Heading into the stretch of a season which, in the East at least, has provided some of the best races ever, Thoroughbred competition this week offers two exceedingly attractive spectacles on the same day.
In New Jersey this Saturday there will be the seventh running of The Garden State, recognized everywhere now as the richest race in the world. Warfare, the record-breaking winner of the Champagne, and Tompion, second in that race and Warfare's closest rival for the title of best juvenile in the land, will go against a dozen or so other 2-year-olds. And in New York, at Aqueduct, a half hour earlier, the traditional Jockey Club Gold Cup, now worth $100,000 added, will be run off. If some Gold Cups in the past failed to bring together the outstanding racers of the year, the 1959 renewal should more than compensate for them when Round Table, greatest money-winning horse ever, and Sword Dancer, thus far the Horse of the Year, come winging out of the gate to measure speed and stamina over the demanding classic two-mile distance.
The dividend for stay-at-home fans will be tremendous, inasmuch as CBS plans to televise both races nationally in a full-hour show beginning at 3:30 E.S.T.
If as many as 13 enter The Garden State, the winner may take home a purse approximating the world-record net of $178,066 earned in this same race by Barbizon in 1956. Neither Warfare nor Tompion has started since the Champagne, in which the two of them so outclassed the field. Warfare, the gray son of Determine, and Tompion, one of many promising Tom Fool colts, both have the breeding and the look of runners who should be able to go the mile and a sixteenth under the scale weight of 122 pounds. In the Champagne, Warfare was positively brilliant in his withering stretch drive. Tompion's running-in-front strategy, somewhat dictated by his inside post position, resulted in a missing finishing kick. One cannot help but feel that in another meeting, if Tompion can start farther out and can lay off the pace instead of forcing or setting it, he may be able to test Warfare more thoroughly.
Of the other Garden State probables, the colt I give the best chance to is Mrs. Adele Rand's Bourbon Prince, who won one of the two Garden State preps by seven lengths. Bourbon Prince, who is by Princequillo (enough of a recommendation in itself), could be just coming to hand. The other division of the prep was won by Stephen, a full brother to the Preakness winner, Royal Orbit.
The rest of the field, although it boasts some healthy money-winners at the sprint distances, appears to be outclassed. In this group I put Azure's Orphan, Venetian Way, Sky Clipper, Bally Ache and T. V. Lark. But there is one outsider I wouldn't completely overlook. He is Calumet Farm's Pied d'Or, a Nasrullah out of Two Lea (which makes him a half brother to Tim Tarn). Pied d'Or led his division of The Garden State prep by three lengths before he bolted turning for home. Trainer Jimmy Jones, who brought another unknown—Barbizon—around in time to win the 1956 Garden State, could be ready to spring one more surprise. And, goodness knows, there's no trainer sharper at taking dead aim at a purse of $175,000.
In a sense, the Jockey Club Gold Cup represents a battle of classic prestige. When Sword Dancer won the Woodward, defeating both Hillsdale and Round Table, he became Horse of the Year. "We could have retired him then, sure," says Trainer Elliott Burch, speaking for Owner Isabel Dodge Sloane. "But we announced a long time ago that we would go in the Gold Cup. Because Round Table decided to come in, too, was no reason for us to change our minds. We're putting the championship on the line, and if we didn't it would be a hollow championship."
For the Table and Owner Travis Kerr this could be the most important race ever, although Kerr has already announced that he'll withdraw Round Table if the track is off. "We feel now, of course," says Kerr, "that we have the best horse. Round Table deserves another championship race under weight-for-age conditions (he'll carry 124 pounds to 119 on Sword Dancer). Aside from the prestige that goes with the Gold Cup, we want another shot at Sword Dancer. Beating him now is the only way to prove that Round Table is the best and that he—not Sword Dancer—is rightfully the champion."