It is likely that Gallant Man, Bold Ruler and Round Table—so well named, for they respectively personify the qualities of courage, aristocracy and solidity—constitute the most brilliant trio of handicap racers we have had in the same season for nearly 30 years. But although we can count our blessings, we are given scant opportunity of enjoying them to the full. The tradition of sportsmanship in U.S. racing sometimes seems to be fighting a losing battle with the growing commercialization of the sport, and one of the phoniest concepts currently gaining ground is the theory that the richest horse is automatically the best.
In their obeisance to these false gods, owners of the best horses ship their property across the length and breadth of the land in search, not of other top horses, but of rich purses which can be picked up against mediocre opposition.
At Belmont, in the Suburban, Bold Ruler beat Clem by the shortest of noses while conceding 25 pounds; last weekend Round Table just failed to give 21 pounds to Bernburgoo in Chicago; and on the same day Gallant Man, having been flown from New York to California on a trip which will set his stable back $15,000, gave Eddie Schmidt 20 pounds and a half-length beating in the $162,100 Hollywood Gold Cup. All of these were enjoyable races, but how much finer would have been a race between the three of them. They may meet just once this year—possibly in the Woodward at Belmont in the fall—but that is no way to decide supremacy; this ought to be settled over a series of races in a year, over different distances and with varying weights.
To do Jim Fitzsimmons justice, he is not afraid to pit Bold Ruler against anything. He says, simply: "We are a New York stable, and we race in New York. When our horse is ready we'll run with any weight."
Gallant Man, possibly the best of the trio, skipped the Suburban for the Hollywood Park race. Explanation? Trainer Johnny Nerud is quite frank: "I used to think as much about the prestige races as anybody in this country. But look what they did for us last year: Gallant Man won the Belmont at a mile and a half, the Travers at a mile and a quarter, the Jockey Club Gold Cup at two miles. Brother, those are the races that for years and years owners and breeders dream of winning. Then, because we lose one race late in the season to Bold Ruler, we lose the 'championship.' So now I've changed my tune. I say to hell with the prestige races, and let's win a little money for a change."
As for Round Table, his owner is single-mindedly intent on looking for more money with his horse than ever gushed from his Oklahoma oil wells. Travis Kerr told me, "Our one aim is to surpass Nashua's money-winning mark, and to do that we'll go whereever the weights treat us best."
While the handicap championship is still undetermined because the top three horses are avoiding each other with shocking regularity, the leadership of the 3-year-old filly division (writes William Leggett) seemed like it would be settled in the best possible way when Idun and A Glitter met head on at Delaware Park last week. Although some may say that the Delaware Oaks proved nothing because Brookmeade Stable's Big Effort—a long shot—won it, they are wrong. The Oaks proved one thing conclusively: man is mightier than malted milk.
Not only did it mark the second time in a lifetime of 13 races that Mrs. C. Ulrick Bay's Idun felt the sting of defeat, it also nudged Jockey Pete Anderson into the winner's circle for the eighth straight week in a stake race and gave him the right to the title of Upset Rider of 1958.
Anderson, the incredibly bow-legged 27-year-old jockey known as Parenthesis Pete, has now managed to beat both Tim Tam and Idun while winning $265,725 in purses in the last two months.
Trainer Elliott Burch and Anderson anticipated an early pace so they decided to keep Big Effort back until the stretch run. Their strategy worked perfectly.
Because of his weight problem, Anderson has seldom attracted good horses. He became a top apprentice rider in 1948, but by 1950 his love for malted milks and ice cream sodas drove him into oblivion. His weight went from 109 "to way up over 120," and he wasn't even included in the jockey standings for that year. He settled down in a sweat box, ran hard and dieted and gradually brought his weight back to 109. "I'll tell you what it was like in those years," he says, "I was eating feathers. This year, with my weight down, I'm eating the chicken."
While the Oaks was billed as a grudge race between Willie Hartack, who left Calumet because he wasn't allowed to ride Tim Tam in the Belmont, and Ismael Valenzuela, who was, it never developed as such; nor is the grudge rooted in much except publicity.
Now we don't know which among Idun, A Glitter or Big Effort is the best 3-year-old filly. Perhaps the answer will come in the $110,000 Delaware Handicap on July 26. And Anderson plans to be there.