April 2, 2015

It Happened on April 2nd

Whirlaway's Birthday, 1938

He lost nearly half of all the races he ever ran. He preferred to run on the outside rail. When he got ahead of the other horses in a race, he got bored and started zigzagging all over the track.

All in all, you'd think Whirlaway would have been a pretty unlikely horse to win the Triple Crown, but that's exactly what he did. He was also a great favorite with the fans, due to his great beauty, his flowing tail, and his enchanting unpredictability.

Whirlaway won his first race in Chicago as a 2-year-old. He covered most of the width of the racetrack during the race, but seemed to prefer the outer rail. Nevertheless, he finished in first place. In another early race he started out so enthusiastically that he crashed into the outer rail. He won that one, too.

Whirlaway's success can be partially attributed to his trainer, Ben A. Jones, who would later also train Citation, and his jockey, Eddie Arcaro. Jones called Whirlaway a knucklehead, among other things, but he knew that he was the fastest horse he had ever trained. Just before the Kentucky Derby, Jones cut off one blinker, so that the horse could see the inside rail but not what lay to his right. It worked.

At the Preakness, Whirlaway started out so slowly that, in the words of an announcer, "even their dust couldn't reach him." This is no exaggeration -- you can see the video here. He took that race by five and a half lengths.

When it was time for the Belmont Stakes, Whirlaway had scared off most of the competition: only four horses raced against him. They attempted to throw Whirlaway off with a slow start, but Whirlaway blew past them, and then kept up the lead.

Whirlaway was owned by Calumet Farms, and was the first of their two Triple Crown winners. (The other was Citation.) After his retirement from racing, he spent some time at stud at the Calumet Farms, and later was sold to the French breeder Marc Boussac for his breeding farm. He died in 1953, and is now buried at Calumet Farms.

Commodore William James Captures Pirate Fortress, 1755

James's wife had this built in his memory.
It might not be fair to call them "pirates", but that's what the East India Company called them. They called themselves the Maratha Empire Navy.

James was the son of a poor Welsh miller who ran away to sea when he was 11. By the time he was 20, he had joined the East India Company. Four years later he had become a commodore.

He was 34 when he was ordered to blockade the fortress of Tulaji Angre at Severndroog on the western shore of India. He went them one better, and got close enough to blow it up. The feat saved the East India Company a great deal of money in the protection of their ships. James was awarded a reward of ₤100.

After participating in several other skirmishes, James retired from the sea in 1759, and settled in London, where he became Chairman of the Directors of the East India Company and a fellow of the Royal Society. He was created a baronet in 1778. He died of a stroke in 1783, and is buried near his home. A year after his death, he wife had built a folly called Severndroog Castle to commemorate him. The structure still stands.

Prince Arthur Tudor Died, 1486

Arthur Tudor
If he hadn't died at 15, we wouldn't have had King Henry VIII, the Church of England, or possibly the English Renaissance.

Arthur Tudor was the son of King Henry VII of England, and heir to the English throne. At the age of two, he was betrothed to Katherine of Aragon, the youngest daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain. As you probably know, Katherine of Aragon later became the first wife of Henry VIII. Arthur was carefully educated for his future as King of England, unlike his younger brother. (Henry VIII had been intended for the Church.)

The cause of Arthur's death is still unknown. Various causes have been attributed, including tuberculosis, diabetes, or the "sweating sickness", a disease that vanished after 1551, and may have been a type of hantavirus. Katherine was also taken ill, but survived.

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