THE PLOT AGAINST SILKY SULLIVAN

(Or a horse-to-horse talk at Hialeah)
March 24, 1958

This magazine is in receipt of a transcript of a most unusual conversation that took place this week between Tim Tam and Jewel's Reward, a pair of 3-year-old Thoroughbreds who are expected to uphold the honor of the East against Silky Sullivan, the pride and sensation of the West, in the Kentucky Derby on May 3. The conversation took place in the early morning at Hialeah Park in Florida and was overheard by a stable pony who reported it to SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. Tim Tam and Jewel's Reward were in a little knot of horses near the entrance to the track, waiting their turn to take their regular morning exercise. An exercise boy atop one of the horses verified important parts of this conversation, which proves, incidentally, that Silky Sullivan is the most talked-of horse of the decade, even among horses who are notoriously close-mouthed. The boy's name and that of the pony are being withheld for obvious reasons. Tim Tam will be identified as T.T. and Jewel's Reward as J.R.

T.T.: Oh, it's you.

J.R.: Yes, it is I.

T.T.: Have you been reading about that show Sullivan put on?

J.R.: I'm never up when Ed's show is on.

T.T.: I don't mean Ed Sullivan. I mean Silky Sullivan.

J.R.: That's a horse on me.

T.T.: You're sure feeling your oats, Jewelie Boy, but let me tell you it'll be a horse of another color when we have to run against him in the Florida Derby.

J.R.: O.K., O.K., simmer down, Tim, I can read and I see by The Morning Telegraph that Silky Sullivan isn't going to come east for the Florida Derby after all. We don't have to worry about him until the Kentucky Derby.

T.T.: Are you sure, Jewelie?

J.R.: Sure I'm sure. I got it straight from Oscar Otis' mouth in the Telegraph.

T.T.: Well, then, that's different. Why don't we cook up a little plan to give Silky his comeuppance in the Run for the Roses?

J.R.: If your plan isn't any better than that last cliché, we might as well scratch ourselves right now and let Mrs. Graham and Mrs. Markey run for us.

T.T.: Hear me out, Jewelie. Remember what happened the last time you fouled me?

J.R.: Oh, sorry, that's another horse on me.

T.T.: This time we've got to work together for the good of eastern bloodlines. Would you want your sister to marry Silky Sullivan?

J.R.: Stick to the point, Tim, the only race we're interested in is the Kentucky Derby. Right?

T.T.: Right.

J.R.: O.K. Now let's consider Silky the horse. SPORTS ILLUSTRATED sent its horse writer, Whitney Tower, out to the Coast to talk to him. I read about it last night, just before I hit the hay. Silky keeps a straight face and cocks that roving eye of his at Tower and says he doesn't know why it is that he can't seem to get into the race until every horse on the track and every human in the grandstand thinks he's out of it. He even went so far as...

T.T.: Did Mr. Tower talk to Willie Shoemaker, Silky's jockey?

J.R.: Don't be silly, Tim. The Shoe can't talk—don't interrupt me. Like I was saying, Silky went so far as to grab his chest and say, "Something in here seems to hurt me terrible after I get out of the gate and I have to slow down." He's got a brogue that makes old Doc Strub sound like Sir Cedric Hardwicke by comparison, but I'm giving it to you in English.

T.T.: I get you, never mind how he talks. What you're saying is that he hangs back until any horse with horse sense thinks he is out of the race. Then, when the likes of us well-bred horses are preparing a few words of acceptance to say in the winner's circle as our owners clasp hands willy-nilly and show their teeth, this crazy mick comes flying by roaring like a steam engine and takes the race.

J.R.: Exactly, Tim. Mrs. Markey and Jimmy Jones and all the people at Calumet must be proud of you. You're a very perceptive horse. Now let's hear a bright idea about how we can keep this western jerk from making us another pair of famous also-rans at Louisville. I don't mind running second to the stewards, but, on my dam, I don't want to run second to a horse.

T.T.: Don't get personal, Jewelie. Silky Sullivan's the problem before the horse—I mean, the house. Stick to the subject.

J.R.: Stick to the subject yourself, and give us the modus operandi for Louisville on Derby Day. Don't forget, Silky's trainer, who talks pretty good for a trainer, said: "The last time I saw Bill Corum I told him I wouldn't come back to Churchill Downs until I had a horse that would get me over there into his winner's circle."

T.T.: All right, here's the m.o. We'll break fast out of the gate just like Silky. Then you keep your eye on Silky and when he gets that expression on his face like he's in pain and slows down, you wince like you're in trouble and slow down with him. Or, better still, act like you really care about him and want to help him so you won't get your jockey accused by the stewards of pulling you up.

J.R.: Wouldn't that—

T.T.: Don't interrupt my train of thought and I'll guarantee you the next time you hear of Silky he'll be playing a measly supporting role in one of those silly Westerns. All right, now Silky has slowed down to a canter and you're right with him—solicitous as an old stable pony. Well, you could tell from Mr. Tower's piece that Silky's a sentimental Irish slob. This really touches him, see? No four-footed fellow creature ever cared enough about him before to slow down with him and offer to help. Here's where you do it up big and we take the slob for sure. Ask him what you can do, and if he tries to wave you off, touch your chest and tell about the awful pains you have sometimes and how you get over them by walking for about a mile. Tell him that resuming his gallop would be about the worst thing he could do in his condition.

J.R.: Timmy old Tammy, you're practically a genius. I wonder why those California horses couldn't think of something like this. It's breeding, that's what it is, breeding. Why—hey, wait a minute—what will you be doing while I'm holding Silky off?

T.T.: Don't be silly, Jewelie, the stewards would come right down off their perches if we both stayed back with Silky. I wouldn't want to get you disqualified again. I'll just keep on running.

J.R.: Why you four-legged hypocrite, did you think of that all by yourself or did that two-legged son of Ben Jones put you up to—

Jewel's Reward's angry retort was interrupted at this point by the buzzer, which signaled the group in which the two horses were standing onto the track. Jewel's Reward was mumbling some seemingly unprintable words as Tim Tam took off at a surprisingly rapid gait, ignoring the accustomed warmup trot. "It is my opinion," said the pony to whom we are indebted for this horse-to-horse talk, "that the rivalry between East and East will be as hot as the rivalry between East and West on Derby Day."

PHOTOTIM TAM: "HERE'S THE PITCH" PHOTOJEWEL'S REWARD: "EXACTLY"

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)