After Carry Back's stunning victory in the Preakness last Saturday, anyone would be crazy to bet that he won't win the Belmont Stakes on June 3 and become the first Triple Crown winner since Citation in 1948. This homely colt, skimpy of flesh and small in size, ran the race of his life at Pimlico. If he never wins another, he should go down in history as one of our finest race horses.
It matters little that Carry Back has spent his career knocking off what professional horsemen term "a most ordinary crop." Nor is it significant that Carry Back doesn't go around breaking track records. The important thing is that he keeps on winning over everything sent against him. And the manner in which he does it has made him one of the most popular horses to turn up in a very long time. He is a rich man's Silky Sullivan, but instead of just looking good he wins races. Furthermore, he wins them for a family of genuine enthusiasts, Jack and Katherine Price. Unpretentious, friendly to all, the Prices are gradually becoming aware of the fact that with the fame Carry Back has brought them comes a new responsibility as national figures in the sports world.
Actually, Carry Back runs in Katherine's name. Mrs. Price has a quiet charm and the instinct to know exactly what to say at exactly the right time. When Carry Back won the Preakness last week, Katherine Price could have been excused if she had wanted to stand on her head at the winner's party or guzzle champagne out of her slipper.
Instead she offered in unrehearsed words a brief description of just what it means to a lady to be the owner of the most popular horse in America: "Jack and I have come up the hard way. We have come into some luck with this horse, and people we have never talked to in our lives before are coming around to congratulate us. At the same time I've always had a feeling that Carry Back is the popular horse among the country's 'little people.' The greatest thrill, and I really mean this, is that he wins for the little people, because we feel we belong to them. When I see him cross that finish line, I forget the way that Jack jokes about his 'money-making machine,' and the first thing I think of is that Carry Back didn't let his 'little people' fans down. I know deep down in my own heart that I would be pulling for Carry Back no matter whom he belonged to—just the way I pulled for Bally Ache a year ago."
She had one further word. "I feel strongly about another thing. The Preakness victory should prove to everyone in the world that Jack has earned his reputation as a trainer. He's never been given proper credit for this, and yet who can say that for the big races Carry Back has been in Jack hasn't had him in just as good condition as would any of the great trainers you've read about for years? Jack likes to joke about this colt and all that, but when you look at the record it's easy to see that he's done an amazing job of training."
There's no question that Jack Price, Carry Back and Jockey John Sellers got a superlative job done last Saturday. It was another one of those last-gasp thrillers that everyone loves. To nobody's surprise, the villain in the piece was Globemaster, who had set the pace for the first mile in the Kentucky Derby before fading and finally finishing sixth. At the Preakness distance of a mile-and-three-sixteenths, it was argued, Globemaster might get on the lead and hold it. He darn near did, too.
While Carry Back was pinched at the start by Crozier and Orleans Doge, Globemaster set sail as if there was nothing to the race. Hitting Away, surprise winner of the Withers a week earlier, took after him, with Crozier sitting nicely back in third place and Carry Back dawdling along in the rear like a horse who knows what he's supposed to do but has forgotten when he's supposed to do it.
Way back at the half
Going up the backstretch, Sellers was dead last. He thought he was eight lengths behind Globemaster, but actually he was 14 and a half, a dangerous place to be. Up front, John Rotz on Globemaster was having a picnic. As Carry Back neared the half-mile pole, Sellers, just as he had in the Derby, started to open up some throttle. "He went O.K., but I was worried," he said afterward. Into the far turn, Carry Back took his customary overland route, looping his field and sacrificing ground he might have made up on the rail. At the quarter pole, just before they straightened for the stretch run, Sellers knew what a serious predicament he was in. He was in sixth place in the nine-horse field, but also six lengths out of it. Rotz was getting into Globemaster, and Crozier was hanging on. "When I saw Globemaster drawing off to a four-length lead," said Sellers, "it scared me good." Rotz, on the other hand, was getting ready for the last laugh. "I thought we had it sure," he said later.
But now the typical Carry Back drive began, and every man, woman and child in the Pimlico crowd—along with millions watching on television—rose to roar their delight at the duel. At the eighth pole Carry Back, running so wide he might have been looking for a hot dog in the grandstand, was still four lengths behind Globemaster and just passing Crozier. He didn't catch Globemaster with a desperate last-second lunge, but simply wore him down. Just about 50 yards from the wire he surged to the front and won, as he did at Churchill Downs, by just three-quarters of a length.
Carry Back has now earned $739,068 to move from 19th to 14th in the all-time money-winning list. Jack and Katherine Price have replaced Rex Ellsworth as the leading 1961 owner in the country, and Johnny Sellers has become the first jockey this year to ride winners of over $1 million. This is a championship team even before it wins the Triple Crown.