By BRIEN BOUYEA, Communications Officer
Planet was one of the most spectacular American racehorses in the years leading up to the Civil War.
Foaled in Virginia at Major Thomas W. Doswell’s Bullfield Stable in 1855, Planet was sired by Revenue out of the Boston mare Nina. Planet was a sensation from the start. He made his debut with a victory over four others in mile heats for a purse of $10,750 in Fairfield, Va., on May 4, 1858, and went on to establish a record for career purse earnings that stood for 20 years.
Turf writer John Hervey described Planet as “In color a rich chestnut, 15.2½ (hands) tall, he was remarkable for his symmetry of mould and the excellence of his limbs.”
Planet displayed his remarkable skill and versatility by compiling a record of 27-4-0 from 31 starts and earning $69,700. Known as “The Great Red Fox,” Planet was regarded by many turf experts to be second only to the mighty Lexington among the greatest American racehorses prior to the Civil War.
Carrying Bullfield’s famed orange silks, Planet won at a variety of distances in Virginia, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, and Louisiana. He also traveled to New York, where he won a $20,000 sweepstakes on Sept. 25, 1860 at the Fashion Course on Long Island. Racing from ages 3 through 5, Planet defeated many of the top horses of his era, including Daniel Boone, Congaree, Socks, and Arthur Macon.
Further demonstrating his versatility, Planet was a natural trotter. He was able to trot a mile in three minutes, and most of his training was conducted in that gait. According to Hervey, this ability led to some trouble, as Planet was once ordered off a New York track by a racing official for “training at a flying trot before a meet.” The official declared that trotters were not allowed. Other horsemen jumped to the defense of the great Planet, as this was his traditional training regimen, and the official rescinded his order.
Planet was retired to stud at Bullfield in 1861. The Civil War and its aftermath curtailed racing in the South and interrupted several years of Planet’s career as a stallion. During those years, Planet and many of the other Bullfield horses were hidden in the woods to protect them from Yankee marauders.
In 1868, Doswell, sold Planet to R.A. Alexander of Woodburn Farm in Kentucky. Planet resided at Woodburn until he died at the age of 20 in 1875.