In the space of 90 humid minutes at pink-festooned Hialeah last Saturday some of our best 3-year-olds showed off the kind of form that could lead to victory in the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes.
The headliner on the card was the 32nd running of the Flamingo, the year's first $100,000 event for horses with classic aspirations. It was won by the heavy favorite, Carry Back, who again had to be the best horse present just to stand off the wild West riding of some of the jockeys in the race. Jack Price, Carry Back's owner, hadn't figured his colt and rider, John Sellers, were going to get into trouble this time. "All my horse wants is clear sailing from the half-mile pole home and he'll win," said Price before the race.
What Price also hadn't expected was the kind of performance put on by Fred Hooper's Crozier, who only a week earlier (with some help from Manuel Ycaza) had turned the Everglades into a rodeo. Before the Flamingo, Hooper announced: "They tell me my horse always causes lots of trouble, so I might as well get a real cowboy to ride him. I'll use Chris Rogers."
Rogers must have thought Hooper wanted him to audition for a gallop-on role in Bonanza. For the first part of the race he lay off the pace set by Your Bill, but he moved to the lead turning for home. He circled Your Bill, then cut in to the rail so violently that he actually brushed it. Carry Back, meanwhile, had moved gradually from fifth place to second on the outside, and Jockey Sellers was setting him down for the run home. But at the 16th pole Rogers suddenly veered out from the rail on Crozier. For the last 40 yards of the race, Crozier laid over hard on Carry Back, who might have won by more than a head without this interference.
Carry Back's impressive victory makes him the big colt, in stature if not in size, in the whole 3-year-old picture.
While the Flamingo was the important race at Hialeah, there was almost as much interest in the sprints which preceded and followed it. The first of these marked the 1961 debut of Pimlico Futurity winner Garwol. Possibly more important, it resulted in the first win this season for Calumet Farm's Beau Prince, Jimmy Jones's Triple Crown candidate.
Jones had said all week that he considered starting Beau Prince in the Flamingo. The day before the race he changed his mind, much to the annoyance of track officials, who had widely publicized the appearance of Calumet silks and the fact that Jones thought so much of his colt that he had asked Eddie Arcaro to fly all the way from Santa Anita to ride him. But when Arcaro got off a plane in Miami at 5 a.m. Friday, Jones met him with the news that Beau Prince would not tackle the big boys until the April 1st Florida Derby at Gulfstream. "I'm more a believer in getting a foundation under my horse than pleasing the track," said Jimmy.
Jones, as usual, probably did the right thing with this handsome son of Bull Lea. Beau Prince won his race, all right, beating Garwol by half a length. Afterward Arcaro said, "He's got some class to him. You cluck once and he goes and gets his man."
The 12-horse race that followed the Flamingo was supposed to have been a duel between Brookmeade's Matey, a son of Sailor, and Bobby Dotter's Guadalcanal, making his first start of the year. Both of them ran well enough, but were soundly beaten by Jets Pat. Guadalcanal gave it a little run in the stretch, and in finishing sixth was beaten just over four lengths.
The moment, however, still belongs to Carry Back and Jack and Katherine Price. "We knew all along," said Mrs. Price after the Flamingo, "that this colt could go a distance and win at it, too. You know what we told the boy today before the race—his instructions, you know? Just two words, 'hurry back.' He did, too."