It was Indian Summer for Native Dancer last Saturday. In the warm October sunshine, with the haze settling over the backstretch at Belmont, the big gray horse took his last long look at a race track and the crowds which applauded him in his score of victories. The Dancer, loved perhaps as much for his one defeat in the Kentucky Derby as for his sensational triumphs, paraded past the stands at Belmont just before the Woodward. Eric Guerin, who rode him in all but one of his starts, was up.
There is something about the farewell of a champion that pulls out all the sentimental stops. And there were moist eyes among the 33,600 who beat their palms as Native Dancer went by for the last time. Unlike proud Stymie, who in his goodbye to the races at Jamaica was led around the track by a groom, or sage old Exterminator, who made a return farewell √† la Sarah Bernhardt in the 40s accompanied by his stable pony, Peanuts, cum groom, The Dancer seemed ready to run.
The big gray is at the farm now in Maryland. A favorite to the last.
October 11, 1954
This season has not yet produced a horse which has captured the imagination of the public as did The Dancer, but if Nashua keeps on winning down the Widener chute at Belmont he can't miss being the People's Choice.
The big two-year-old from Belair Stud may be the colt to give octogenarian Trainer "Sunny Jim" Fitzsimmons his first Futurity winner. For in the crazy chanciness of racing, Mr. Fitz, with a hatful of classics to his credit, has yet to have a two-year-old show the way down the chute. Maybe October 9th will be his day—and Nashua's.
In the Anticipation last Friday, a Futurity preview, Nashua equaled the track record of 1.08 1/5 for the six-furlong distance. Overtaking Clearwater Stable's Royal Coinage, who hadn't been to the races since he won the Saratoga Special Aug. 14th, he drew clear by an easy length.
Nashua's third chute victory will tend to narrow the field for the 65th running of the $50,000 added Belmont Futurity. His chief opponent will certainly be Mrs. R. A. Firestone's Summer Tan, who broke a track record at Aqueduct in the Cowdin and beat Nashua to boot. Royal Coinage and C. V. Whitney's Pyrenees, who finished third in the Anticipation, are the other known dangerous contenders.
This is the first time in years I haven't been violently partisan. But up to now the two-year-olds have beaten each other with just enough consistency to keep me from going out on a limb. In fact it has been the only consistent thing about them. However there are good horsemen who, even after Nashua's record-equaling race last week, still go for Summer Tan. The Futurity is a maker of champions, so the outcome, is of more than casual interest.
The first running of the $50,000 added Woodward Stakes, a tribute to the late William Woodward, chairman of The Jockey Club, was an exciting affair which went to Ada L. Rice's Pet Bully, a six-year-old who had signified his approval of Belmont by winning the Fall Highweight Handicap down the chute opening day. Willie Hartack, the sensational Jersey rider, piloted him each time and gave him a perfect ride again in the Woodward. It's quite a trick for a young (22) rider to win a big mile race with a sprinter carrying top weight.
Errard King and Fisherman counted themselves out of any serious consideration for three-year-old honors by getting nothing in this race, after being soundly beaten by Martyr the other day. Mass psychology or something made Martyr the favorite in the Woodward. He got nowhere.
I like races such as the Woodward and the upcoming John B. Campbell Memorial at Bowie which closes the eastern season December 4th. These two stakes, both new this year, pay tribute to two men who served racing well. I like, too, the idea of a silver plaque listing his victories which was given to Native Dancer by George D. Widener, president of Belmont, last Saturday; the cup which was presented Atkinson on the occasion of his 3000th win; and the Baker Street Irregulars' annual outing at Aqueduct highlighted by their Silver Blazes Handicap. They remind one that racing is still a sport, and not just a business.
HIGH GUN'S BID
High Gun, winner of the Belmont Stakes, has been invited to be the first of the two American representatives in Laurel's International turf race in November. The committee of Washington-Baltimore newspapermen who pick the horses will choose a second American horse shortly. My selection would be Raster or Closed Door. As recently as last Thursday morning, Max Hirsch, trainer of High Gun, told me the horse had never even been tried on the grass. But he'll certainly go the distance and there is no reason why the turf should bother him.
He'll probably run in either the Lawrence Realization October 7th, or the Manhattan on Futurity day. A victory in either one would give him the three-year-old title.