In Florida newspapers this week the results of the Santa Anita Derby made a medium-size inside story. Not that Florida racing fans don't care about a $100,000 horse race, even if it's in California. But their own winter racing season is just approaching its peak, and your Florida man likes to believe that the real pick of the young 3-year-old crop will be running this Saturday at Hialeah.
The Florida man has a case. For, on hand at Miami—and dominating the cast of characters in the $100,000 Flamingo Stakes—is the big, glistening, mahogany colt Nashua, acclaimed by turf writers as the best 2-year-old of 1954. And that's not all. Among the cast assembled for the big race is the homely but arresting little plebeian, Boston Doge. This unprepossessing-looking colt with a comedian's head actually looks his best from behind, where his sturdy strength lies. But he is unbeaten in eight starts and the main question is not how he looks but whether he can go the distance.
To date he has not been seriously tested beyond seven furlongs, i.e., seven-eighths of a mile, but for that matter neither has Nashua. Each has his coterie of doubters and touters. However, Nashua was bred by his owner, the late William Woodward, for the sole purpose of winning the English Derby at a mile and a half.
Six weeks ago when the Florida campaign started, the list of Flamingo aspirants was large. By last week, however, parts had been assigned to only 12 characters which have shown sufficient promise in earlier races to give their owners some slight hope that they stand a chance in the big race.
But all eyes will be following Nashua and Boston Doge at the track—and on the first nation-wide TV program of the year for 3-year-olds next Saturday. Nashua will be ridden by Eddie Arcaro, a leading man in his own right, who will be after his third Flamingo. Boston Doge will have the comparative newcomer, Willie Hartack, who hates to lose any race and has yet to win a really big stake in his spectacular riding career. Arcaro's main task will be to see that Nashua doesn't loaf once he gets to the front—a habit he had as a 2-year-old, but which his trainer, Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons, says he has outgrown.
A WORKOUT WHIZ
The muscled big colt has been turning in some sensational morning works at a mile. His chief rival, Boston Doge, on the other hand, has been almost astonishingly unimpressive at the same distance. However, the skinny Bostonian with the sleepy air—it's actually hard to get a picture of him with his eyes open—has one tremendous burst of speed which he can apparently turn on anywhere in a race. If he turns it on at the right moment in the Flamingo he might beat the champ.
Of course, because anything is possible in a horse race, a minor character might come along and steal the show while everyone is concentrating on the two stars. Hasty House Farm's Prince Noor, winner of the Everglades, can't be ignored completely. Racing luck comes in bunches and right now his stable is the hottest thing in Florida. Their Hasty Road made off with the Widener last week, taking it from under the noses of Brookmeade's Capeador and Alfred Vanderbilt's Social Outcast. Then there's Cup Man, which runs his race in the stretch, and Saratoga, with his sizzling speed. The others might be said to have walk-on parts.
Although the Flamingo is important in determining which horses have staying power, it would be an error of judgment to base all hopes for the Triple Crown classics on it. Only two Flamingo winners, Lawrin in 1938 and Citation 10 years later, have gone on to win the Kentucky Derby. One reason is that until recently top 3-year-olds did not go in for winter racing.
But, even though the Flamingo is the main go-round for the sophomores at Hialeah, I should like to point out that the curtain has not yet fallen on the winter racing drama. There are a dozen or more characters waiting in the wings which won't get a chance to play their parts until the Florida Derby at Gulfstream. Some of them are foreign horses which will make their American debut at this track and will try for the $100,000. They will, of course, hope for encores later in the season.
Then, too, there is a colt named Roman Patrol, awaiting his turn in the Louisiana Derby.
But the Flamingo is the top event in the big tent this week, and the winner is pretty certain to be the early winter-book favorite for the Derby.