Although he was a son of leading sire Bold Venture, it didn’t appear that Assault would be much of a horse. His early years were plagued with illness and injury, and jockey Eddie Arcaro said he was “on the delicate side”. While he was still a young colt he stepped on a sharp object that went through his right front hoof, leaving it forever deformed. This earned him the nickname “Clubfoot Comet”. Born and trained in Texas, he was up against it from the start because the mass majority of top horses are bred in Kentucky. Let’s take a look at the career of the 7th Triple Crown winner, Assault.
It took Assault four tries to break his maiden and he finished 12th in his first race. After breaking his maiden he lost another race before posting a stunning four horse photo finish victory in the Flash Stakes. His two-year-old season ended with a record of 2 wins from 9 starts. He started to progress and turn into a contender early in his three-year-old season. He took the Wood Memorial, but finished off the board in the Derby Trial.
Assault wasn’t one of the top choices in the 1946 Kentucky Derby, but he trounced the competition by 8 lengths. This margin of victory is the largest in the history of the Run for the Roses. Barbaro and Mine That Bird came close to matching that margin in 2006 and 2009 winning by 6.5 and 6.75 lengths. Assault was sent off the favorite in the Preakness Stakes, but only registered a narrow neck victory after encountering trouble. The horse that nearly beat him in the Preakness, Lord Boswell, was made the favorite in the Belmont Stakes. Although he stumbled at the start in the Belmont Stakes, Assault came with one run and cruised by the competition to win by three lengths. This made him the 7th Triple Crown winner.
Assault would go on to win the Dwyer, Pimlico Special, and Westchester Handicap as a three-year-old. He had a few hiccups along the way, causing trainer Max Hirsch to switch jockeys from Warren Mehrtens to the legendary Eddie Aracaro. The son of Bold Venture was named Horse of the Year in 1946. He won 5 of 7 starts in the following year. He would race until the age of seven, but his form tailed off after his four-year-old campaign. He stayed in training because he was sterile and could not have a career at stud.
While he came from humble beginnings, Assault had a great career. He accomplished what horses like Silver Charm, Point Given, Smarty Jones, and Afleet Alex could not when he won the Triple Crown. He raced a total of 42 times and won 15 races. He was inducted into the U.S. Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 1964. The “Club Footed Comet” was certainly one of the greatest to have ever raced.