Jean Riaud, an affable, talented young Frenchman, came to this country two months ago with a 6-year-old horse named Jamin, who, Riaud was certain, was the best trotter in the world. After only two races here, he just about persuaded skeptical Americans that he is right.
In that short time Riaud has also forced U.S. horsemen to reconsider some of their long-held ideas about training harness horses. In brief, Riaud trains Jamin ridiculously lightly by our standards. It is hardly worth dignifying most of Jamin's workouts with stop-watch timing: the horse apparently jogs along at whatever easy pace fits his mood. And this, of course, is in sharp contrast to the rigorous training methods we use.
Jamin's first race here was the International Trot at Roosevelt Raceway on August 1. He had not raced for a month, and he would have been far more at ease on a mile track, with the wide turns and long straighta ways that are familiar to him, rather than on Roosevelt's half-miler. Yet he trotted away from the field in a brilliant stretch drive.
A month later, without any intervening races to keep him tight (another long-cherished notion), Riaud took Jamin out on the Hambletonian track at Du Quoin, Ill., in a time-trial attempt to break two minutes for the mile. Before the trial, Billy Haughton, one of our very best horsemen, said: "If I trained Trader Horn [Haughton's great trotter] the way Riaud trains Jamin, I don't think he'd beat 2:05." So Jamin, competing only against the clock, went out and trotted the fastest mile of the year, 1:58 4/5, with only the gentlest of urging from Riaud.
Last Friday, back again at Roosevelt, Jamin faced a full field of seven American horses for the first time, in the American Trotting Championship. Riaud, who has thoroughly enjoyed his stay in this country and who has charmed our trotting people with his Gallic wit and manner, confessed before the race to an added incentive: "If Jamin does not race well, we will go back to France next week. If he makes the good race—he does not have to win, you understand—I think we will stay here and race in California. It is the only chance of my life to see California. Also, on the mile track at Hollywood Park, you will see Jamin at his best."
On the track, Riaud again demonstrated his confidence in Jamin, as he had in the International. Fourth with more than a half mile to go, he took his trotter to the outside and raced there the rest of the way. What this means, simply, is that he would not risk being boxed in by taking the easy route on the rail, but was sure he could outtrot the field even though he went the long way, outside. At the head of the stretch he was a length and daylight behind Senator Frost. With 20 yards to go he was a neck behind. Then the tired Senator Frost broke stride and galloped ahead to the wire. Though he finished a neck in front the break disqualified the Senator, who was placed third, and Jamin was declared the winner. It was another superb performance.
Americans will, therefore, have another opportunity to see Jamin, in California at the American Classics in November. Already, however, it is clear that he is one of the outstanding horses of our time and that a growing number of American breeders are interested in buying him and keeping him here.