He was known in racing circles as “The King City Traveller”, visiting racetracks from Nebraska to Maryland, Washington, D.C., New York and Manitoba. When Overskate retired at age five in 1980 he was the richest Canadian-bred thoroughbred with earnings of nearly $800,000. He enjoyed a brilliant career for owner/breeder Jack Stafford of King, Ont., trainer Gil Rowntree and jockey Robin Platts.
From the time he first stepped onto a racetrack, the combative, compact, chestnut colt exhibited the courage of a champion. He hated to lose. Examine his accomplishments. He won an unprecedented nine Sovereign Awards, a feat he achieved during four seasons which often saw him lugging top weight, conceding 10 to 15 pounds. The son of Nodouble-Overstate was foaled at Stafford’s farm in Port Elgin and is the only horse to earn championship honors at ages two, three, four and five. Twice he was Horse of the Year and three times turf champion.
Small in stature, but a giant when confronted in a stretch duel, Overskate set a turf track record for 1 3/8 miles at Belmont in the Bowling Green Stakes. He also won the Laurance Armour and the Stars and Stripes Stakes at Chicago’s Arlington Park, and excelled in the mud, winning the Bernard Baruch Handicap under top weight (128 pounds) at Saratoga when the race was shifted from the turf to the main track. Overskate set a track record at Woodbine and another while winning the Manitoba Derby. Winner of the Coronation Futurity at two, Overskate was favored for the 1978 Queen’s Plate. But Regal Embrace got a jump on Overskate at the top of the stretch and withstood his furious charge at the wire. Rowntree said, “It was a combination of things that beat us. Overskate was the best horse I ever trained, a genuine racehorse; sound, and like a machine. But on that day it was a great ride by (Sandy) Hawley; a mistake, or whatever you want to call it by Platts; and racing luck. The best horse doesn’t always have to win.” In his 42nd and final race, October 4, 1980, Overskate captured the Jockey Club Cup under 128 pounds at Woodbine before a crowd that stood and cheered loudly for the gallant, departing champion. It was his 18th stakes victory and 24th overall. He was retired to stud at a farm in Tivoli, N.Y., a short distance away from the horse who denied him the Plate – Regal Embrace. This son of Nodouble, trained by Gil Rowntree for Jack Stafford, was voted Champion two-year-old in Canada in 1977. Then, in 1978, he was named Champion three-year-old colt and Horse of the Year. He repeated his Horse of the Year title in 1979. In addition to those Sovereign Awards, Overskate was named Champion grass Horse in Canada in 1978, ’79 and ’80 as well.
When the gritty little chestnut, looking like a greyhound chasing a rabbit, raced to victory over Glorious Song in the Laurance Armour Stakes handicap at Chicago’s Arlington Park in 1980, he became the leading money-winning Canadian-bred at that time with earnings of $703,189, replacing Nijinsky II as Canada’s leading money winner.
Overskate raced a total of 42 times from two through four and he won 24, 18 of those victories coming in stakes races, including such important fixtures as the Bowling Green Handicap at Belmont, the Laurance Armour Handicap at Arlington Park, the Gr.II Stars and Stripes in Chicago, the Gr.III Bernard Baruch Handicap at Saratoga.
Overskate set a track record in winning the Manitoba Derby at Assiniboia Downs; established a track record for 8 ½ furlongs at Woodbine and, in winning the Bowling Green, clipped over the turf in a then record 2:11 2/5 fo r a mile and three furlongs.