According to a long-standing racing theory, when a filly manages to beat colts, one of two things must be true: the defeated males are a mediocre lot, or the filly is not only good, but very, very good. Thus, for example, when Hirsch Jacobs' exciting 2-year-old filly Priceless Gem (SI, Oct. 18) whipped Ogden Phipps's Buckpasser to win the recent Futurity at Aqueduct and followed that up with an easy victory in the Frizette two weeks later, Priceless Gem became the brightest star of an already bright juvenile season. Nobody in his right mind would have considered Buckpasser—at that time the winner of eight of his nine starts—ordinary, in any sense of the word. And yet there was Buckpasser taking dead aim, for a quarter of a mile, at the pace-setting filly and finding himself, without excuse, unable to overhaul her in the stretch.
Opinion, however, was not unanimous on Priceless Gem's superiority. Among those who felt that the result would be reversed in their next meeting were Phipps himself, Trainer Bill Winfrey and Jockey Braulio Baeza. Recalling how The Futurity was run (the filly taking the lead and opening up two quick lengths), Baeza said, "She would have been 10 in front if I hadn't gone after her." Winfrey added, "In The Futurity everything was set up for her, and Buckpasser had to move early and drive all the way." Everyone in the Phipps camp also knew that the best way to tackle Priceless Gem, if she was all that good, was not with one colt but with two.
And that's exactly what Phipps threw at Jacobs in last week's one-mile Champagne Stakes. First, his speedy Impressive was given the role of wearing down the filly for the first six furlongs. When he had accomplished that, along came Buckpasser, as planned, and he coasted home to win easily by four lengths over Our Michael. Advocator, a strong stretch runner, was another half-length back, while Priceless Gem staggered home sixth, beaten 11 lengths. Phipps had paid $10,000 apiece to supplement his colts, and the gamble paid off.
Running an entry against a strong rival is, of course, part of the game of racing. If there are those who would criticize the use of such a tactic against a filly, there are others who believe that when $163,875 is at stake for the winner (the gross purse was $223,875) you should be allowed to do anything short of mowing her down with a burp gun. There is still another camp that holds Jacobs may have been pushing his luck by trying to beat good colts twice in a row, and that putting her in three tough races within four weeks is not the ideal way to manage a filly of whom great things might be expected next season, in her classic year. To which Jacobs, a realist all the way, replied matter-of-factly before the Champagne, "We think she's good but we won't know just how good until we see how she handles the colts at a mile."
The flat answer is that she couldn't handle them at all after three-quarters of a mile. And now she must risk her slightly soiled reputation against Moccasin in the November 6th Gardenia. Moccasin, unbeaten in six starts, won the Alcibiades at Keeneland by 15 lengths last week. She, too, likes to run on the front end, and if these two use such tactics in the Gardenia, some longshot is going to beat them both. Wally Blum, who rides Priceless Gem, insists that her defeat in the Champagne was due more to "running rather dull" than to the attack of the entry. "She's still the best 2-year-old filly in the country," he says. That's Blum's opinion. My vote goes to Moccasin.
There can be no such uncertainty about the best 2-year-old colt. As he now goes for a well-deserved rest, the winner of nine races and record earnings for a 2-year-old of $568,096, Buckpasser has his title neatly wrapped up and won't even bother to run in the November 20th Garden State. He will make his next start at Hialeah this winter, about the same time that John Galbreath's unbeaten Graustark will make his. Graustark has recovered from splint trouble and is galloping a mile and a quarter every day at Belmont Park in preparation for his southern trip about December 1st.
Buckpasser is by Tom Fool and Graustark is by Ribot, and both of these famous stallions were in the news last week. While Buckpasser was winning the Champagne, another son of Tom Fool, Paul Mellon's Silly Season, captured the mile-and-a-quarter Champion Stakes at Newmarket. Ribot's progeny weren't making racing news for a change, but the former undefeated world champion was. In fact, the status of Ribot was on the verge of becoming an international equine controversy. Galbreath signed a five-year stud lease with Ribot's Italian owners to bring Ribot to Kentucky in time for the 1961 breeding season. Three months have now passed since the fractious and headstrong stallion was due back in his home paddock at Italy's Dormello-Olgiata stables. While most other European racing authorities are wondering about this seemingly unnecessary delay, the Italians are apparently still undismayed. "We are only awaiting word as to what flight Ribot will take, and all else is pure fantasy," they say.
"All else," however, may not be pure fantasy at all. It is well known that Galbreath and the members of his Ribot syndicate are most anxious to keep the stallion in this country, despite the fact that he has a full book for the coming breeding season in Italy. European breeders would not take kindly to having their bookings to Ribot canceled but, according to some of them, Galbreath has come up with a solution to that. It is reported that he has offered to pay the difference in price for shipping a mare from, say, England to Kentucky, in order to make it possible for Ribot to honor his European contracts.
Anyone who knows John Galbreath's determination would have to believe that his efforts to hold on to Ribot are likely to be successful. I, for one, wouldn't be in the least surprised to learn, about the time that Galbreath's newly acquired Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner Sea Bird arrives in New York, that Ribot will be staying in America for good. The deal should be announced within 10 days or so. Incidentally, when Sea Bird does fly in, this reigning Horse of the World will likely be paraded one afternoon at Aqueduct. Then he will be off to Lexington, where Darby Dan will be able to boast a batting order of Ribot, Sea Bird, Swaps, Summer Tan, Sailor. Break up Darby Dan!