Dr. Fager was an American a thoroughbred racehorse who had what many consider one of the greatest single racing seasons by any horse in the history of the sport. "The Doctor" was the only horse who ever held four titles in one year. That year was 1968, and he was voted the Horse of the Year, champion handicap horse, champion sprinter, and co-champion grass horse.
A bay colt by Rough'n Tumble, and bred by his owner, the Tartan Stable of William L. McKnight (chairman of the board of Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Co.), Dr. Fager was born in 1964. Trained by hall-of-famer John Nerud, he was named for the Boston brain surgeon Dr. Charles Fager, who saved Nerud's life with two operations after a serious fall from his pony.
Dr. Fager raced 22 times, winning 18, with two places and one show. Dr. Fager's only out-of-the-money finish was as result of a disqualification in the Jersey Derby, in which he finished first. Only three horses ever finished in front of the Doctor: Champion juvenile Successor, Horse of the Year Damascus, and Horse of the Year Buckpasser.
Nerud admitted that his colt was arrogant, headstrong, conceited, rank, and unwilling to be rated, yet this remarkable animal set the world record at 1 mile on any surface: 1:32 1/5, achieved on August 24, 1968 when he ran in the Washington Park Handicap at Arlington Park, and held it for more than 20 years. The record still stands for dirt surface racing. On that day, he carried 134 pounds. The list of stakes and handicaps he won include the Gotham Stakes, the Withers Stakes, the Jersey Derby, the AP Classic, the Hawthorne Gold Cup Handicap, the Vosburgh Stakes, the Roseben, the Californian Stakes, the Suburban Handicap, the Brooklyn Handicap, the Whitney Handicap, the United Nations Handicap and for the second time, the Vosburgh. During the three years he performed, he proved to be one of the strongest handicap horses of that era. His remarkable career is recorded in "Champions, The Lives, Times, and Past Performances of the 20th Century's Greatest Thoroughbreds" by the editors and writers of the Daily Racing Form.
Dr. Fager was known for his duels with the great Damascus at Aqueduct Racetrack. Damascus' connections took to entering a "rabbit" to engage Dr. Fager in a speed duel, knowing that Dr. Fager could not be rated by his jockey. In four meetings between the two Hall of Famers, Damascus took two races (both times using the "rabbit" strategy) and Dr. Fager took two.
In The Blood-Horse magazine's list of the top 100 U.S. thoroughbred champions of the 20th Century, Dr. Fager ranks sixth. In 1971, only three years after he left the track, he was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, New York. The Doctor's half-sister is another Hall of Famer, Ta Wee.
He went to stud at his owner's Tartan Farm near Ocala, Florida, where he stood for eight years before his premature death at age 12 on August 5, 1976. Named leading sire in 1971, Dr. Fager's offspring includes 1975 American Champion Two-Year-Old Filly, Dearly Precious, Tree of Knowledge, and L'Alezane. Death was attributed to a colon obstruction. He was buried at Tartan Farm, now known as Winding Oaks Farm.