An obscure 3-year-old from Bean town, name of Boston Doge, has caused more excitement opening week at Hialeah than if Ben Hur and his chariot had suddenly put in an appearance at the track.
Unheard of and unknown except on the New England circuit, the unbeaten sleeper, owned by Paul Andolino and trained by his brother Frank, came to the races opening day with a record of five straight wins. He promptly made it six by taking the secondary feature, and on Saturday ran up his seventh straight by romping home in the Hibiscus by three and one half lengths.
Rags-to-riches horses are no novelty, but it is not often that a real sensation appears to upset the top echelon. This horse has atomized the Florida turf world. Such racing sachems as Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons, Bill Winfrey, who trains for Alfred Vanderbilt, and the usually taciturn Bert Mulholland, impresario of the George E. Widener stable, are taking Boston Doge seriously indeed. All three said exactly the same thing, "I wish I had him," and he's being talked about everywhere as serious competition to the champions of the 3-year-old division, Nashua and Summer Tan.
The Andolino brothers are sort of used to horses. They once ran a big livery stable in north Boston. Paul got interested in thoroughbreds about 1939, watching them run at Rockingham and Suffolk. The only Andolino horses on the track in those days were the dray horses pulling the scrapers and the starting gates, but that year Paul made a lucky claim for $2,300 in a mare named Lady Bewithus by Bewithus, a Bradley-bred horse, so the Andolinos were in business. Boston Doge is her grandson. His sire, The Doge, was a good sprinter a few years back, but his dam is Boston Lady, with distance blood in her veins inherited from her pappy, Isolater, winner of the Manhattan Handicap in 1938 at a mile and a half and second to Cravat in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at two miles in 1939. Isolater was a Fitzsimmons-trained horse, one reason Mr. Fitz doesn't underestimate the potential threat.
Even the most partisan horse player couldn't say that Boston Doge is much to look at. A dark bay, almost black, he's just another horse until he gets away. Then he's sensational.
He has perfect action, powerful hind quarters, and the only question is how far he will go. So far he's only run in sprints and he has yet to meet a really top horse, although twice in a week he put away Dark Ruler. He's headed for the Derby, via the Flamingo. Next stop is the Bahamas at seven eighths.
DEAD-PAN AND CONFIDENT
Last year you could have bought him for $7,500. The brothers were trying to retrench, but nobody would play. Just before last Saturday's Hibiscus, Frank Andolino turned down an offer of $120,000. A squat, stocky little Boston Italian with iron-gray hair, Frank is as short as a jockey and so dead-pan that it was a surprise to discover that he could smile when he accepted the trophy in the winner's circle. Dead-pan he may be, but confident he is too. He says he's going to win the Kentucky Derby, and at this moment most of south Florida agrees with him. I can't go that far but I don't think anything will beat the colt up to a mile. After that I'll keep my fingers crossed.
The Andolinos haven't even got stable room at Hialeah. They are over at more proletarian Tropical Park and the colt is vanned to the races. I had a time locating him; neither he nor his stable are listed at the gate.
According to stable foreman Clements Eaton, the colt is levelheaded, will do exactly what he's told and his only quirk is a dislike of sweets. He's so average he's almost too good to be true. But that doesn't keep him from being a threat to the champs.
Equally sensational is his rider, Willie Hartack, the 22-year-old boy from Johnstown, Pa. who was tops on the Jersey circuit last year, mowed 'em down in New York and has racked up nine winners in his first week in Florida, four of them on Saturday. Everything he rides gets a play whether it figures or not.
While Boston Doge has been making hay and history, Summer Tan and Nashua have been breezing along quite unconcerned about the new threat to their sovereignty. I saw Nashua the other morning just after his exercise boy, Bill McCreary, had breezed him in his first mile work. Stripped in his stall he looked wonderful, and he will definitely start in an overnight race sometime before the Flamingo. A few minutes later I saw Summer Tan, his rival and top weight in the Experimental Free Handicap, stripped in his stall; and after seeing them both I wondered how Jimmy Kilroe could possibly have found a pound difference. I can't split them on looks any more than I could on performance last year.
Prominent among the debutantes who will visit Hialeah is a young lady named Cy's First, the very first foal of the mighty Citation. Owned by Dick Andrade and Mrs. B. G. Byars, Texans both, she'll race from the By-And Stable, whose colors are gold with an outline of the state of Texas in black centered with a Lone Star. Cy's First will be trained by W. A. Kelley, who says enthusiastically that "she can fly." Undoubtedly she'll point for the Juvenile Stakes Feb. 23. Her dam is Flitaway, kind of speedy herself in more ways than one. Cy's First's natal day was Jan. 17. Just last week Flitaway had her 1955 foal.
Betting and attendance at Hialeah during the first week are up over last year. More than 21,000 saw Boston Doge win at one to three.