This year's crop of 2-year-old Thoroughbreds had hardly stepped out of the barns before each section of the country was boasting that it had the potential 1962 Kentucky Derby winner right on the premises. Midwesterners were touting Ridan. a heavily muscled colt who goes after his seventh straight win Saturday. On the West Coast, C. V. Whitney's Rattle Dancer shapes up as the likeliest Derby contender. Easterners tagged Christopher Chenery's Sir Gay-lord, winner of five in a row, as their own private choice, and installed him as a 3-5 favorite for last week's 57th running of the Hopeful at Saratoga. Then the rains came, and the Spa's track turned into vegetable soup. Sir Gaylord was dumped by George D. Widener's Jaipur, and horsemen were reminded once again that the 1961 2-year-old picture is full of vigor, excitement—and unpredictability.
The Hopeful marked the first time anywhere this year that the youngsters were asked to go six and a half furlongs. Before the race Owner Widener huddled in the walking ring with his elderly jockey, Eddie Arcaro. "Go to the front and stay there, Eddie," said the chairman of The Jockey Club in a voice that left little doubt that Jaipur was capable of climbing one of the infield flagpoles. "Let the others catch you this time."
Arcaro snugged his colt right in behind Su Ka Wa for the first part of the race, and the Hopeful turned out to be a contest between these two. Sir Gaylord, sixth at the start, moved up early to third, but that's where he stayed the rest of the trip. Arcaro, never more than two lengths off the lead, moved to Su Ka Wa with Jaipur on the turn for home and nailed him at the three-sixteenth pole. Working his whip like a boy with a new toy, Eddie took no chances. "I put some fire on him on the way home," he joked afterwards. "I knew I had Su Ka Wa beat, but I was taking no chances on something coming up behind him to nail me on the wire."
He needn't have bothered. Jaipur won by six easy lengths, and the surprising Su Ka Wa hung on to finish another five lengths ahead of Sir Gaylord, who obviously disliked the footing and failed completely, as his rider Milo Valenzuela noted, "to give me the run we all know he is capable of." Jaipur turned in a clocking of 1:16⅖ just two ticks off the track record.
It never hurts, as Mr. Widener now knows better than ever, to have a mudder ready to run in the fall, but in Jaipur this distinguished American racing leader may also have a colt of all-round ability. The Hopeful was his fourth start, and his only loss was at the hands of Cain Hoy Stable's Battle Joined. "He really had no excuse in that defeat," says Trainer Bert Mulholland, "but remember, he was still a little green and maybe a little too smart."
Jaipur, by Nasrullah out of the Eight Thirty mare, Rare Perfume, is a picture horse. He stands 15 hands 3 inches, with powerful shoulders and superb conformation. Certainly he's the best homebred colt owned by Widener since the days of Lucky Draw in the early '40s.
But Jaipur's victory in the slop doesn't mean the end of the line for Sir Gaylord. The next time they meet on a fast track it will be a sight worth seeing. Sir Gaylord, at 16 hands even, is himself so well put together that Owner Chenery says, "If you had a handful of flesh you wouldn't know where to put it on him to fill him out. He's bred for distance [Turn-to out of a Princequillo mare], and instead of trying to take the lead from sprinters in his races thus far, we are thinking more in terms of the classic races, including—quite naturally—next season's Triple Crown events."
While Sir Gaylord and Jaipur are the East's standouts thus far, Battle Joined cannot be overlooked. He has, however, a couple of tricky knees and, as racing men know, gimpy underpinnings can be crucial in a 2-year-old. Other eastern youngsters with names worth noting are Sunrise County, Joe Roebling's undefeated Rainy Lake, Stevward, Clover Leaf, Gun Glory and Old World Charm, Alfred Vanderbilt's Roman gelding who won his first start by eight lengths.
But none of these names are likely to cause much of a stir among Midwest racing enthusiasts. Out at Arlington Park this week the fans thought they had the fastest 2-year-old in the world, and one reporter went so far as to proclaim the local hero the equal of Man o' War, a judgment which may be a trifle premature.
A perfect record
The colt in question is a tremendously rugged and handsome animal named Ridan. Although stuck with a name that sounds like some form of home-brewed laxative, Ridan can show a record that is peerless. Never close to defeat, he is 6 for 6 and will be odds-on to rack up No. 7 in this Saturday's $100,000 added Washington Park Futurity.
As big already as a mature 3-year-old, Ridan is a bay son of Nantallah (himself a son of Nasrullah) and loves to run, off track or on. A terror to contain in the mornings (it has taken two exercise boys to cool him out), he's murder on his opposition in the afternoon. Although not owned by blue bloods with names like Widener or Chenery, Ridan is in thoroughly competent hands—and has been all his young life. His listed owner is Mrs. Moody Jolley, wife of the trainer for Claiborne Farm. The Jolleys bought Ridan for $11,000 and turned him over to their 23-year-old son, LeRoy, to train.
The two young colts, Ridan and LeRoy, have worked well in tandem. In Ridan's last victory he caused some speculation by running in four bandages, and a few observers thought they noticed him bearing out in the stretch—usually a warning that something might be hurting. This week's Washington Park Futurity at Arlington should provide the answer to that. Oh, yes, about the name, Ridan. "Easy," says Moody Jolley, "He looked so much like Nadir, the colt I trained to win The Garden State in 1957, that we just named him that—only spelled backwards."
At California's Del Mar track this month the struggle for supremacy of the West Coast is going on. Rattle Dancer, the Whitney colt, will try to duplicate his Hollywood Juvenile Championship victory in the September 9 Del Mar Futurity, and a respectable showing would send this Native Dancer colt east to represent the Whitney stable (see page 50) in New York's Champagne Stakes and The Garden State. Also on the coast are such colts as Two Demand, Indian Blood, Private World and Donut King, and although none of them as yet looks like another Warfare or Tomy Lee—or even a Four-and-Twenty—the next two months should tell.
On the whole, this crop of 2-year-olds, from Belmont to Del Mar, may be the best bunch since 1956, when such horses as Bold Ruler, Gallant Man, Round Table, Gen. Duke and Iron Liege first began to flex their muscles in earnest. That year, however, only Bold Ruler was a standout as a 2-year-old, the others reaching a peak of performance at 3 and 4. This year there seems to be a high average of ability throughout the country, and the colts are running the way one would expect from their pedigrees.
Most importantly," there seems to be a return to the classical pattern of fall racing in which sectional champions are shipped east to see which one is the best of all. Such races as the Futurity, the Cowdin, the Champagne, The Garden State and the Pimlico Futurity will decide. It is good to see these decisions reached, not on paper, but on the race track.