Busher (1942–1955) was a thoroughbred racing filly. She was sired by War Admiral, the winner of the Triple Crown in 1937, and the great son of a great legend, Man o' War. She was out of Baby League by Bubbling Over, the colt who won the 1926 Kentucky Derby. Her dam, Baby League, was the third foal of one of the most influential foundation mares of the Twentieth century, La Troienne.
Born with a B
Born and bred on Col. Edward R. Bradley's Idle Hour Stock Farm in Kentucky where all the foals' names began with a B—for instance, Busher was a half sister to Bimelech, her mother was Baby League, her father Bubbling Over. Bradley had to be convinced to breed Baby League to War Admiral. He wasn't much of a fan of his sire line, calling it "hot blood." But when he was reminded how much the small dark-bay Triple Crown winner resembled the splendid horse Sweep, he relented. Other horses at the B Farm, Idle Hour were Black Toney (sire of Black Gold), Blue Larkspur, Black Servant, Behave Yourself, Burgoo King, Broker's Tip, and Blossom Time.)
War Admiral's Little Girl
Because of the war effort, and at the request of the Director of War Mobilization and Reconversion, horse racing was put on hold from January to May 1945. It would have lasted longer but on April 30 of that year Adolf Hitler killed himself in his bunker under Berlin and the war was effectively over. But before that, and in response to his horses becoming idle, the aging Bradley sold much of his stock. In his mid-80s when Busher was born, he was also losing a lot of his steam. In March of her three-year-old season, the fleet chestnut with a perfect diamond in the middle of her forehead was sold to Louis B. Mayer for the then-large sum of $50,000. The movie mogul found Busher was worth every penny, all of which, and much more, was paid back by her earnings. Hall of Famer Johnny Longden became her jockey, George Odom her trainer, and she raced in Mayer's colors: French blue and pink.
At three, she won the Santa Susanna Stakes, the San Vicente Stakes (for the first time against males, and carrying top weight: winning even with a horse called Quick Reward losing his rider and weaving all over the track), the Santa Margarita Handicap, Chicago's Cleopatra Handicap, the Arlington Handicap (wire to wire against older horses and winning by five lengths), the Washington Park Handicap (beating Armed, the top older male at the time, and setting a track record), the Hollywood Derby (again over colts, and in so doing passing the $300,000 winning mark in earnings, the first female to do so), and the Vanity Handicap.
And any race she lost (the Santa Anita Derby, the Will Rogers Handicap, and the Beverly Handicap), she came at the same horses again, and beat them all. As Turf authority William H. P. Robertson wrote in his History of Thoroughbred Racing in America, "The salient attribute of War Admiral's little daughter was she always took revenge."
In the Beverly Handicap, she came third to a filly called Durazna, one year her senior, with Busher spotting the older horse 12 pounds. Duranza, who was the Co-Champion two-year-old filly of 1943, was given a great ride by George Woolf, the "Ice Man." Woolf had ridden Seabiscuit to victory in a match race with Busher's sire, War Admiral.
In the match race between Busher and Durazna at Washington Park, Busher exacted her revenge, beating the older horse by three-quarters of a length.
After the Vanity, Busher developed swelling in a leg, and did not race again that year. She still won Horse of the Year. She rested throughout 1946, and raced only once more, in 1947. She was five years old and she was unplaced.
From Mogul to Make-up
In a fabulous display of showmanship, Mayer sold out his racing stable in a horse auction to beat all horse auctions. On February 27, 1947, he used the Santa Anita track to stage his sale. 7,000 ticket-buying people came to bid and to gawk. 60 horses changed hands for the then substantial sum of $1,553,500 dollars, with the auction of the very best horses (Busher, of course, being the best of the best of four), broadcast over three radio networks. Mayer explained that his horse business was getting too big and interferring with his movie business. Not too long later, he was in the horse business again.
Busher went to Neil S. McCarthy, who was actually Mayer's man, for $135,000. In a private sale in 1948, Busher finally went to Lexington, Kentucky's Maine Chance Farm owned by Mrs. Elizabeth Nightingale Graham (better known as Elizabeth Arden), for a reported $150,000. It was at Main Chance that Busher had her five foals, one of which was Jet Action by Arden's favorite, Jet Pilot. (Jet Pilot was trained by Hall of Famer Tom Smith, the man who found and trained Seabiscuit. Smith was employed throughout the Forties by Arden.)
Busher died in 1955 giving birth to another Jet Pilot foal.
In a poll among members of the American Trainers Association, conducted in 1955 by Delaware Park Racetrack, she was voted the sixth greatest filly in American racing history. (Gallorette was voted first.)
She was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame 9 years after her death. The "vengeful" little filly is also ranked number 40 in Blood-Horse magazine List of the Top 100 U.S. Racehorses of the 20th Century
- Women of the Year - Ten Fillies Who Achieved Horse Racing's Highest Honor by the Staff and Correspondents of The Blood-Horse magazine (2004) Eclipse Press ISBN 1-58150-116-1