Not everyone would agree that an afternoon of good horse racing needs to be bolstered by a mixture of acts culled from the rodeo or aquacade. Such old-fashioned doubts, however, are enthusiastically rejected by James Donn, president of Gulfstream Park, and Horace Wade, who is Director of Racing at the Hallandale track. Ever since they hit on the idea in 1952, they have progressively transformed the day of the $100,000 Florida Derby into what they now describe with pride and justification as "racing's greatest extravaganza."
From the moment the track's gates open on Derby Day this Saturday (9 a.m.), the huge crowd will be treated to an uninterrupted spectacle which will include music by a dance band, a Dixieland band and the University of Miami marching band; skilled water skiing on the infield lake; sailing exhibitions; a mounted Parade of States with a horsed police escort; trick riding by the Homestead Posse; and the leisurely cruise of the miniature side-wheeler Swanee Queen.
After eight hours of this entertainment, survivors will be warned by the Dixieland band's rendition of Way Down Upon the Swanee River that the horses are being called to the post for the Florida Derby itself. This race is the last major winter test for 3-year-olds, one of whom, after winning this mile-and-an-eighth race, is likely to be considered between then and Kentucky Derby day as the East's most hopeful answer to the West's own racing extravaganza, Silky Sullivan.
The logical candidate for this honor is Tim Tarn, Calumet Farm's handsome and classically bred dark bay colt, who won the disputed Flamingo on a disqualification (SI, March 10) and who even more recently underlined his class by humbling a good field in Gulfstream's Fountain of Youth Stakes. His disqualified rival, Jewel's Reward, is passing up the Florida Derby to return to New York; although the Flamingo left him a little the worse for wear, the May 3 Kentucky Derby remains Jewel's prime objective.
March 31, 1958
If Tim Tarn has a serious adversary in this race, it may be Arnold Hanger's colt, Whitley, who has been wintering in South Carolina and will be making his first start of the year. In connection with Whitley, there are two things to remember: he is trained by canny old Max Hirsch, of King Ranch fame, and will be ridden by Eddie Arcaro. Hirsch and Arcaro are not men to go all the way to Gulfstream just to get an earful of music and an eyeful of beauty on water skis. There must be another reason—like, for instance, the smell of the winner's share of a $100,000 purse.
Last week at Gulfstream another $100,000 purse went to a horse about whom there are no mysteries or question marks. When the Oklahoma oilman Travis M. Kerr bought Round Table just over a year ago he knew he had a good prospect; he couldn't know that his purchase would blossom into the best horse in training in America today.
In winning the Gulfstream Park Handicap with phenomenal ease, Round Table hiked his earnings to $973,964—which puts him third to Nashua and Citation on the money-winning list. This amazingly consistent bay has now won all six of his 1958 starts, after taking 15 out of 22 last year.
Round Table is not a big horse, about 15.2 hands; he is short-coupled but well-quartered behind, has a small but good-looking head and a longer-than-average stride.
Complete soundness and a perfect disposition are two of the Table's greatest assets. His trainer, Willie Molter, says, "He has unlimited endurance. I think he can probably handle any horse, too."
Unfortunately for racing fans, this challenge will not soon be tested. Bold Ruler and Gallant Man, the other two heroes of 1957, are sidelined with hoof troubles. Thus they join the long list of brilliant young horses who have been unable to withstand the intense training and early competition imposed by the modern economics of American racing.
Travis Kerr says Round Table will now go "where the horse will be treated the best.... We are not in favor of weights in excess of 130 pounds." This means Round Table will shoot for the California purses at Golden Gate and Hollywood Park before moving to Chicago and Belmont (probably for the Woodward).
Long before then, Round Table will probably have earned the title of world's richest race horse. He will not, however, be making horseplayers much wealthier—in the Gulfstream Handicap he went off at 1 to 5. By way of contrast, on the same day a horse named Whisk Tru beat the mutuel record at Bowie (Maryland) by paying off $464 for $2 in the fifth race. Of course, Whisk Tru's previous form was not quite the same as Round Table's—this was his first victory in 27 starts.