Three Bars was in his stall when Sid first set eyes on him. His reaction was immediate and he recalls it with great clarity. “I never pictured a horse that could ever look that good. If there ever was a perfect horse he was it. In fact I couldn’t fault him anywhere.”

Sid offered Kennedy, Haggard, and Snedigar $5,000 on the spot for the horse, but they turned it down. He went back to the ranch and stayed for a week, but he couldn’t stand it. He reasoned, “I just knew Three Bars was the horse I was looking for. There couldn’t be any question about that.”

Sid mustered his resources and went into hock pretty deep to dig up $10,000. That was a price he didn’t think the boys would turn down.

When Sid reached Phoenix he found the trio who owned the horse and offered them the $10,000. One said “no” and the other two were sort of on the fence. It took some careful persuasion, but they finally agreed to sell the horse. What a relief!

Sid was a happy man the day he pocketed the bill of sale which stated in legal language that he was the owner of Three Bars. But he still had that one big problem so common to most of us – money. It cost a pretty penny to keep a horse at the track and the Vails simply didn’t have it. Furthermore the horse needed a rest after having been doctored. So Sid decided to let Melville Haskell keep Three Bars at stud for a year at his ranch close to Tucson. Sid agreed to pay Haskell $30 per month to take care of the horse. Haskell was to get the board payments on mares brought to the ranch to be bred to Three Bars. Sid was to receive the $100 stud fee.

Sid Vail with Three Bars (TB) – Photo by Western Horseman Archive

That was for the breeding season of 1945. By early 1946 the horse had completely recovered and Sid leased him back to Kennedy, Haggard, and Snedigar. They agreed to run the horse and build his reputation-that’s exactly what happened. Three Bars really burned up the tracks. He doubtless was the fastest horse in the United States for five furlongs. He broke the track record at Phoenix for that distance in 57.3, and then at Aqua Caliente was clocked at a blistering 56.4 for the first five furlongs in a six-furlong race.

It should come as no surprise that Three Bars ran as well as he did. His breeding was excellent. He is by Percentage, a stakes winning horse, and out of Myrtle Dee by Luke Mcluke, both hard-knocking horses at the shorter distances. In fact when Jack Goode bought the mare Myrtle Dee, she was in foal to Percentage. Jack liked the breeding and named the young colt Three Bars because he believed the horse was destined to hit the jackpot. Jack was sure right, but it didn’t help him as he was the man who sold the colt to Stivers for $300. You will remember that Stivers was the man that gave the colt away “free gratis.” In fact there is more than one man who has kicked himself for not buying the horse when he was available, and many others who wish they’d bred a pasture full of mares to him when the stud fee was $100. But back to our story.

With Three Bar’s reputation firmly established as a fast short-running Thoroughbred, Sid was anxious to build the horse’s prestige as a stud to cross with Quarter mares. This program worked out well and by 1952 the stud fee had edged to $300 and Sid leased the horse to Walter Merrick in Oklahoma.

Meanwhile, things were going pretty well for Mayola and Sid back at the ranch near Douglas. They decided to sell the ranch and rent a small place up near the track at Tucson. Sid was finally in a position to stand the horse himself and wanted to be near the track in order to promote him properly.

In addition he wanted to breed his own mares to Three Bars. The Vails remained at the Tucson place through the years 1953, 1954, and 1955. Then they picked up stakes again and moved to Apple Valley, California. At that time Quarter Horse racing was growing at a faster rate in California than in Arizona. Frank Vessels was developing Quarter Horse racing at Los Alamitos and the public was showing a genuine interest.

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  1. Jane Brown Reply

    I had the privilege of owning a grandson of Three Bars during the mid seventies. Flit Bar Heels , by Bar Heels out of Miss King Flit. Magnificent horse that I wish was here today!

  2. i had the privelege of gdtting to know Sid and Mayola a few years before he died, he was a 5th coison and looked so much like my Dad, Have been to His ranch i Ca where Sid died, and too Nakona Tx where Three bars is buried standing on his feet, in front of Sids home, the ori, house burned but the new owner built back in thd same place . The stable still stands , But Sid built a stable on too his house and his bed rome because peaple where steeling Three Bars and breeding there mares and would take weeks to find him. I would love to contack Sids nephews wife, Also the lady that now owns the ranch war very intrested in making a movie, would love it also, I think it should be .

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