The embarrassment California Horseman Andy Crevolin has suffered as the result of a tape-recorded interview published recently in The Blood-Horse reminds me of the old vaudeville comedian who came onstage with a horn and complained throughout his act: "I blow in so sweet and it comes out so sour."
Obviously Mr. Crevolin, owner of the Kentucky Derby winner, Determine, was bemused by the sound of his own voice. He must have been as surprised as anyone when he discovered that he had said: "We don't try to win with our young horses first or second time...we're not going to kill a horse the first time he runs and break his heart."
In effect Crevolin was saying that he and his trainer follow the practice of "qualifying" horses, which means getting them in condition by running them in races they are not expected to win. This happens most frequently with green two-year-olds which only learn to fend for themselves by racing in competition.
There is nothing new about the practice nor about the attitude of turf writers toward it. Stable owners, too, have deplored it. About fifteen years ago Alfred Vanderbilt took the stand that qualifying was a farce and unfair to the public who bet on horses in good faith. Fred Keats, racing columnist, brought it up again recently. But no one yet has come up with a workable solution. The proposed preprogram nonbetting race is impractical. But that doesn't alter the fact that "qualifying" is bad for racing.
SO MANY FILLIES
The Illinois Racing Board was particularly disturbed by Crevolin's statements. The California extrovert described a race at Arlington in devastating terms. "... I never saw a race where so many [young] fillies were being pulled.... Nobody was really cheating but nobody was trying, and it just wasn't good...they all wanted weight off...."
Merely in passing he also claimed that Determine could have won the Derby Trial and beaten Hasty Road if he had felt the flick of the whip; that he started Imbros (the colt which gave him a stake double by winning the $100,000 Kyne Handicap at Bay Meadows the very day Determine carried off the Derby) at Arlington with instructions to the boy to ease him back to dead last because the track was muddy.
However, as a man horrified by the machine age, I can sympathize somewhat with Crevolin confronted by the inexorable tape-recorded interview. A reporter with a pad and pencil can be refuted but try as the over-talkative Californian will to apologize, and to say "I didn't mean just that, I was only kidding," electronics has him in its clutches.
All in all the rambunctious Andy threw an H-bomb at racing. The Illinois Racing Board has already offered the film patrol pictures of Imbros' race for review by turf writers and officials. The conclusion was that Crevolin was talking through his hat. Imbros was trying all right but just couldn't make it. Again the machine age took a hand.
California racing authorities are looking into things, too. For Crevolin claimed that he didn't try with Determine in his first three races. But the trainer and the riders who have been questioned there deny ever receiving any orders other than to go out and win.
An editorial commenting on the affair in the Daily Racing Form says that "Racing in the United States is probably the best supervised sport in the world. However there is no doubt that the fans are troubled by the failure of stewards to take action in cases of serious reversals of form."
FIVE SHOULDN'T HAPPEN
Everyone who follows racing has had the experience of betting on a horse that dogs it one week and wins at boxcar figures the next. There is some valid reason for this 95% of the time. But the other five shouldn't happen. I have long thought that so-called trial stakes on the eve of a classic do little to help the public determine the winner of the upcoming event, although they may help ready the horses.
The Blood-Horse in a follow-up editorial tries to get Crevolin off his electronic hook by saying "We can only declare our sincere regrets that...he...must suffer because he doesn't know the completely satisfactory answer to a contradiction inherent in racing nor as yet resolved by its wisest heads and sternest lawmakers."
This doesn't exactly unhook Andy, but the casual racegoer may gather some comfort from the knowledge that the problem has been around for a couple of hundred years. In short the unwary are no worse off than before.
Winning the Saratoga Hopeful in a hard-fought, well-run race in very fast time sends Belair Stud's Nashua back to New York as the inevitable choice for the Belmont Futurity. He's going to find a very fast challenger waiting for him downstate, Royal Coinage, winner of the Saratoga Special. Both he and Claiborne Farm's filly, Delta, still in the Midwest, are real fliers. The three of them may well be battling it out till snow flies.