HORSES: EDUCATION IN EQUITATION
The excellent article on Billy Steinkraus, Thinker on Horseback (SI, Dec. 15), brought to mind what a fine job you have been doing in making the general public aware of this particular phase of equestrian sport. Partly due to the lack of proper interest and support, the development of equitation of the type required for international competition has lagged in this country. As a consequence, the whole sport has suffered. Under the leadership of the U.S. Equestrian Team, great strides are now being made to correct this deficiency and to revive an interest in the finer points of equitation.
The articles that have appeared in SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, which show a depth of understanding of the subject, have been a tremendous factor in arousing interest and support for the USET program. As far as I know, it is the only popular magazine that has paid any attention to this particular sports activity. I am sure these articles are well read, for my nonhorsy friends all over the country tell me about them.
WALTER G. STALEY
I would like to propose three big cheers for your Alice Higgins. I have just finished reading her article on William Steinkraus, and I think it is one of her best.
I subscribe to many magazines of the horse world, but none of them are as interesting as SPORTS ILLUSTRATED.
I am sure that everybody who has horses or just the person who is the horse lover is thankful that you endeavor to bring the interest of horse showing to all the readers of this magnificent magazine of yours.
TURF: SPORT AND BUSINESS
Happy to see Sport first, business second (SI, Dec. 15), by Whitney Tower, an unbiased article on racing for a change. To hear the trade papers tell it, everything is wonderful and all racing officials are above reproach.
Racing is the only sport not run for the convenience of its patrons. And its patrons are not the big sportsmen, but the lowly $2 bettors. And the $2 guy hates 2-year-old races, $100,000 handicaps, maiden races and turf-course races, and all the other junk the race track operators and wealthy turfmen insist on. If racing is a sport, then indeed these races have their place, and racing is indeed for the improvement of the breed.
But when a wealthy sportsman such as Mr. Travis M. Kerr, the owner of Round Table, pouts when his horse is weighted with more than 130 pounds and ships his horse from track to track to get the best of it in his quest to become an alltime money winner, then it's still a business and a statistic.
Another thing the race track operators foolishly worry about is off-track betting. As one columnist noted the other day, "Seventy-five percent of the regulars are between 50 and 75 years old." You bet. And who made them regulars? Why, off-track betting, of course. The tracks are not building new clients by refusing to recognize off-track wagering. The states are also unrealistic by stating that such revenue rightfully belongs to the state. Who says so? I say, it's downright illegal for the state to stick its fingers in the pie for from 4% to 10% of my $2.
Well, I still don't know if it's a sport or a business, probably closer to a gambling game, because I wouldn't walk a block to see a horse race without wagering and neither would 95% of the tracks' patrons either. And, for the love of Mike, make it legal to make a wager off track. I can't see any difference in betting $50 on a horse or betting $50 that General Motors will go up in price. The difference being, if you play the stock market you are a financier, if you play the races you are a bum—unless you play at the track, of course, then you are a sportsman. If this letter seems confused, it should. I am.
San Marino, Calif.
Mr. George Widener is quoted as saying the "Derby is run too early for 3-year-olds." The following table shows the approximate age in months of the horses, plus the distance in furlongs they race.
The "Derby-too-early" argument had some validity 30 years ago, when many horses spent the winter in the North. Now, singling out the Derby from all the other big races simply doesn't make sense. Racing has a 12-month season. Horses are just as ready the first Saturday in May for 10 furlongs as they were seven months earlier for 8½ furlongs, or as they will be a month later for 12 furlongs.
•The comments of Mike Barry, editor of the Kentucky Irish-American, are well taken, and Jockey Club Chairman George D. Widener, who has never yet started a horse in the Kentucky Derby, agrees that he would have no objection to doing so provided that he felt he owned a colt good enough to endure a strenuous winter campaign which would prepare him adequately to run 10 furlongs early in May.—ED.
Your capable Whitney Tower echoes an all-too-popular fallacy when he states that "American racing...used to place clear and rightful emphasis on 'classical' 3-year-old stakes..." (instead of 2-year-old stakes).
As far back as you can go in American horse racing history, 2-year-old stakes have been more richly endowed than the stakes for 3-year-olds. Indeed, it has only been in modern racing history that big stakes money for 3-year-olds and aged horses has come up to match that given to 2-year-olds.
Belmont Park has pretty much set the standard for American horse racing since it was built in the early 1900s. In all those years, the Belmont Futurity (for 2-year-olds) has netted the winner more than the Belmont Stakes (for 3-year-olds), with only three exceptions—1909, 1946 and 1954. All the way up to 1900 it was worth more to win the Futurity than all three Triple Crown events.
The American Racing Manual lists 11 horses in its "Twentieth Century Hall of Fame": Citation, Colin, Count Fleet, Equipoise, Exterminator, Man o' War, Nashua, Native Dancer, Sysonby, Tom Fool and Swaps. All but Exterminator and Swaps were champion 2-year-olds, and most of them did plenty of racing at 2 to earn that honor. Man o' War ran nearly half his races as a 2-year-old. Equipoise started more times as a 2-year-old than at any other age. Colin won 12 for 12 as a 2-year-old and ran only three times thereafter. Count Fleet, in a total of 21 starts, raced 15 times as a 2-year-old. Equipoise, who raced for six years, had his highest single-season money-winning record at the age of 2.
Let's look at 1921 for another example. That year the Belmont was worth $8,650 to the winner, the Lawrence Realization $17,850, the Preakness $43,000, the Derby $38,450, the Travers $10,275. These were considered the five top stakes for 3-year-olds. Of the 2-year-old stakes that year the Belmont Futurity was worth $35,870, the Pimlico Futurity $42,750, the Hopeful $34,900, the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes $22,175. A 3-year-old could win $118,225 by winning the five top races for his age. But a 2-year-old could have outearned him with $135,695 in only four races.
In the last 10 years the top 3-year-old winner has earned on the average twice as much as the top 2-year-old money winner. But if you go back to the old days when three-year-old races had their "rightful emphasis," you'll find many a 2-year-old the top money winner for all ages.
A postscript to Jimmy Kilroe (New York and Santa Anita racing secretary), who would like to see the Belmont run in the fall to give the 3-year-olds a better breathing space between top races:
Maybe he should attempt to have the Lawrence Realization restored to its rightful emphasis with a $100,000-added purse. This stake has a history perhaps second to none, with such great winners as Salvator, Sysonby, Fair Play, Sweep, Man o' War, Zev, Reigh Count, Gallant Fox, Twenty Grand, Granville, Whirlaway and Alsab. This race is run in the fall and it is a shame to see it disintegrating into a mean-nothing race, as it has in recent years due to the paucity of the purse.
The Independent Star-News
•Reader Marugg cites the Belmont Futurity as the example of early, rich 2-year-old stakes, and rightly so. However, it must be noted that any Futurity (in which the juveniles of an entire crop are nominated even before they are born) is apt to have a larger purse value than any other form of stakes race. Nothing falsifies relative merits of Thoroughbreds more than a quick look at comparative earnings, and no earning opportunity has increased in the modern racing calendar faster than in the 2-year-old division. In 1942, for example, 2-year-old champion Count Fleet, in winning 10 of 15 starts (and never being out of the money), won only $76,245. In 1959 there will be nearly a dozen opportunities for any 2-year-old to win more than that sum in one race. Of four races in which Count Fleet competed in 1942, which were also held in 1958, here are the purse increases: 1) For running second in the Washington Park Futurity Count Fleet earned $6,000; in 1958 the second horse, Winsome Winner, received $25,000. 2) Third place in the Belmont Futurity earned $4,000 for Count Fleet; last fall it won $7,500 for Dunce. 3) Count Fleet's victory in the Champagne Stakes was worth $9,375; it was worth $96,870 to First Landing last season. 4) Count Fleet's Pimlico Futurity netted him $30,820, compared to the $119,571 earned in 1958's Pimlico Futurity by Intentionally. In these four races (only two of which he won) Count Fleet won $50,195. A duplicate performance by one 2-year-old in 1958 would have been worth $248,941. Whereas 3-year-old purses have increased over the years, too, the relative jump has not been as large as in the 2-year-old division. Increased emphasis on 2-year-old races and purses? The answer is definitely yes.—ED.
The Garden State
The Pimlico Futurity
The Flamingo Stakes
The Santa Anita Derby
The Kentucky Derby
The Belmont Stakes