Ogden Phipps of Old Westbury, N.Y. and Fred Hooper of Coral Gables, Fla. are a couple of wealthy horse owners and breeders who have been around long enough to appreciate the fact that the fortunes of their fascinating sport often take weird turns. Hooper, for example, won the 1945 Kentucky Derby with Hoop Jr., the first Thoroughbred he ever owned and for whom he paid only $10,200. In the years since, the cycle of success brought him happy returns with such horses as Olympia, Crozier and Admiral's Voyage. During many of those fat years for Fred Hooper, Ogden Phipps was just another also-ran of an owner.
Last week Phipps and Hooper sat down to lunch together in the directors' room at Chicago's Arlington Park. Phipps had flown out to watch his fine 2-year-old, Buckpasser, play the favorite's role in the $335,475 Arlington-Washington Futurity. Hooper was on hand to see if his bay colt, Tinsley, could put up a challenge to this eastern champion. Throughout lunch well-wishers leaned over to shake Phipps's hand and to tell him they had heard that Buckpasser was virtually unbeatable. Each time Phipps smiled, almost shyly, and replied, "In about three hours we'll all know a lot more about this colt." After Phipps and his son, Dinny, marched off to their box, Fred Hooper—who had sat silently during most of this—said, "It's a mighty nice feeling to own a trump card like that."
Buckpasser was indeed a trump last Saturday as he won the seven-furlong Futurity by half a length over long shot Fathers Image to take down the richest purse, $190,475, ever awarded to a winner of a Thoroughbred race in this country. (The word Thoroughbred is used because in the recent Labor Day meeting at Ruidoso Downs, N. Mex. a quarter horse by the name of Savannah Jr. ran 400 yards in 20 3/10 seconds and thereby won $192,730 of a gross purse of $419,460 for his owner, Tulsa Car Dealer Ray Cates.)
In the course of the 1:23 it took Buckpasser to run his winning streak to eight (and his overall record to eight victories in nine starts) he increased his own bankroll to $375,351 and all but sewed up the 2-year-old championship for 1965. If Ogden Phipps wants to be greedy about picking up loose change throughout the fall Buckpasser could go well over the half-million mark in earnings. Fortunately he is not the greedy type, and it is now likely that after the September 25 Futurity at Aqueduct, Buckpasser may get a long rest before starting his 3-year-old and Triple Crown career at Hialeah next winter.
When this strikingly handsome son of Tom Fool and Busanda does reach the end of the Miami trail he will be stabled not very far from the only top 2-year-old in America that he has not already beaten or, in fact, even raced against. His rival there will be John Galbreath's undefeated Graustark, a big, leggy, chestnut son of Ribot and Flower Bowl, who has won his only three starts by seven, nine and six lengths respectively. Normally, of course, Graustark would have been in the Arlington race last week, but he has been having trouble with his underpinnings. Even before he won his only stakes race, the Arch Ward on August 6, Graustark was developing a shin splint on his left foreleg. On August 21 Veterinarian Alex Harthill fired the splint, which is slightly to the outside and two inches down from the left knee, in almost the identical spot where a splint developed on Kentucky Derby winner Lucky Debonair.
Graustark may be all the wondrous things that Chicagoans say he is but on the strength of only one stakes victory (as compared to five by Buckpasser) he will have to settle for second billing for the time being. It is just about certain now that Graustark, who also has one rather suspicious-looking ankle, won't make it to the starting gate again this year. Thus his return to competition will coincide with Buckpasser's winter schedule at Hialeah, putting Hialeah's Gene Mori one up on Santa Anita's Bob Strub in the drawing-card battle for Kentucky Derby attractions.
In all fairness it must be said that Buckpasser did not look as impressive winning in Chicago last week as he had two weeks earlier in the Hopeful at Saratoga. This time, however, he had no trouble at the starting gate. He bounced out of there with the rest of the field. Heavy rain had fallen on Arlington two days before the Futurity, but some sunshine and a good deal of wind combined to accomplish a good drying job on the morning of the race. The track was called "fast" but, in fact, was still somewhat dead and therefore a bit tiring, and Saturday's jockeys noted that the going on the rail was considerably better than the outside.
Buckpasser came out of No. 8 stall, giving his rider, Braulio Baeza, no immediate chance to get to the rail. It is doubtful that he could have made it in any case, for Arnold Hanger's Demon Dyno rolled out of the inside stall and immediately went to the front under Jockey Ken Knapp. Buckpasser stayed out—and out of any possible trouble—while just to his inside and slightly behind him was Our Michael, considered his most serious rival. Demon Dyno increased his lead from two to four lengths by the time the 10-horse field had reached the three-eighths pole. At that point Buckpasser was six lengths behind in fifth position, and Baeza quickly realized that if somebody didn't go after the leader pretty soon a speed horse like Demon Dyno might get away with a steal. Under other circumstances Baeza could have afforded to wait at least another 16th of a mile before making his move, but he went to full throttle as he hit the far turn. It was a powerful move, too, and took him from fifth to first on the turn. Traveling outside of his field, he reached the eighth pole four lengths in front.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the wire. Buckpasser suddenly began shortening stride, as any tired horse will, and in the last 16th John Olin's Fathers Image, who had been stalking Buckpasser for most of the early going, roared through on the inside and made an honest battle of it. "I wasn't really bothered by that other horse challenging me," said Baeza later, "but it is true my horse changed his lead at the 16th pole and began looking around." To which Owner Phipps added, "We've known all along that this colt likes to pull himself up once he makes the lead." Trainer Bill Winfrey noted a little sadly that he was disappointed to see Buckpasser hang in the stretch, but he was more inclined to blame it on the tiredness resulting from such a big move on the far turn than on anything else. Buckpasser, tired and all, went the last quarter in 25, the last furlong in 13.
(Winfrey's sadness may also have stemmed from the decision he had already made to quit his job with the Phippses. His resignation, effective at the end of the New York racing season in December, was announced two days later. He will be replaced by Eddie Neloy. Winfrey has eight children in Florida, most of them of school age, and he wants to be with them as much as possible.)
Arnold Winick, who trains the second-place Fathers Image, was delighted at his colt's showing. "If I'd had one more race in him we would have won." Winick may have a point—and he has a good horse, a son of Swaps and Cosmah.
As Phipps was preparing to leave Chicago, winning Jockey Baeza was preparing to pick up his check for $19,047. If he was worried about a possible decision next year—to ride Buckpasser or Graustark—he was going to take his own time to make up his mind. As contract rider for John Galbreath he would normally be expected to ride Graustark, on whom he won the Arch Ward. But a lot can happen between now and Hialeah—and between now and next May at Churchill Downs. Would Baeza care to compare the two best 2-year-olds in the country? "You really can't compare them very well," he said in his polite, matter-of-fact way. "Graustark runs easily and wins by as much as he can. But he has only faced stakes horses once. Buckpasser doesn't do more than he has to in order to win, and we know now that no kind of track bothers him. I'm really not surprised at anything he does, because the one and most important thing is that he can really run."
Fred Hooper also knows that Ogden Phipps's horse can run. He watched the Phipps trump card win the big one, while his colt, Tinsley, ran a solid ninth all the way, beating only one horse in the Futurity. But he went home smiling anyway, because he knows, just as Ogden Phipps knows, that the wheel of fortune keeps on spinning.