Gallant Man's overwhelming Belmont Stakes victory proved one thing about the 1957 harvest of expensively bred and extensively raced 3-year-olds—that dancing every dance doesn't leave you in the best of shape for the grand finale at the senior prom.
When the whole panorama was spread out in March, there were several potential champions: Barbizon, Gen. Duke, Iron Liege, Bold Ruler and a cluster of hopefuls in California. By Belmont Day the first three were defective, and the westerners had proved inadequate when exposed to the embarrassment of stern competition.
Bold Ruler remained, prior to the Belmont, the one thread that held the division together. And Gallant Man, almost a dwarf when placed alongside the rest, remained the question mark. He had risen from 63rd on the Experimental list to two nightmarish defeats in the Wood Memorial and the Kentucky Derby. One or the other had to save face for all.
To 44-year-old Trainer Johnny Nerud's credit, it was Gallant Man who did it, and by eight lengths in American record time of 2:26 3/5, thus disposing of Bolingbroke's 15-year-old record by a full second.
Nerud arrived at steamy Belmont two hours before the big race in a spanking new brown-and-silver-striped sports cap, bought a program and immediately ripped the covers off. "I've got enough to do today without carrying any overweight," he said, and walked quickly to the middle of the race track and picked up a handful of wet dirt.
"I think it's gonna be mine. The way I see the race, Bold Ruler is going to the front and I'll send the other half of my entry [Bold Nero] right with him for three quarters and try to kill him off. I think it will work."
Ralph Lowe, Gallant Man's pale Texas owner, asked Nerud for the privilege of hoisting Jockey Willie Shoemaker into the saddle—he had never done it before. As Lowe lifted, Willie said, "Please, Mr. Lowe, don't throw me over the horse, I've had enough trouble lately."
Once posted, Willie became the target for a chorus of catcalls advising him: "Don't stop for lunch this time" and "Hey, Willie, did you take your No-Doz?" This probably was the first time that a jockey other than Eddie Arcaro had been so royally harassed at Belmont. The only comment heard about Arcaro was in the paddock, where a fat man asked a thin one, laughingly, if Arcaro knew where the finish line was and the thin man informed his inquisitor, "Know where it is? He was born on it."
Bold Ruler, as expected, bounded to the front, but Johnny Choquette, Bold Nero's jockey, sent his colt with him and the sacrificial lamb pushed Bold Ruler to a punishing mile in 1:35 3/5 (after blistering fractions of :23 2/5, :46 4/5, 1:10 2/5 and 1:35 3/5). Bold Nero fell away, but Gallant Man now surged from third with leaping strides and reached Bold Ruler quickly, ran with him for a few strides, then completely dominated him, covering the last quarter in the speedy time of :25. Inside Tract also caught Bold Ruler and beat him by four lengths for place.
Jim Fitzsimmons, Bold Ruler's trainer, watched the race on television in the jockeys' room and said, "My horse just isn't a mile-and-a-half horse. But he'll probably run in Chicago this summer." (See page 20.)
Nerud, perspiring but jubilant—with the $12,000 he received from Owner Lowe he can now fully satisfy his mania for gaudy sports caps—said that Gallant Man might be shipped to Paris for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (a race which his sire, Migoli, won in 1948) or else to Chicago for the American Derby and Arlington Classic. Lowe, another happy man, said that Nerud could do anything he wanted with the horse from now on.
The future may yet paint a fuller picture, but the post-Belmont verdict on the 1957 classical colts must be that they have shown plenty of quality-more intermittent brilliance, in fact, than consistency.