For many a Thoroughbred admirer, preoccupied as he may be with the racing futures of classically bred 3-year-olds (see page 12), the picture above should nonetheless strike a deeply gratifying note. It is the first published photograph of 1956 Horse of the Year Swaps being exercised after an amazing recovery from a dangerous leg injury at Garden State last fall. It also coincides with two important new developments in the glorious career of the greatest racer in California history. A few days before this picture was taken of Swaps being ponied along a sandy runway at Chino by his co-owner, Rex Ellsworth, the 5-year-old champion was pronounced completely cured of a double linear fracture of the left hind cannon bone. And a few days following our visit to the ranch, Swaps entered a new phase of his illustrious life—that of a hopefully promising stud—by serving his first mare.
The life of the fabulous invalid was once despaired of by more than a few knowledgeable horsemen. Swaps's recovery was not so much a medical miracle as simply the result of extraordinary cooperation by any number of individuals. They ranged from New Jersey and California veterinarians, stable hands and track officials all the way to rival trainer Sunny Jim Fitz-simmons (who offered the use of the sling in which Swaps was suspended for so many dreary weeks). Most important of all was the personal care lavished by Trainer Mish Tenney.
Through it all—as his coat lost its glisten and his weight dropped—Swaps himself cooperated with the intelligence that is the trademark of champions. Returned to his home in California this winter, he picked up in health and spirit almost immediately, and recently Tenney, in pronouncing him healed, reported, "The swelling around the coronet has almost completely gone. He still has a few sore spots because of the foot's being in a cast and lacking room to grow. This naturally caused pressure on the hoof. These spots are getting better and at the moment give him no trouble."
At first it had been the plan to limit Swaps's 1957 stud book to about 20 mares. The first of these was a 7-year-old daughter of Owen Tudor named Ynys, who was one of the 41 brood mares purchased by Ellsworth last summer from the Aga Khan. But now the talk at Chino is revolving around a proposed book of 40 mares, including some belonging to Co-owner John Gal-breath and a few to Ellsworth's sometime associate Mrs. Richard Lunn.
Would Swaps ever attempt a comeback racing campaign? "It's too soon to tell," says Trainer Tenney. "But if so, it wouldn't be before the Santa Anita meeting a year from now."