It was a day that Thoroughbred racing had never seen before. There were upsets and nonsense and confusion. But most of all there was money. Last Saturday, for the first time in history, four different $100,000 races were run at four different American race tracks, and more than 100,000 people went out to see them and to bet more than $1 million on their outcome.
Racing is a prosperous business—by far the most prosperous sport in the country—and it is good that much of the money is being returned to the horsemen who support the industry rather than to the promoters and tax collectors. It is a pity, though, that the horsemen do not resist the commercialism of the tracks and pay more attention to the traditional sporting values of horse racing.
But the business end is certainly healthy, and Saturday's races produced a wider-than-usual distribution of wealth.
In the richest race ever run in the state of Illinois, a gray 2-year-old named Pappa's All took the winner's share ($129,086) of the $218,940 Arlington Futurity by a desperate half length from Crozier, while the 2-to-l favorite, Intensive, finished ninth in a field of 10. The victory, coupled with another win (worth $97,050) a week before in the $143,200 Hollywood Juvenile in California, hoisted the bank roll of Pappa's All to $226,136 in seven days. In the two races he ran only a mile and a half—meaning that he earned $28.55 for each foot traveled. Man o' War had to run more than 20 miles to earn $200,000. As he stood proudly in the winner's circle at Arlington, Jockey George Taniguchi was still unaware of the place he may take in history, if the passion for particularized records continues. This is likely to be it: "The first Japanese jockey riding in Illinois for the first time to win a $200,000 race."
At Delaware Park, Reginald N. Webster's Quill, which had never won a race on an "off" track in her life, skipped blithely over a sloppy track and won the mile-and-a-quarter $131,437.50 Delaware Handicap by nine lengths in what was ballyhooed as "the world's richest filly and mare race." Struggling behind Quill was Royal Native, believed by most experts to be the best female racer in the country. A majority in the crowd of 20,908, who had made Royal Native the odds-on favorite, were disappointed in her. In fact, probably the only person happy about Royal Native's performance was a bettor who reportedly dumped $40,000 on her to show and collected $44,000.
Monmouth Park in Oceanport, N.J. was the scene of another distressing upset. Little Tumbler, one of 13 2-year-old fillies, was put into the starting gates as a 4-to-5 favorite to win the $115,125 Sorority Stakes. She had won four of six races this year and had one significant quality which the crowd was betting on—the ability to pounce from the gate quickly and take the lead. When the gate opened in the Sorority, however, Little Tumbler got away a tardy fifth. Charlie Burr, Little Tumbler's jockey, pushed his mount after the leaders. Slowly she moved forward, driving into second place after a quarter of a mile. Then, suddenly, other fillies began to pass Little Tumbler so fast she seemed to be moving backward—third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh. And that is where she finished as Apatontheback outlasted two long shots to win. For Ray Broussard, a 24-year-old jockeys from Abbeville, La., it was a joyful day. The Sorority was the richest race he had ever won.
The biggest news of last Saturday, quite naturally, was supposed to come from Aqueduct, where the acknowledged kings of the handicap division were to meet. There were seven entered to run in the $109,400 Brooklyn Handicap, yet only three were accorded a chance of winning. Certainly Sword Dancer, the 1959 Horse of the Year, could win it. Certainly Bald Eagle, which had won the Washington, D.C. International last year and three $100,000 races this year, could win it. And most certainly, if neither did, First Landing would. Whichever of these three won, he would be the leading contender for Horse of the Year honors in 1960.
Bald Eagle finished fourth on the sloppy track, Sword Dancer fifth and First Landing sixth as Calumet Farm's in-and-out, up-and-down On-and-On was right-as-rain. In a furious fight through the stretch Ismael Valenzuela got On-and-On, a 15-to-1 shot, up in the last jump to beat Greek Star, a 26-to-1 shot, by a head. Waltz, another horse pretty thoroughly overlooked by the crowd before the race, finished third.
A week before On-and-On won the Brooklyn, Jimmy Jones, Calumet's trainer, was looking over his stable in Chicago from his office at the end of the shed row. He was brooding and indecisive and discouraged. He looked at his grooms sitting down, carefully avoiding work. Jones looked at his army of horses poking their heads out of stalls and slowly, like Hamlet at Elsinore, began a soliloquy. "The men aren't doing anything—the men are wrong. The horses aren't doing anything, so the horses are wrong. I keep my horses in the West, and everyone comes west to beat me. I ship my horses to the East, and everyone stays east and beats me. Perhaps there's something wrong with me that is making everything go wrong everywhere. If just once this year I could ship a horse east and have everyone stay there and have him beat them it would perk up my whole stable."
For On-and-On it was one of those strange victories which could not be expected from past performances. It may be that he is a horse which has found "his" race track. On-and-On relishes a hard track, and although Aqueduct was sloppy on top last Saturday, underneath it was like a cement highway. On-and-On's hoofs pounded through the slop and into the hard cushion and got good traction. Bald Eagle, as his rider, Manuel Ycaza, said after the race, "was not Bald Eagle today." Eddie Arcaro, who rode Sword Dancer, suggested that Sword Dancer does not like sloppy going, and Sam Boulmetis said of First Landing, with more truth than originality, "I just didn't have enough horse."
Perhaps the perfect end to all the confusion last Saturday came at Rockingham Park in New Hampshire, where the track was also sloppy, and where Trainer Junie Bresnahan Jr. tried to scratch his horse, The Crack, from the Lawrence Handicap because "he can't run a lick if they so much as spit on the track." The stewards overruled him and, without ever being touched by the whip, The Crack got home in front.