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Little Bold John

Little Bold John
Sire John Alden
Dam Little Bold Sphinx
Grandsire Speak John
Damsire Bold Ambition
Gender Gelding
Foaled 1982
Country United States
Color Dark Brown
Breeder Hal C.B. Clagett
Owner 1) Hidden Hill Farm
2) Jack Owens
Trainer Jerry Robb
Record 105: 38-16-14
Earnings US$$2,056,406
Little Bold John is a thoroughbred racehorse out of Little Bold Sphinx by John Alden. He was born around 1982 in the United States, and was bred by Hal C.B. Clagett.
Major wins
Donn Handicap(1987)
General George Handicap (1989)
Maryland Million Classic (1987)
John B. Campbell Handicap (1987)
Baltimore Breeders' Cup Handicap (1988)
Riggs Handicap (1987 & 1988)
Japan Racing Association Handicap (1987)
Native Dancer Handicap (1987 & 1988)
Palisades Handicap (1987)
Edward L. Blake Memorial Stakes (1987)
Chieftain Handicap (1987)
Protagonist Handicap (1988)
Jennings Handicap (1986, 1987 ,1988 & 1989)
Fort McHenry Handicap (1987)
Marylander Handicap (1989)
Resolution Handicap (1986)
Congressional Handicap (1988)
Never Bend Handicap (1987)
Thistledown Breeders' Cup Handicap (1989)
Polynesian Stakes (1987)
Horse (Equus ferus caballus)

Little Bold John (foaled in 1982, died 2003) is a multi-millionaire American Thoroughbred racehorse. Bred in Maryland by Hal C.B. Clagett and raced under the Hidden Hill Farm's banner as his owner. He finished racing with a record of 38-16-14 in 105 starts with career earnings of $2,056,406. Little Bold John was best known for his wins in the grade one Donn Handicap and the grade two General George Handicap.

In 1997 he became the first Maryland Bred horse to have won one million dollars in career earnings. He still remains only one of six horses to have multi-million dollar earnings from the state of Maryland. The others are Cigar, Awad, Concern, Broad Brush and the filly Safely Kept.[1]

Racing career

Bred by the venerable Hal C.B. Clagett and trained by Jerry Robb, Little Bold John competed 105 times during nine seasons, winning 38 races, of which 25 were stakes. That ranks him third in stakes victories among thoroughbreds in North America behind only Native Diver with 34 stakes wins and John Henry with 30 stakes wins. In a 1997 interview with the Baltimore Sun, Robb said that Little Bold John, who earned $2,056,406, was the best horse he had ever trained. "Not only that," Robb said. "I think he's the best horse we ever had in Maryland. I could run him short, long, on the turf, the dirt, in the mud, and he'd win anyway. That makes him special over any horse I've ever seen."

Little Bold John overcame injuries and raced. He even overcame retirement and raced. Robb tried to retire him a couple of times, but Little Bold John rebelled against farm life and persuaded Robb to put him back into training. Finally, Robb had no choice but to retire the gallant gelding. "In his last race, he hurt himself about the quarter pole and dropped back to third or fourth," Robb said. "He pulled his suspensory ligament. "Most horses, when they get hurt, pull up. But he came back to win the race, like he was three-legged. After that, I knew he'd end up killing himself if I kept running him."

Little Bold John's final race was Halloween 1992 at Pimlico Race Course. He was 10, having raced every year since 1984 when he was two. His biggest win came at Gulfstream Park in the Donn Handicap a grade one stakes worth $175,000. Little Bold John paid a record $113.80 to win that race.

He also won two $200,000 stakes in Maryland, including the grade two General George Handicap and the Maryland Million Classic, both at Laurel Park Racecourse. Mostly, as Robb put it, his $2 million in earnings came the hard way, "$50,000 at a time." Fans lined the paddock and winner's circle to cheer for this brave horse with the catchy name. One woman for years sent sugar cubes, his favorite snack, to the stable gate. The parents of a young man killed in a car wreck called Robb asking for photos and mementos of Little Bold John for display at the funeral.

"They said he was all their son ever talked about," Clagett said. A breeder of horses for more than half a century, Clagett, 86, took particular pride in breeding Little Bold John. The horse far exceeded the accomplishments of his dam, Little Bold Sphinx, and his sire, John Alden.

Clagett sold Little Bold John after his fourth start to Jack Owens, an Anne Arundel County businessman. Robb, who remained as trainer, bought Little Bold John from Owens in 1990 and then, in 1996, gave him back to Clagett. Clagett said Little Bold John had been as rambunctious as ever up to the end, romping in his hillside paddock with other horses. Never forgetting that he was Little Bold John, the gelding held his head even higher in the snow.[2]


Little Bold John set foot on the Laurel Race Course dirt for the last time in his illustrious career in October 2002, but he didn't run a step. The eleven year-old gelding, a 38 time winner with 26 stakes wins and one of the most admired thoroughbreds on the entire Maryland circuit, has left racing to younger steeds. Owner-trainer Jerry Robb has sent him to live on the green pastures of Hidden Hill Farm in Edgewater, Maryland. Little Bold John was brought back and honored in October during the Maryland Million Day program at Laurel.

Little Bold John, one of the most popular horses ever to race in Maryland and the most prolific stakes winners in North America, died January 21, 2003 after a bout of colic. He lived the last fewyears of his life at Weston Farm in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. He died in the same field where he romped as a baby, outside the barn where he was born 21 years and two days earlier.

No better epitaph could be written for Little Bold John than the "Daily Racing Form" cover headline in 1992, the year he finally had to give up racing: Courage, thy name is 'John'. [2]


  1. Pedigree Online, Thoroughbred Database;[1].
  2. 2.0 2.1 Bloodhorse Magazine, by Tom Keyser, Friday, January 24, 2003;


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