Of the 33,854 sweltering souls who were present for the homestretch duel between Greek Money and Ridan in the 86th Preakness at Pimlico last Saturday, few were aware that they were seeing one of the most shockingly dangerous runs for the money since Don Meade and Herb Fisher went at each other like two angry stingrays in the 1933 Kentucky Derby.
There was a difference at Pimlico, however. While both horses were battling with honest, all-out courage, only one of the jockeys let his highly competitive instincts run amuck.
It is not surprising that the jockey was Manuel Ycaza (top, left), a brilliant rider whose exploits of bold and sometimes reckless daring have earned him innumerable penalties from racing officials. Ycaza cannot stand the idea of losing any horse race, and the thought of losing one in which the winning jockey would receive $13,580 was enough to set off his famous Panamanian temper.
His adversary, by contrast, was an almost equally gifted rider named John Rotz (bottom, left), a 27-year-old from Decatur, Illinois who is the personification of calm, polite efficiency. So gentlemanly was John Rotz at Pimlico last weekend that he was content to win the Preakness on Greek Money by a nose and never bothered to mention that Ycaza had done his best to lay him out on the infield among the hand-painted black-eyed Susans.
Instead, it was the loser, Ycaza, who rushed to claim foul, on the audacious but untenable grounds that Rotz and Greek Money had bumped and bothered Ridan in the last 70 yards. This was a high show of gall, but the track stewards took Ycaza's claim under consideration as they studied the film patrol immediately after the race. The film was a revelation.
From the time Ridan bore out slightly while leading around the final turn into the stretch—an odd move by Ycaza that permitted Rotz to sneak through on the inside—the pair of them left the field behind and fought it out alone. The lead then changed hands at least three times. At the 16th pole Ridan was in front by a neck. At the 70-yard pole they were dead-heated. It was there, claimed the indignant Ycaza, that "Greek Money came out and bumped me." The camera said no.
"In the last three strides," Rotz remarked afterward, "I thought I was finished. I had done everything I could and still couldn't get by Ridan. As we hit the wire I gave it everything I had. I threw myself and my reins with every ounce of forward thrust."
What was Ycaza doing then? The camera showed that he had taken matters into his own hands—or at least into one of them. He had leaned over on Rotz and shot his left elbow squarely into John's chest. Rotz was lucky to have avoided a nose dive over the rail just as Greek Money nosed over the line.
For his brash claim of foul and his disgraceful attempt against a fellow rider, Ycaza was set down for 10 days, and this penalty may be increased. Had he won the race he would have been disqualified.
The 11-horse Preakness field, perhaps the best in many years, staged a sparkling race even before the Rotz-Ycaza duel in the stretch. But there were some disappointing performances, too. One, of course, was Decidedly's and another was Jaipur's. At the start Jaipur was hurt most by the traffic jam, and to get out of it Bobby Ussery put his colt on the lead. Sunrise County went with him, as did Ridan and Roman Line. Rotz had Greek Money in perfect shape behind these four, while Decidedly lay back in ninth place, waiting to move at the half-mile pole.
Up the backstretch Ridan was about to take the lead, and as they went into the far turn it was plain that Jaipur was about to call it quits and that Decidedly was not going to make his expected move. Up to this point, too, Crimson Satan had been running well and appeared to have a chance to catch the leaders, but here he suddenly tired. Turning for home, Rotz barreled through on the rail to challenge Ridan, and for the others the race was over. Roman Line again ran well, to be third, while Vimy Ridge closed well to be fourth and made his backers think even more seriously of him as the horse to beat in the Belmont Stakes at a mile and a half next month. There he, along with such non-Preakness starters as Cyrano, Cyane (no relation), Donut King and Nassau Hall will join in the most important race, from a breeder's standpoint, for any 3-year-old. Decidedly, who obviously didn't like Piailico's cuppy track, should be there; so will Jaipur if he is all right, and so will Greek Money.
The Preakness winner, who went off at nearly 11 to 1, is a homebred chestnut son of Greek Song, owned by Donald Ross, the president of Delaware Park. He is trained by Buddy Raines, who, if he ever decides to give up his job, could easily make it as a song-and-dance man. Greek Money was no world-beater last year, winning only three of 16 starts. But then Ross and Raines showed the sort of wisdom that pays off at this time of year. They freshened Greek Money up with a long winter rest at the farm and started him only three times before the Preakness. They skipped the Derby on purpose and shipped into Pimlico two weeks before the big race. Greek Money was the only horse in the Preakness to get a race over the track. Foresight and patience were rewarded to the sweet tune of $135,800.