Not long ago the 2-year-old season was a relatively simple affair. The Hopeful at Saratoga established the proper form for the Belmont Futurity, which was both climax and finish of the campaign. Today the season begins in January and runs through November, and if many of racing's traditionalists deplore this fact they nonetheless are right in there with their horses all the way—because the pots are incredibly rich. Competing tracks have now turned the period immediately following the Hopeful into a 90-day money war.
On Sept. 8 the Arlington-Washington Futurity in Chicago offers $350,000; the same day Atlantic City offers $100,000. Then come the Del Mar Futurity, The Futurity at Aqueduct, the Cowdin, the Champagne, The Garden State and, finally, the Pimlico Futurity. This adds up to nearly $1.5 million in purses, undoubtedly a record for 2-year-olds. It also sets up a challenge for one of the sport's standards that many believed would never be approached. In 1947 Calumet Farm parlayed the talents of Citation, Coaltown, Armed, Bewitch, Faultless, Fervent and 25 or so other horses to win $1,402,436 in one season. With a bit of luck and those "baby" purses, the remarkably successful California combination of Owner Rex Ellsworth and Trainer Mish Tenney will come very close to Calumet's record.
Barely had this pair shipped into Chicago from Hollywood Park when they won both halves of the Arlington-Washington Futurity Trial last week with Space Skates and Candy Spots. Another Ellsworth horse, Big Kim, was fourth in one division, and the following day still another, Three Links, was third in his Futurity warmup.
Ellsworth's and Tenney's prominence on the Chicago scene and elsewhere is hardly an accident. Ever since he surprised the racing world with Swaps in 1955 Rex Ellsworth has made no secret of the fact that he intends to become the world's winningest owner. He has spent a fortune buying the best mares available, and he sent the majority of them to stallions like Khaled, Nigromante and Toulouse Lautrec. His gamble so far has put him at the top of the list of winning owners, with nearly $850,000 this season already, and he is now almost odds-on to go over the million mark.
The master plan
However good his 2-year-olds are, Ellsworth will not have things all to himself in this field, if only because he has chosen to return to California after Chicago rather than come to the rich eastern races. Next year it may be different. Following his own master plan for U.S. conquest he will be racing on at least three fronts. "Some day," he told me a few years ago at his Chino, Calif. ranch, "I'll bring a division to New York. But I won't go there until I'm good and ready to win races—lots of them, too." He must think 1963 is the year, because he has already applied for 40 stalls for the entire New York season beginning next March. At the same time he'll race in California and in Chicago and, as is his custom, he'll send a few platers to win some walking-around money for him at Caliente.
But all that is next year. The search for this season's 2-year-old champion went off in exciting fashion in last week's $117,550 Hopeful. Before it, all the talk concerned the two lukewarm favorites, Greentree Stable's Catullus and Patrice Jacobs' Bonjour. Some others in the 12-horse field came in for mild compliments, but almost neglected in the general scuttlebutt was Catullus' running mate, a beautifully put-together number named Outing Class. For good reason, too. Outing Class had run only twice, finishing fifth in his first start, then winning on August 17 against rather ordinary opposition by two and a half lengths. What everyone overlooked, however, was that Outing Class was perfectly bred (by Greentree) to win the East's first "extended" sprint of six and a half furlongs. He is a dark bay son of Nasrullah, and his dam, Track Medal, is a full sister of Swaps.
If Outing Class had gone to the post without his entry mate, Catullus, he might have turned up on the tote board at 20 to 1. As it was, the Greentree pair were 6 to 5. After a quarter of a mile, when Outing Class trailed his field by 13 lengths, he looked more like a 100-to-1 horse. Then some strange things started happening. Bonjour, Catullus and Crewman, all of whom had been dogging the pacesetting Alabama Bound, threw in the sponge. Crewman and Bonjour simply quit running as they turned for home, and Catullus gave way after being soundly bumped by Almanac.
Alabama Bound, Fred Hooper's Olympia colt, seemed a cinch to steal the whole thing. But suddenly Jockey Donald Pierce and Outing Class roared out of the ruck like a runaway streamliner on a Rocky Mountain slope. They won by nearly two lengths over Alabama Bound in the most impressive performance by any U.S. 2-year-old this year.
"Does he always run that way?" Trainer John Gaver was asked. "This is only the third time he's run, so I really don't know," replied Gaver, as surprised as anyone else. "All I know is that he's not temperamental like many of the Nasrullahs, but he won't do anything without blinkers. He loves them."
The Hopeful has been won by colts like Whirlaway, Native Dancer, Nashua and Jaipur, but it is too soon, of course, to call Outing Class a champion. Of last week's field, Catullus may be excused for his ninth-place finish. He may still go to Chicago for that rich futurity. Bold Commander, a handsome son of Bold Ruler, has the look of a colt who is bound to improve, and Final Ruling, another Nasrullah who cams from way out of it to be third, also has potential.
The best 2-year-old colt at Saratoga may be one who never made it to the Hopeful. He is Cain Hoy Stable's Never Bend, who missed the race because of a sprained back muscle. If all goes well with him this week Owner Harry F. Guggenheim probably will ship him to Chicago. There are other names to remember, too, like Delta Judge, Rash Prince, Jet Traffic, Y Flash and Noti. Two dark horses that were impressive at Saratoga are Scythe and Big Brave. The weeks ahead will be rewarding for some of them and exciting for all.