Looking Back Column


Foaled in 1837, Fashion was a Thoroughbred four-mile race mare, owned and bred by William Gibbons on his farm, now Drew University. Mr. Gibbons, sportsman and horse breeder, only raced horses he raised himself. Most races at that time were not run on what we consider a normal racetrack, they were run anywhere the organizers decided. There was a racetrack that was used at Union Course on Long Island, New York. Even though Gibbons was not a gambling man and never bet on a horse, he gave in to the huge public demand to race Fashion. The news of the heat was carried to New York City newspapers by carrier pigeons. More than 70,000 people showed up at Union Course in May 1842 to see Fashion’s race with a horse named Boston. In the first heat, Boston led the race for about three miles, even with a large gash on his hip from scraping a rail. Crowds started surging onto the tract, upsetting both the horses. In the end, Fashion won by 35 lengths, setting a new world record for a four-mile race. In May 1845, an estimated 100,000 people came to see her race Peytona. It was the last race to be held at Union Course. Fashion was a slight favorite, but Peytona won the race and a huge stake, however the organizer lost money. The next time the two horses met, Fashion won. She continued racing until she was eleven years old, running a total of 68 heats and winning 55, earning $41,500, and was considered the best race mare of her generation and all past generations. Fashion produced seven foals in nine years; many of them were also winners. One of them was a mare named Young Fashion who produced ten foals, six of which were winners. Fashion’s family continued on for several generations. Fashion died in 1860. Men’s cigars and ladies’ gloves sported Fashion’s name and more than one hotel and steamboat were named after her. She was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1980, 120 years after her death. The Gibbons’ barn still remains and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.