The Messenger was late, but Bret was ready

Nov. 29, 1965
Nov. 29, 1965

Table of Contents
Nov. 29, 1965

Big Fight
  • Although he never put a valorous Floyd Patterson down for the count, Cassius Clay displayed an awesome range of skills as he battered his opponent at will and proved to a sometimes skeptical public that he is, as he says, 'The Greatest'

Colt Defense
Football's Week
  • It was the last big week. Champions were crowned in five major sectors as Arkansas and Tulsa did what was expected, Dartmouth and UCLA did what was not, and surprising South Carolina grabbed a share of Duke's Atlantic Coast title. Bowl sponsors all but completed their pairings, such as they are, and the only remaining confusion in the SEC will be cleared up Saturday when Alabama and Auburn meet. In a season of high-geared offenses, however, it was ironic that the biggest game—Michigan State vs. Notre Dame—was a furious defensive battle

Hundley's Heaven
Harness Racing
Horse Racing
Enemies In Speedland
19th Hole: The Readers Take Over

The Messenger was late, but Bret was ready

Though he won the first leg of pacing's Triple Crown way back in May, the great colt was still in top form on a windy, wintry Long Island evening and easily justified the remarkable volume of cash that backed him

Nothing warms the blood of a horse-player better than a sure thing, and no horseplayers needed warming more than the 24,117 at Roosevelt Raceway last Friday night, when the wind blew and the temperature dropped into the 30s. Better than thermal underwear, 10,000 cups of coffee and who knows how many bottles of booze was the presence of Bret Hanover, the surest sure thing since Eve and her apple.

This is an article from the Nov. 29, 1965 issue Original Layout

A bet on the colt is as safe an investment as A.T. & T. He has won all 36 of his starts at pari-mutuel race tracks. Eight times tracks barred him from the betting or declared the race a nonbetting contest. But a $2 wager on Bret's nose the other 28 times would have netted, by now, a $16.90 profit—not much, but more than A.T. & T. would have paid.

When Bret won last week's Messenger Stakes, and with it pacing's Triple Crown, 85% of the money wagered on the race was on the colt. A New York State law requires tracks to pay winning bettors at least 10¢ on every dollar, so when there are too many winners and too few dollars in the mutuel pool the track must ante up the rest. If there is anything more certain than bettors liking sure things, it is racetracks not liking them.

Roosevelt just plain refused to sell $50 and $100 show tickets on the Messenger, but the maneuver did not work. The $100 show bettors put their hundreds on Bret to place, and Roosevelt wound up with the biggest minus pool in history.

Even more remarkable are statistics on Bret's racing career. Now 3, he has won 45 of 48 races. In the past season he won 21. It took Carry Back, Native Dancer and Tom Fool all their racing lives to win that many. This year Bret's schedule was even tougher than his competition. If he'd gone as many miles by ship as he went by truck he could have spent last week in Hong Kong. He won the Cane Futurity, first leg of the Triple Crown, last May, the Little Brown Jug, the second leg, in September, and somehow stayed in good enough condition to take the final leg in the wintry weather at Roosevelt. That, win or lose, is demanding too much of a classic colt.

Harness horses, like trackmen, train off and are not at their fastest or their best in damp, cold weather. It seems foolhardy for Roosevelt to have scheduled its one classic race when the weather was almost certain to be damp and cold. The track sets the date of the Messenger each year at the time it believes it can publicize the race best. In 1964 the stake was held in August, and Publicity Director Joe Goldstein explains, "The International swamped it. You can't promote two races like that at one time." (The crowd at last year's Messenger was 44,637, nearly twice last week's.)

Bret drew the unfavorable outside post position in the field of seven pacers, but he could have started on Old Country Road outside the track gate and still have beaten the others home. He was in front before the field went a quarter of a mile and led all the way to the finish. Little Rivaltime, who is partly owned by big Wilt Chamberlain, and Tuxedo Hanover challenged, but neither menaced. "They're just getting hot and tired," remarked a driver watching the race. Well, working up a little warmth wasn't such a bad idea.

PHOTOSTEAM RISES from Bret Hanover into the frigid air of the winner's circle as Driver Frank Ervin prepares to receive Messenger trophy from Roosevelt Raceway President Alvin Weil.