Jockey Larry Adams on Prego (No. 6) glances over as he beats Ridan to the wire by a neck in last week's Flamingo. The blur at right is unruly Sunrise County, who veered 75 feet across the track, won the race and then lost it on a foul.
139 HORSES AND NO TRUE FAVORITE
For the first time since 1957, Hialeah's Flamingo Stakes and the Santa Anita Derby were run on the same day last week. Since both these $100,000, 1‚⅛-mile races for 3-year-olds are accepted as major steppingstones to the Kentucky Derby, it was expected that the results would bring into focus the very fuzzy Derby picture. They didn't.
At Santa Anita a favored horse did win. Neil S. McCarthy's Royal Attack overtook another favorite, Fred Hooper's Admiral's Voyage, and won going away in his best effort yet. At Hialeah, however, where Jockey Herberto Hinojosa insisted on riding like John Wayne, the Flamingo wound up as the most inconclusive Kentucky Derby trial ever.
While Hinojosa eventually got his wild mount, Sunrise County, to the finish line well in front, he was properly disqualified to third position for veering out in the middle of the stretch and taking Ridan part of the way with him. This permitted the long shot Prego, who was wisely held on the inside, to edge Ridan by a neck and wind up the winner of $88,530 on a foul. A messy show, to say the least. What it portends for the 139 horses nominated for the 88th Kentucky Derby on May 5 is one of history's most confusing marches to Churchill Downs. And because everyone is going to think that this has become the year of the long shot, the starting Derby field may be of cavalry proportions. The 1928 record of 22 starters could even be surpassed.
The confusion also has been compounded by the temporary inactivity of several horses whose chances range from excellent to questionable. First of these, of course, is Sir Gaylord, who beat Ridan and Crimson Satan in the Bahamas (see cover). He has been on the sidelines with an ankle injury since he won the Everglades so convincingly last month. Another is Decidedly, who missed the Flamingo because of a slight attack of colic. Still another is Donut King, whose various ailments have kept him from racing since his second-place finish to Crimson Satan in last fall's Garden State. Donut King is scheduled to ship from California to New York this week and will work toward a starting stall at Churchill Downs via the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 21.
In winning on the Coast, Royal Attack finally justified the high hopes that so many California horsemen held for him after he won four of his seven starts last year. In his earlier stakes races this winter Royal Attack often appeared to be the best horse in the field but just as often had one excuse or another for losing. Last week, under his new trainer, Buddy Hirsch (the highly capable son of veteran King Ranch Trainer Max Hirsch), everything worked to perfection for him. The handsomest horse in a bulky field of 15, this chestnut son of Royal Charger out of the Bull Lea mare Dragona permitted Eight Ball and Admiral's Voyage to set the early pace. He coasted up the backstretch in third position under the patient guidance of Eddie Burns. But when Admiral's Voyage tried to increase his narrow lead in the turn for home, Burns cut loose with Royal Attack. Although his winning margin was less than a length, he was drawing out at the wire. Throughout the last half mile of the race it appeared that this good colt could have gone to the front whenever Burns wanted him to and won by several lengths.
Royal Attack, purchased from Leslie Combs for $28,500 as a yearling at the Keeneland sales, is owned by one of the shrewdest horsemen in California. McCarthy commented after the race, "I wouldn't say that I've ever had a better 3-year-old." This is high praise indeed from a man who, as turf adviser to the late Louis B. Mayer, once increased the value of that movie magnate's racing holdings by $3 million in three years.
For the others in the Santa Anita Derby there is really not a great deal to say and no point in offering excuses. Admiral's Voyage simply ran out of gas the way his stablemate Crozier did a year ago. Sir Ribot, Doc Jocoy and Drill Site all ran fairly respectably. A few weeks ago there appeared to be little class on the West Coast. Now, at least, we have Royal Attack, and in two months he will try to become the fourth horse (after Hill Gail, Determine and Swaps) to follow up a Santa Anita Derby triumph with victory in Kentucky.
If any of the first three finishers in the Flamingo—Sunrise County, Prego or Ridan—win in Kentucky it would be truly remarkable. A fit Sir Gaylord could easily beat any of them. Prego, an Ambiorix colt out of a Count Fleet mare, won only because of Hinojosa's awful mistake. Instructed to bring Sunrise County from off the pace, Hinojosa suddenly found himself on the lead and made up his mind to steal the race. But as the field curved into the stretch Sunrise County started to bear out. Charging at a 45° angle toward the outside fence, he left the rail open to anyone. Prego turned out to be that lucky anyone. Later Hinojosa told the stewards, "I had two choices: to pull up or to go on and take a shot at the money. I decided to take a shot at the money." The stewards decided to take a shot at Hinojosa. They suspended him for 15 days.
Below are 20 of the likeliest Derby candidates and their latest odds. Bets with Tony Alessio's Future Book must be made in person, not by telephone or mail. Figuring a way to get the money to Caliente may be difficult; but figuring the winner of this year's Derby may be even tougher.
HOW TO SEE THROUGH THE MUDDLE
Of the 139 horses nominated for the 1962 Kentucky Derby, these are the 20 with the best chance. The odds were set this week by Caliente's Future Book
SIR GAYLORD (4-1)
Convincing three-time winner this year over Florida fields including Ridan, Decidedly and Flamingo winner Prego.
Training interrupted by minor ankle injury. Must regain top winter form in time for Kentucky Derby work schedule.
ROYAL ATTACK (5-1)
Superbly bred on both sides, Santa Anita Derby winner has overcome his habit of getting into traffic-jam trouble.
Occasionally loses, when he shouldn't, because he takes turns too wide or hangs when close to the lead.
Has tremendous speed; when rated, as in the Flamingo, he even impressed some who had felt he was only a sprinter.
If allowed to run, his speed usually finishes him too soon. Most Nantallah-breds appear to lack stamina.
In hands of thorough George D. Widener stable but so far has shown only occasional signs of classic ability.
Even if he wins this week's Louisiana Derby at the Fair Grounds, he will not be beating anything of proven class.
His Flamingo victory was only his third in 20 starts. Trained by able Tom Waller, who has stakes-winning Ambiopoise.
Best efforts so far not good enough against class. Has to be whipped constantly to keep his mind on racing business.
SUNRISE COUNTY (12-1)
His sire, Summer Tan, once ranked just behind champions Nashua and Swaps. Has genuine potential off his 1961 form.
Symptoms of an injury could have caused his recent Flamingo wildness. If not hurt, he still must overcome rankness.
ADMIRAL'S VOYAGE (15-1)
Plenty of speed on both sides of pedigree. Is always dangerous at nine furlongs, has a good rider in Braulio Baeza.
Had no excuse in losing Santa Anita Derby and probably isn't going to relish the task of going a greater distance.
Best 3-year-old filly in U.S., a Derby candidate only if stablemate Sir Gaylord doesn't make it back in time to run.
Fillies must be very special to beat colts at Derby distance in May. So far only one, Regret (1915), has done it.
Beautiful-striding son of Derby winner Determine, has been brought along slowly and should take to distance racing.
Colic, which kept him from Flamingo, can have weakening effect. Has yet to prove he is as good as a fit Sir Gaylord.
CRIMSON SATAN (20-1)
Showed best distance potential of his division last fall. May need Kentucky air to stop his Florida losing streak.
Although his owners think he suffers from a respiratory ailment, his problem may be the Spy Song in his pedigree.
DEAD AHEAD (20-1)
Any son of Turn-to always has a chance, and if he happens to be a half brother to Bald Eagle so much the better.
Some sons of Turn-to (Sir Gaylord and Hail to Reason) have had leg trouble, and this one may have it, too.
DONUT KING (20-1)
Another son of Derby winner Determine, he could be any sort when completely sound and fully seasoned.
A ruptured blood vessel in his knee, then an infected heel set him back in training. Now he must go like gangbusters.
GREEN TICKET (20-1)
Great speed is the forte of this Traffic Judge colt out of a Citation mare. Has had a long rest this winter.
In this speed era nobody lets another horse run away by himself. The result is that early speed dies in the stretch.
JOHN WINSLOW (20-1)
By Nashua out of Real Delight, a Calumet colt in the hands of the one-and-only Jimmy Jones.
Stone bruise kept him from the Flamingo. Has been only so-so against ordinary competition. Must improve very quickly.
Third in The Garden State, this Nashua colt makes his 1962 debut soon. Trainer Arnold Winick is aiming for Derby.
Freshening may be better than seasoning for some horses, but this one has much catching up to do before Churchill Downs.
SIR RIBOT (20-1)
Trainer Frank Childs won Derby in 1959 with Tomy Lee and thinks this colt, by a truly great racer, may be even better.
Set back by a broken bone in left forefoot. His performances have been erratic, and possibly his foot may still be hurting.
PUSS N BOOTS (30-1)
Good enough to be fourth in weakened Flamingo field. His future depends on who else keeps dropping from sight.
Has been known to play the part of a cutting horse chasing a loose herd or a show horse learning to jump hedges.
CALGARY BROOK (40-1)
By onetime Horse-of-the-Year Tom Fool out of a daughter of the great Miss Grillo, this colt should be a runner.
Like too many prospects, this one makes a habit of suddenly threatening in his races and just as suddenly pooping out.
DOC JOCOY (40-1)
By El Drag, world record holder for seven furlongs, he may yet make a real runner. His dam gives him some stamina blood.
In good position throughout Santa Anita Derby, he lacked punch in the stretch where he will need it from now on.
DRILL SITE (40-1)
First horse officially bred by Jockey Willie Shoemaker is a dark horse for the Derby now, but he is improving fast.
His sire, Imbros, is not renowned for getting distance runners, and his breeder, Shoe, is not yet dying to ride him.