One of the better trivia questions we've heard caused even a few veteran horsemen to take a step back and ponder a bit... so put on your thinkin' caps:
Who was the only horse to sire both a Hambletonian AND a Little Brown Jug winner?
Need a clue?
How about if we give you a little nibble?
Nibble... Nibble Hanover?
You are correct, Sir!
Nibble Hanover, a foal of 1937 by Calumet Chuck was pure trotting bred and sired Miss Tilly, the winner of the 1949 Hambletonian for 78-year-old Fred Egan (the oldest driver to win the prestigious event) as she would be the 3rd of Egan's trainees to capture Harness Racing's golden grail.
Nibble also sired Knight Dream, a world champion who won pacing's most coveted jewel the Little Brown Jug, in 1948. Bred by the Gray Brothers and Robert Armstrong, cattle dealers of Rhode Island and North Carolina, he was the sixth foal (second by Nibble) and trained and driven by a young New Hampshire native named Franklin Safford.
Safford would drive Knight Dream to post the fastest mile of 1948 as he would take a mark of 1:59 while accruing a then record amount of $79,000 for his two and three-year-old seasons. Although purely trotting bred Knight Dream's dam Lydia Knight (by Peter The Brewer - Guy Rosa by Guy Axworthy) had set the World Record for double-gaited mares as a four year old in 1933 when she posted tabs of 2:06 on the trot and 2:03 on the pace.
Safford was no stranger to headlines for in 1941 at the age of 31 he piloted 14 horses in a row to the winners circle (an 80+year-old record that still stands today) at the newly-opened Saratoga Raceway and, with 117 wins, was North America's leading driver. Billy Haughton and Stanley Dancer - who would become Harness Racing's Gold Dust Twins in the 1950s and 60s - were still teenagers at 17 and 14.
Safford was the leading driver at Roosevelt Raceway in the 40's and 50's as well.
Knight Dream became an exceptionally good sire of good racehorses but it was his dominance as a sire of broodmares that really stood out with the dams of world champions of Jim Hackett's Best Of All, George Sholty's Coffee Break, Eddie Cobb's Honest Story, Levi Harner's Kat Byrd, and Billy Haughton's 1968 Triple Crown winner Rum Customer including a tough as nails Travelin Boy. This son of Adios Boy - Vermont Dream made over $238,000 the hard way: he earned it.
And I'm sure Billy O'Donnell would agree.
As a yout' I remember scouring the program for any entry with Knight Dream in their breeding as they were "the good hosses" at the old Bay State Raceway and I thought I was privy to some special insiders' information. Ironically 1966, the first year I cashed my very first daily double (3-5 $35.20) was the year Safford sent another one of his pupils, Good Time Boy (p5, 1:58.1f $352,976) to the Little Brown Jug. This time he did not want to give away any weight advantage away (he was a tall and "hefty" man) so the 56-year-old put up a talented 35-year-old teamster by the name of Jimmy Larente (a career winner of over 2,500 races) behind the horse.
"He just tell me 'I put that colt in'," stated Jimmy while he watched the morning joggers in Aiken, SC a few years ago. "That's it. Nothing else. I did finish second in both heats (to Jerry Silverman's Triple Crown Winner Romeo Hanover and George Sholty) and he still don't say not'ing. Two days after the race and he finally tells me "'that colt raced good.' That's it!"
As with all good drivers Safford knew exactly where he was on the racetrack and where his competition was. It was said that Herve could drive five horses in a race.
And Safford was always among the leading drivers/trainers at Bay State Raceway.
"He had a good trotter," said Starter Bruce Patterson during one of his many stops at the Fairs in Ohio and Michigan as he talked about driving at Foxboro way back when. "We couldn't beat him. We chased him but he was the best," he shook his head. "And Safford just smirked whenever he won."
Patterson rattled off some of the drivers' names - and good ones too - that I did remember but in those days I didn't even know how to put a paddock pail together.
"They say," I offered, "that in Pinehurst Safford would keep his help in line - many of which he got off the county jail work release program - by using a bullwhip, which he was quite adept with."
Patterson just smiled with a twist of his head as assistant starter Terry Adams listened wild-eyed.
"At least," I added solemnly, "that's what I heard."
Safford did compile over an estimated 3,000 driving wins and died in August of 1977 at the age of 67 just a few months after Knight Dream's demise at 32.
It was during Jug Week that year when I was sitting in the shed row under the awning with the flower boxes and the blue carpets as Stanley and Rachel Dancer and myself enjoyed the sights and sounds of Delaware County Fair that Stanley mentioned Safford's passing.
"He's from your neck of the woods, isn't he Tom?" asked Stanley.
Well yeah, but all I could ask was if they thought he'd go into the Hall of Fame.
They both simultaneously made a slight grimace.
"Oh, said Rachel with a worried look. "I don't think so."
Stanley half grinned and said "Years ago I win a heat at Goshen with a pacing filly and Franklin just grunted his half-hearted congratulations as we pulled up. I think," I shrugged, "that I'll get days for backing off the half."
"Tell them," he growled, "that she got a hopple caught under a knee boot."
"I looked at him questioningly and said "but she doesn't wear any knee boots."
"Then go back to the barn," he bellowed in his adopted southern drawl, "and put a pair on!"
Talent is talent. Franklin Safford was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1981.
Now I know this is all ancient history but Knight Dream and his sister Knightland (by Scotland) have a present and reoccurring influence on harness racing to this very day. You see just this past weekend a horse that traces his bottom line back eight generations to that Lydia Knight was named the unanimous 2022 Harness Horse of the Year: Bulldog Hanover and, by virtue of his pacing a mile in 1:45.4m this past August, is the fastest Standardbred ever.
And all I can say is "Lydia, oh Lydia."