Seven hours before the running of last Saturday's $57,400 Whitney Stakes at Saratoga, Jack Price, the owner, trainer and one-man band in charge of Carry Back, slid a manila folder from his filing cabinet, examined its contents closely and then called Jockey Johnny Sellers on the telephone.
"John," said Price, "I've got the chart of last year's Flamingo Stakes right in front of me. I figure this Whitney has got to be run about the same way for Carry Back to win. We've got an inside post position and about 350 feet to go before we hit the first turn. Johnny, do you understand me?"
"Yes, sir, Mr. Price," said Sellers.
"When that gate opens," Price continued, "I want Carry Back to be the first horse out. Everybody else will expect us to hang back, but I want you right on the lead. Carry Back has never won from the inside post position, and anytime a horse carries 130 pounds like he's carrying today he can't wait for one big run. You've got to jump with those speed horses and get yourself into a good position early. If you can't, we're cooked. I want this race. I think the way to get it is by fooling everybody."
Johnny Sellers thought back over that Flamingo of 1961. The horse he had to beat then was Crozier, and he did. The one horse he had to beat in the Whitney was the same Crozier. In the short run to the first turn in Hialeah's 1961 Flamingo, Sellers had pushed Carry Back to a contending position early. "Yes, yes, Price is right," thought Sellers. The Whitney was exactly like the Flamingo. "If I could get near the lead," Sellers said later, "I would have all nine of the other starters off balance. The jocks on the other horses had probably read enough about Carry Back to know that he runs from behind most of the time."
While all this Carry Back plotting was going on behind the scenes at beautiful and luxuriant Saratoga, the famous old spa was all in a tizzy about Carry Back himself. He drew the biggest paddock crowd since Native Dancer ran there as a 3-year-old in 1953. He was the last horse to appear in the walking ring before Saturday's race, and when he finally arrived there was actually a surge of applause. Carry Back snorted a couple of times and broke out into a sweat at the display of affection.
When the gate opened for the Whitney, Carry Back broke ahead of everyone, just as planned (above), and Sellers later tucked his mount into a perfect position. He merely had to wait for poor Crozier to stop in front of him. In the stretch Carry Back calmly strolled by him.
"Crozier," said his rider, Braulio Baeza, after the race, "is a mean, dirty rat and it looks like he will never beat Carry Back again." (He beat him twice in 1961.)
Carry Back's successful performance in the Whitney had international significance. Eight weeks from now he will be in Paris for the Prix del'Arc de Triomphe. "We've thought it over," says Katherine Price, "and I guess we'll go. Carry Back will probably run in the Aqueduct Stakes on September 3, and then we'll get him ready for Paris. To tell the truth, the pressure has become terrific. Last year, when Carry Back was a 3-year-old, I didn't seem to worry so much. Actually I couldn't get excited about him the way I should have. Before he won the Kentucky Derby I had to take a pep pill to get excited. Now I am a nervous wreck. Carry Back is a tough horse for Jack to train. When he was a 2-year-old he made Jack slip a disc. Just after the Metropolitan this year, Jack was walking him around and Carry Back stepped on Jack's foot and hurt him.
"So you see," concluded Katherine Price, "Jack worries so much about Carry Back and I worry about Jack. This is Carry Back's last year and, truthfully, we want to get out of the limelight. But before we do, Carry Back deserves a chance to run in Europe, to compete against the best horses there." Indeed he does.