They cheered himin the jampacked walking ring. They cheered him under a beautiful cloudless skyas he walked proudly in front of more than 50,000 horseplayers in the postparade. And they cheered him as he cantered boldly off, his jockey tuggingfuriously to keep him from running away when the majestic field of 24 runnersmade its way down to the old mill that is the starting point at Longchamp forthe mile-and-a-half Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, Europe's richest and mostimportant race.
But at the finishthere were no more cheers for Carry Back, the American champion who wasattempting to add to his record the title of world champion. There he was,running on the outside as usual, his long tail flying straight out behind andhis neck thrust forward, his belly low to the ground. He was trying his best,as he always does. There was but one discordant note in this glorious scene:Carry Back was the 10th horse across the finish line. Behind him came 13more.
While Carry Backwas struggling to be 10th—he had gone off at odds of 11 to 2—the rich race wasbeing won by a length by a 40-to-1 shot named Soltikoff, who until exactly aweek before the Arc had never won a race of any description. Second and third,separated only by a neck, were the filly Monade (at 19 to 1) and the FrenchDerby winner, Val de Loir. Fourth was another 3-year-old with the delightfulname of Snob, while favored Match, fifth in the Arc a year ago, was fifthagain. The other favorites were Misti, who was seventh, and the Englishchallenger, Aurelius, who came in 15th.
The winner ran anadmirable race, but the story of the 41st Arc revolved around Carry Back, hisowner-trainer Jack Price and his curiously uninterested Australian jockey,Scobie Breasley. The latter, having worked him, and disappointingly at that,the previous week, had not been very encouraging about Carry Back's chanceswhen he reached Paris the night before the race. He begged off dining with thePrices and turned down an invitation to walk the course Sunday morning. "Iwon this race once," Scobie told Price, "and I know what it's allabout."
October 14, 1962
Before saddlingup, Price gave Breasley the obvious instructions: "Try to keep in a goodposition near the leaders, stay out of trouble by going to the outside when indoubt and let this horse really run when you get midway down the hill at theend of the mile." Visiting former jockey Eddie Arcaro tried to jack upBreasley's confidence by telling him that if Carry Back could beat Kelso hemust be one hell of a horse. Then he joked, "The only way you can lose thisrace is if you ride him as badly as you rode Ballymoss at Laurel." (In thatcatastrophe, in the 1958 Laurel International, Scobie went looking for traffictrouble like a sailor seeking sin in Singapore; despite his atrocious ride,Ballymoss, who had won the Arc that year, came on in the stretch to finishthird.)
At the start ofthis Arc it looked as though Breasley had mended his ways. He and Carry Backactually were among the first three to leave the webbed barrier. They brokefrom post position 21, and it was as perfect a start as you could ask for. But,alors, the picture did not remain perfect for long. Later Breasley said thatCarry Back instinctively took himself back. To Price and Arcaro, atop thestands, it appeared that Breasley got a choking hold on him and took him back.It was plain that Carry Back was so far back after the first three furlongsthat he was virtually eliminated from all contention. Whereas at the start hewas in the first three, suddenly he had only three horses beaten.
"I felt Iwould have more chance going inside at this point," said Breasleyafterward, "but I knew that Mr. Price had his doubts about the inside andtherefore I went to the extreme outside at the top of the hill as we turneddown it. The result was that as the course narrowed, the bunched field pushedme to the extreme outer edge and, of course, we were losing ground with everystride."
"What hemeans," said a perturbed Price later as he cooled out at the Hotel deCrillon bar, "is that he is trying to make excuses for having goofed it sobadly after the start. He could have been laying fourth or fifth turning downthe hill. Then he could have been on the outside and made his move withoutlosing all that ground. But the way he came into the hill, with horses startingto fan out in front of him, he probably had to go around 10 horses. He lost 15lengths there—half again as much as the distance by which he lost the wholerace."
Fault or no fault,Breasley and Carry Back did make a noticeable move down the hill. Skirting thefield Carry Back appeared momentarily to be flying in the old familiar Derbyand Preakness style. But when he got to the bottom and was turning for the runhome, he had come to the end of the line. Carry Back had run amile-and-a-quarter race, but unfortunately there was still a quarter of a mileto go. He came on bravely. About where an eighth pole should have been, he wasvery nearly last and then ran by beaten horses in the last few yards.
Despite thedefeat, Jack Price is still convinced that he has the best horse in the world.In order to prove it he quickly laid down an open challenge to meet the firstfour Arc finishers within the next two weeks at the same distance, again atLongchamp,. "If all of us put up $25,000 for a winner-take-all purse thatwould be fine by me," Price said. "Next time I'd like to use Sellwood[Jockey Neville Sellwood]. I could throw a 130-pound bag of feed up on CarryBack and he'd do as well as he did under Breasley."
Breasley was moretactful in his post-race comments: "I think Carry Back is a very nicemile-and-a-quarter horse, and if he wins at a mile and a half it is not goingto be in top company." This, of course, had been the opinion of many CarryBack observers long before Price decided to take him to France. Pace was tohave been a determining factor in this race. And indeed it was, but the way itworked out it was hardly to Carry Back's advantage. For example, while Breasleywas taking Carry Back to the rear of the pack at the beginning, the leaderswere running the first quarter in 28 seconds. They ran the final six furlongsin 1:10½, and the final time of 2:30[4/5] was the fastest Arc ever. It becomesobvious that no stretch runner on earth can afford to let his field dawdlethrough a snail's-pace first quarter, lose ground all the way when the realrunning starts and then hope to make up 15 or more lengths in the last quarter.It can't be done by Carry Back or any other horse.
When it was allover Sunday night, Jack and Katherine Price were not really upset. "It wasa horse race, and we've lost them before," said Katherine. "We lost ourmoney [some 515,300 for the trip] on the gamble," said Jack, "but atthe same time we did prove that it is feasible for an American horse to comeover and run in this sort of race. The trouble is that there were a dozen or sohorses in there with no right to start." The trouble is, also, that if youhad tried to eliminate horses with no right to start you would have taken outthe 40-to-1-shot winner. As even Price had to admit as he stood outsideLongchamp, grin and all, with his upturned bowler jokingly held out to accepttips from the crowd, that's just what horse racing is all about. "The triphas been fun," he said, "and we'd do it again anytime."
It had been fun,indeed, until the race. Price's enthusiasm for his horse became wildlyinfectious in cosmopolitan Paris. As this little man moved among thesophisticates, dispensing ad lib bon mots with the aplomb of a modernPassepartout, the Carry Back-Jack Price fan club grew almost overnight to theproportions of a new political party. If Carry Back had many disadvantages onthis invasion, Price considered that he and Katherine really only had one."We should have taken a 25-hour crash course in French," he complainedwhile trying to get a point over to a foreign reporter. But, speaking inEnglish (the only French he actually mastered was "ham and eggs," whichhe pronounced jam-bone and oofs), Price made his points and made himself ahit.
He brought along amovie of Carry Back's winning races and showed it to the press and racingofficials at a Jockey Club reception. He showed it also in the gilt,chandelier-draped salon at the Circles Interallié, where more than 100 membersof the American Club of Paris gather every Thursday to lunch and listen todistinguished American guest speakers. On the Thursday before Price made hisappearance the members had listened to the retiring U.S. Ambassador to France,James M. Gavin. Jack Price gave them a talk on horses, undoubtedly not the textof such former speakers as Eleanor Roosevelt, Senator Estes Kefauver and JohnF. Kennedy. Price's effect on this kind of gathering is remarkable. One oldgaffer, who admitted he thought Man o' War was a trotter, made immediate plansto attend the Arc. Others, including many employees of the Morgan GuarantyTrust Company, got up a pool on the race, the first time that had happened. Bypost time Sunday it was evident that this French classic would be witnessed bymore Americans than had ever before been aware of the sport in Paris.
It also wasapparent that a Carry Back victory would do more for the cause of internationalracing than all the involved and futile round-table conferences. Well, hedidn't win. But somehow international racing found itself advanced. So did someother international-type items, like goodwill—between France and the U.S., atleast, if not between the U.S. and Australia.