, their connections and the times, click here.

After the race Fashion, whose hock had been injured from a kick by another horse during a workout before the race, was turned out for three months. Her first engagement upon her return at the Union course in October was a walk-over for the $1,000 Jockey Club purse, four-mile heats. At the end of the month she met a top horse Blue Dick (by imp. ), at Camden, for a purse of $2,000, which she easily won. A week later she again met Blue Dick and beat him in the second heat going at a trot. In this season she had bested the American record over four miles, 7:40, three times.

In 1843 and 1844 she continued her winning ways, in 1843, triumphing in seven races in succession, six of them four-mile heats, and six races the following year, three at four miles. She was a popular hero, and not just to those who followed the turf, and her name had been appended to all kinds of items in popular culture--race tracks, steamboats, theatres, hotels, brands of cigars and molasses, bonnets, and gloves. In 1845, eight years old, she was still sound. Her coat had become flecked with white hairs, giving her the appearance of a roan. With the rise of a new Queen of the Turf, the big southern-bred and owned five-year-old (but northern trained and ridden by a northern jockey)
Peytona, agitation for a new North-South match started appearing in the sporting press, featuring the two mares. Peytona had won five straight races in 1844, and more money in her shorter career than Fashion had.

On May 15, the mares met at specially refurbished Union Course for a $10,000 match race to be run in four-mile heats. They were observed by at least 70,000 fans; the crowds were so dense and rowdy that the race started an hour late. Fashion, carrying 123 pounds to the bigger mare's 116 pounds, was apparently rattled by the huge crowd. Peytona won the first heat by a length in 7:39 3/4, and after a hard drawn four miles, she also pulled ahead by a length to beat Fashion in the second heat, thus winning the race. This race was the last of the great sectional races, and this time, the south triumphed.

Fashion came out of the match race with Peytona in good condition, and went on, on May 28, at Camden, to beat foot-sore Peytona in the four-mile $1,000 Jockey Club purse. In the fall Fashion won another race, and was retired for the season. At age nine, she started three times, and won all three of her races.

Fashion's Race Record
Year Age Starts 1st 2nd 3rd Unplaced Earnings
1840 3 2 2 0 0 0 $1,900
1841 4 5 4 1 0 0  1,900
1842 5 4 4 0 0 0 23,800
1843 6 7 7 0 0 0  4,800
1844 7 6 6 0 0 0  3,200
1845 8 4 3 1 0 0  2,100
1846 9 3 3 0 0 0  1,700
1847 10 2 1 1 0 0   400
1848 11 3 2 1 0 0   1,700
Total -- 36 32 4 0 0 $41,500
At age ten she was sent out again, against the younger Passenger, running in a punishing three-mile heats race at Baltimore, which she won after four heats. In the fall, she met Passenger again in four-mile heats at the Union Course, and was unable to beat him. In 1848, age eleven, she was sent out again for three races, against a great public outcry calling for the great mare to be sent into well-deserved retirement. She won her first race against Bostona in May, but lost her second, also against Bostona in the fall, by two lengths, conceding 12 pounds. Two weeks later she ended her career with an easy win, her principal challenger, Bostona, having been withdrawn from the race.

The great, game mare, who had met increasingly younger opponents over a career spanning eight seasons, conceding weight, and running in all conditions, retired sound. She had won 32 of her 36 races, and a total of $41,500. Her four-mile record of 7:32 1/2 stood for thirteen years.

Fashion in the Stud

In the stud, Fashion was as consistent as she was on the race course, producing seven foals in nine years. She retired to Gibbon's stud in New Jersey, where she was bred three successive times to her half-brother, Mariner, producing Hermes (1852), and two fillies, Etiquette (1853) and A la Mode (1854). Hermes died young; Etiquette became a good race mare who won two-mile heats, and A la Mode also won at that distance and later produced Queen of the West, a good broodmare for the Belle Meade Stud.

Fashion was sold, in foal to Monarch, with A La Mode and her weanling filly, Young Fashion (1855), by Monarch, to John Reber of Lancaster, Ohio. In 1856 she was sent to Lexington, but failed to conceive. Bred back to Monarch in 1857, she produced a chestnut colt, Revenge, in 1858, and sent to Bonnie Scotland, produced a colt in 1859, Dangerous. In 1860 she died, foaling a filly by Bonnie Scotland, who also died.

Lancaster, the Monarch colt of 1856, died before his first year. Her best racing offspring was the chestnut Dangerous, who won three races with limited opportunities during the Civil War, dying soon after winning his third race at three-mile heats. Her daughter Young Fashion was sent directly to the stud, rather than raced, and it was through her that Fashion's line continued in strength for several generations. Young Fashion, a chestnut, produced ten foals, six of which were good winners. Three -- Two, Hock Hocking and Three Cheers were sent to California, where they became successful sires. Young Fashion's daughter, Columbia, produced Double Cross, the sire of Guido, who was an American record holder for mile heats, and another daughter, Bonnie Kate, produced a speedy stakes mare, Bonnie Lizzie. Some of Young Fashion's descendants in the maternal line are extant today, although for generations they have generally been bred to moderate, or worse, stallions, and have produced only low-level, but long-running, hard-knocking sons and daughters.

Her pedigree was known and recorded, during her lifetime, tracing back to a mare by Spanker, a barb imported from Spain into Virginia in 1840, and out of an "imported Spanish mare." Despite the impressive achievements of herself, her dam, Bonnets O' Blue, her grandam, Reality, and her great grandam, the Medley mare, this family was not accorded a number in Bobinski's Family Tables of Racehorses.

--Patricia Erigero

FASHION, chestnut filly, 1837
ch. 1829
b. 1809
b. 1802
Lucy Grey
ch. 1804
ch. 1824
b. 1812
Gibside Fairy
b. 1811
Bonnets O'Blue
gr. 1827
Sir Charles
ch. 1816
b. 1805
mare by *Citizen
ch. 1810
mare by Commutation
gr. 1813
b. 1805
mare by (Johnson's) *Medley
gr. 1792
mare by *Centinel

5th dam by Mark Anthony; 6th dam Polly Williams by *Janus; 7th dam by *Silvereye; 8th dam by Spanker

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