The Garden State, which gives hints about next year's Derby hopefuls, was won by Sadair, an unimpressively bred colt trained by a former pro football lineman and owned by a lady who dislikes racing
November 23, 1964

Before last Saturday's 12th running of the $301,700 Garden State—that mile-and-a-sixteenth New Jersey romp which is supposed both to decide the annual 2-year-old championship and to stir some winter thoughts about the following spring's Kentucky Derby—knowing horsemen appraised the current generation with fearless confidence. Almost unanimously, it was Bold Lad in front and the rest of the young crop nowhere.

That was easy to say before The Garden State because Bold Lad, winner of eight of his 10 starts and $387,471, had 'been withdrawn from competition for the remainder of the season in order to freshen up for a winter campaign in Florida en route to the Kentucky Derby. After The Garden State, horsemen-still felt much the same way, but now they had two new topics to liven their fireside conversations: a hard-driving colt named Sadair and his breezy owner, Mrs. Mary B. Hecht.

Sadair won The Garden State by simply running away from nine decently representative opponents in the track-record time of 1:41. Jockey Manuel Ycaza took him over the finish line 10 lengths ahead, a margin that left not a few in the crowd of 42,024 echoing Trainer Les Lear's own sentiments: "When Sadair is right—which he is just now—we'd love to meet Bold Lad at this distance." The key phrase, which often goes unnoticed in such moments of enthusiasm, is "at this distance." The important races for 3-year-olds, next year or any year, are not at a mile and a sixteenth. They are longer, and no horseman has yet proved himself infallible in answering the old puzzler of which 2-year-olds can or cannot extend their winning ways as the distances keep getting longer and longer.

Certainly Sadair proved himself to be a fleet colt last Saturday, and his convincing win earned him runner-up honors to Bold Lad in the competition for best 2-year-old, and nearly as much money, too. In accounting for his seventh win in 11 starts (including the $349,925 Arlington-Washington Futurity) Sadair raised his season's take to $387,304, which is only $167 less than Mrs. Henry C. Phipps has won with Bold Lad.

At the start of The Garden State it was the California speedster Hempen who set the pace, followed by Time Tested and then Beaupy, while Ycaza rated Sadair perfectly in the fourth spot. When the fast leaders showed signs of tiring as they went into the far turn Sadair, in Trainer Lear's words, "broke their backs" with a rush that sent him to the front for good. "At the seven-eighths pole I knew I had the winner," said Ycaza, "and if he keeps improving and stays sound he'll be quite a horse. Maybe not ever as good as Bold Lad, but still very, very good."

None of the Garden State losers had an excuse. Jockey Bill Hartack might have been speaking for several of them, including his own mount, second-place Royal Gunner, when he said, "When he gets more mature and race-wise he'll be better." This applies to third-place Hail to All, who came from last to take show money, and possibly to Eurasian, who toiled along in third place into the stretch, then found himself outrun. Eurasian is very big—more than 17 hands—and still green, but he is not to be counted out for next year's Derby. For one thing, he is by Swaps and, for another, he is trained for George Widener by the highly respected master, Bert Mulholland. The light-and-dark-blue Widener silks usually pop into prominence around Belmont Stakes time and at the Travers in Saratoga's August meeting. "I'm not much of a Derby man," Widener said at Garden State, "but I've always said that if I felt I had a horse that was one of the two or three best I'd have no objection to nominating him. With Eurasian, who will go to Florida, we'll just have to wait and see."

There never has been any doubt as to where the owners and trainers of the other good American 2-year-olds would like to wind up. Be it winter racing in Florida, California or New Orleans, or winter training in Florida, Kentucky or the Carolinas, the objective is Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May. Les Lear, talking to the press after Sadair's victory, summed it up pretty neatly when he noted with some feeling, "I guess any man would like to walk in there with a good horse. I've never had a Derby horse or, in fact, any horse like this before."

Likely to be walking into Louisville with a light step are the camps of Bold Lad and Sadair, and they have about as much in common as Notre Dame and Slippery Rock State Teachers. Bold Lad has Wheatley Stable, the on-the-go Phipps family and Trainer Bill Winfrey of Native Dancer fame. The colt is a son of Bold Ruler, the most successful sire since Bull Lea. In short, Bold Lad is royally bred, socially owned and professionally trained to be a champion racehorse.

And who is Sadair? Well, for one thing, he is Florida-bred by Jack Dudley and Bonnie Heath, who once won the Kentucky Derby with their exasperating stretch-runner Needles. But being bred in Ocala is not such a bad thing these days (unless you happen to be listening to Kentucky breeders). Carry Back made it to the big time from there, and so did Roman Brother—and so will a lot more in the years ahead.

Sadair's owner, Mary Hecht, of Miami Beach and High Falls, N.Y., has two main hobbies. One of them is collecting antique automobiles (her favorites are Pierce-Arrows). The other is having a good time at parties—or even when there is no party. And she is no great booster of racing. If she were a man and her name came up for membership in The Jockey Club, the odds are she would be blackballed—and delighted. "Why, I don't even like racing," she said the night before The Garden State. "My brother told me I should have a horse, so I went out and bought one." What she actually did was give $10,000 to Trainer Les Lear and send him off to the sales at Hialeah. He came home with Sadair, and if this sounds strange to racing people who have never heard of Les Lear, think of how strange it must sound to buddies of his who knew him in the '40s when he was a formidable guard with the old Cleveland Rams, the Los Angeles Rams and the Detroit Lions.

"It's not really so strange," says Lear. "I was born on a farm in Grafton, N. Dak. and grew up with horses. Had 'em around all the time, rode 'em and loved 'em." Lear played his college football at the University of North Dakota, and after his stint in the National Football League he became a player-coach for the Calgary Stampeders.

"After a few years up there," says the old guard, who is now 47 and weighs 267 pounds, "I guess they got wise to me and fired me, so I went back to full-time horse training. I've had a license for 16 years."

Mrs. Hecht, unlike such smile-smooth winners as Mrs. Phipps and Mrs. Richard duPont, looks upon Sadair's Garden State success as something less than the big moment of her racing life. Was this your greatest thrill? she was asked. "Hell, no. I liked winning the Saratoga Special," she told Garden State representatives. "That was winner take all. Why isn't this race the same?"

Looking about as the huge Garden State crowd applauded her horse and Jockey Ycaza, Mrs. Hecht said, "We came here in the spring and got such lousy treatment I never wanted to come back." She looked aimlessly at the track officials loading the Sadair contingent with prize loot, and added, "The only reason we came back this time was for the check [$181,020]. Where is it, anyway?"

Mrs. Hecht will get her check, all right, and Sadair will gather many a friend and backer between now and the 1965 Kentucky Derby. In the months before the big day in Louisville her horse and a lot of other colts will be put to severe tests. Most of them will show, under trying conditions, that a useful, winning 2-year-old does not always make a classic 3-year-old. Bold Lad will discover whether he is to be the first son of Bold Ruler to head his division at a mile and a quarter. Sadair will find out if it helps to be the son of a South American sire named Petare who won his first race at Hialeah just four days after flying in from Caracas, then never won much of anything. A son of Ribot named Tom Rolfe is one that is worth watching, as are two Greentree colts named Groton and New Act and Mrs. Marion duPont Scott's Bosun, an unlucky colt who was forced to drop out of The Garden State when he came up with a slight stomach disorder.

But, as the chart below indicates, the early Derby favorite is Bold Lad, and then Sadair. For the time being, the rest are way up the track.


PHOTOThe owner of Sadair, Mrs. Mary B. Hecht, would rather receive a check than a trophy.


Nominations for the 91st Derby won't close until next Feb. 15, when the names of some 125 or more of the current 2-year-olds will be filed at Churchill Downs. Based on 1964 form and projected winter and spring performances, here are Sports lllustrated's estimates of the odds on the 36 leading candidates for America's most famous race.





3 to 1


Bold Ruler-Misty Morn

Wheatley Stable

5 to 1


Petare-Blue Missy

Mary Hecht

8 to 1



Raymond Guest

10 to 1



Montpelier Stable

12 to 1



Greentree Stable

12 to 1


Royal Charger-Levee

Michael Ford

15 to 1


Native Dancer-Greek Blond

Warner Stable

15 to 1


Sir Ruler-Joann Town

Earl Allen

15 to 1


Tom Fool-What's New

Greentree Stable

20 to 1



George Widener

20 to 1


Better Self-Past Eight

Ogden M. Phipps

20 to 1


Hail To Reason-Ellen's Best

Mrs. Ben Cohen

20 to 1



Michael Ford

20 to 1


Nashville-I'm Gonna Tell

Harbor View Farm

20 to 1



Templeton Stables

30 to 1


Terrang-Secret Session

Lawrence Pollock

30 to 1


Bold Ruler-Teleran

George D. Widener

30 to 1


Princequillo-Two Cent Stamp

Michael H. Silver

30 to 1


Gallant Man-Growing Up

C. T. Chenery

30 to 1


Ballymoss-Track Medal

Greentree Stable

30 to 1


Swaps-Banquet Bell

John Galbreath

30 to 1


Misty Flight-Sparkle

Harbor View Farm

30 to 1


Prince John-Golden Sari

Valley Farm

40 to 1


Indian Hemp-Serry

Jacnot Stable

40 to 1


Venetian Way-Royal Hostess

Shelly Bee Stable

40 to 1


Swoon's Son-Distaff

Hugh Grant

40 to 1


Sword Dancer-Miss Stripes

Winlochan Stable

40 to 1


Fleet Nasrullah-Beauing

Ellwood Johnston

40 to 1



Rex Ellsworth

40 to 1


Our Joy-Waza Bird

C. C. Boshamer

50 to 1


Beau Gar-Golpey

Hobeau Farm

50 to 1


Our Joy-Snowy

A. F. Tornetta

50 to 1



Fred Hooper

50 to 1



Calumet Farm

50 to 1


Native Dancer-Say Blue

David Shaer

100 to 1


Rockcastle-Baby Swiv

Lou Pieri