Dedicate's and Eddie Arcaro's Monmouth Handicap last week would have been the 73rd instead of the 22nd if Jersey bluenoses hadn't persuaded their legislators that there was something immoral about racing. After horse racing was closed down in 1893, gulls raced each other for fish over the old Monmouth plant on their way to sea until 1946. Today the crews of freighters in the Atlantic Ocean can almost watch their investments from the crow's nest with good binoculars on a clear day.
Dedicate and Eddie Arcaro made it perfectly clear that they were much the best and took in $72,625 net for the mile-and-a-quarter run. It was an effort perfectly synchronized between horse and man. Arcaro let Lofty Peak keep the lead, but not by too much, only drawing away at the top of the stretch. Eddie used his whip slightly but authoritatively on the stocky, spunky little 5-year-old son of Princequillo and wound up three and a half lengths ahead of Third Brother in 2:01 4/5, a full second speedier than Arcaro won by when he rode Nashua to the Master's other Monmouth Handicap victory in 1956.
The track was rated fast last Saturday, but the day was gray, lowering, with intermittent thunder showers, subduing the atmosphere but not the enthusiasm of the 35,356 patrons. Monmouth, one of the picture courses of the East, is decorated with flora and the fashion world's fillies. Though slightly damp, they looked fresh and fit in the walking ring before the race, where Dedicate's fine condition was also evident.
After the race Arcaro said: "Dedicate ran very easily today—as easy as I ever saw him run. He looked like a winner all the way, and I had no doubts. He is a very good horse and in very capable hands" (referring to the trainer, not himself). It was the first time Eddie had ridden Dedicate this year, and the horse had plenty of hard luck, as well as some good fortune, before he met Arcaro (who had beaten him twice this year). He suffers from corns regularly; he is an orphan; he was crowded into the hedges in the United Nations and the International last year (maybe he's an isolationist); and he was twice beaten in Belmont's Suburban Handicap, by a head in 1956, and a neck this year. Nevertheless, the 5-year-old now has won $453,975.
Monmouth Park is not only as pretty as ever, but it is faster than before, and the management is getting the horses off more quickly than they used to. Like the California tracks, Monmouth seems to have had a shot in the loam, and the horses there have been running as if on orange juice.
—M. R. WERNER
Clichés fell around last week's Arlington Classic as fast as the Chicago rain. Anyone referring to the Classic without the use of the word "rich" was blasphemous. When describing the subsequent winner, Clem, it was felonious not to call him "the lone invader from the East." On the day of the race the cliché machines puffed their last foggy breaths by calling the race "the magnificent mile." The truth was that before the mile had arrived the magnificent had passed.
Major American races are now blocked off into weeks. There is Flamingo Week, Florida Derby Week, Kentucky Derby Week, Preakness Week, all in honor of the 3-year-olds. This spring a great deal of time during these weeks was spent by humans worrying about the condition of horses. Classic Week allowed horses to worry about people. And, for drama, Classic Week was among the best.
By Tuesday everyone knew that Bold Ruler, once pretender to the crown as the nation's top 3-year-old, had developed splint trouble and wouldn't run.
On Wednesday, 85 hours before the Classic, drama developed with a thud. Willie Hartack, America's leading jockey of 1957, committed the painful and embarrassing misdemeanor of falling from a horse. Anyone seeing the films of the fall would have wondered if he would ever ride again. Examinations of wet X-rays on Wednesday seemed to indicate a fracture of the 12th dorsal vertebra and a possible fracture of the 10th rib. The news of the fall brought a cascade of sentiment to Hartack's bedside at St. Joseph's Hospital in Elgin, Ill. America's premier horseback rider, Eddie Arcaro, called immediately. One New York telegram read, "Dear Willie, as one of your ardent admirers, I never bet on horses, only on you. Did very well in the Derby. Get well soon so I can win again. But make a complete recovery." It was signed, "A friend."
On Thursday, after dry X-rays had been viewed, Hartack was not in as serious condition as expected. He had a fractured transverse process of the third lumbar. He had been scheduled to ride the Classic favorite, Calumet Farm's Iron Liege. As Hartack walked briefly and stiffly down the hospital corridors, Calumet Trainer Jimmy Jones fidgeted continually at Arlington Park. "I hope that boy gets well. I talked to him on the phone and he thinks he might ride the Classic. As soon as he says he's well, I'll send a horse around to pick him up."
Jones had planned to substitute Dave Erb if Hartack could not ride. But in the first race on Friday, Erb rode and slammed his left knee into the rail. Vicious black and blue welts appeared. "Well, what can I do? I'll rest it and see. How's Willie doing?"
Hartack had left the hospital and, in his Euclid Avenue home, just across from the track, soaked in a hot tub. "I'm a little stiff but I gotta get on a horse and try it." He went over to the Calumet barn where Jones put him up on a stable pony. Willie sprang up and down slowly, dismounted. "It hurt me getting on and off, Mr. Jones, but I can ride if you want me."
Saturday morning Hartack worked Barbizon at 6 a.m. ("It didn't hurt at all, but I had trouble bending from side to side.") At 9 he galloped Crossland ("Everything feels fine"). Equipped with an elastic girdle, he rode onto the track for the first race, and applause rolled down on him. He tipped his cap. After finishing second, he said, "I'm fine, a little stiff but I'll be O.K." Erb, still limping, announced he would ride the other Calumet entry, Barbizon.
About 2:20, three hours before the Classic, a valet looked around the jockeys' room and asked, "Anyone seen Conn McCreary?" McCreary was lost in traffic because of Chicago's worst rainstorm in 72 years but appeared about five minutes later. ("Boy, I coulda moved faster than that by swimmin'.")
With all this as a precede, it was almost too much to expect the Classic, worth $105,950 to the winner, to be an outstanding race. But it was. Greek Game shot to the front, surrendered to Iron Liege for a few strides in the stretch. But the Derby winner faltered before the drive of McCreary and "the lone invader from the East." Erb finished next to last.
Clem will race in the American Derby on August 31. Iron Liege, according to Jones, will be rested for "a few weeks." Gen. Duke, the winter hero, "will not be wound up for a while."
Hartack, who is too old (24) to be Peck's Bad Boy and too young to be Dracula, seemed to have learned something from the Classic. When he was beaten in the past, he would snarl and leave the dressing room quickly. But after the Classic he said, "Iron Liege ran a good race. He was game and he kept digging. I don't think it was the best race I ever rode. I'll probably just ride four a day until I'm fully recovered. Nope, that wasn't the best race I ever rode."
But it may have been the bravest.
EASY FOR ROUND TABLE
Oklahoma city Oilman Travis Kerr sent his crack colt, Round Table, to the post in the $162,100 Gold Cup at Hollywood Park last week and confirmed suspicions that he is housing an out-of-the-ordinary animal.
The junior member in a rugged 11-horse field, Round Table, with a twinge of contempt, galloped away from his elders and won, eased up by three and a quarter lengths, with Willie Shoemaker sitting proudly astride.
In covering the mile and a quarter distance in 1:58 3/5, Round Table, the first 3-year-old to win the Gold Cup, equaled the track record set last year by Swaps. But apart from the record breaking over Hollywood's speedway, more important implications have been read into Round Table's win by excited Californians who envision the colt as a new Swaps.
Since Round Table is Kentucky-bred and Oklahoma-owned, it isn't exactly clear why Californians should be taking him so to their bosoms, though Owner Kerr explains that this may be due to his spurning the eastern classics to race his horse on the West Coast.
Kerr's judgment on money matters resists criticism, considering that Round Table (through July 13) has pocketed $183,200 at Hollywood Park. That amount alone (his total earnings are upward of $330,000) more than covers the whopping sum Kerr paid for Round Table when he purchased the colt from the Claiborne Farm last February. "Let's just put the purchase figure at somewhere between $125,000 and $175,000," says Kerr evasively.
After three successive stakes wins at Hollywood Park against horses his own age, and hauling weights up to 130 pounds, Round Table got into the Gold Cup at 109, a factor largely responsible for the crowd sending him off a surprising 7-to-5 favorite.
Halfway down the backstretch, Jockey Shoemaker, closely shadowing the pacemaker, El Khobar, relaxed his grip just an instant on Round Table and the colt swooshed to the front. When he fattened his lead to five lengths in the stretch, the track announcer, Hal Moore, who is never given to hyperbole in his staid calls, shouted excitedly, "Round Table is running away with the race." Apparently, Shoemaker heard the announcement too, for he just coasted through the last sixteenth, crossing the wire safely in front of two seasoned stakes campaigners, Porterhouse and Find.
Afterward, Shoemaker observed soberly of Round Table, "He's a damn good horse, but don't ask me if he's better than Gallant Man, because I don't know."