Some readers make the natural mistake of assuming that Whitney Tower has been writing horse racing in SPORTS ILLUSTRATED since the magazine's first issue nearly 12 years ago. (Some readers think he invented horse racing.) Actually, his first story did not appear until our second issue, August 23, 1954. Since that time there is scarcely an important race in this country that he has not reported or an important figure in racing whom he has not examined carefully. Nor has he neglected the sport's progress on other continents. He has covered a great many of the major classics abroad, particularly in France, which has produced some of the finest racing and best Thoroughbred stock of the past decade.
This is an article from the June 6, 1966 issue
Last October when Tower was making his annual pilgrimage to Long-champ for the Arc de Triomphe, he met Fran√ßois Mathet, a trainer who is to French Thoroughbred racing what the late Ben Jones of Calumet was to the sport in the U.S.—except for one thing. Though taciturn, Ben Jones was at least approachable. Mathet, so far as anyone knew, had never given an interview to the press during his long career. Tower thought he might change that and asked Mathet if he could spend some time with him. Mathet suggested Tower try him later in the year when the flat racing season was over, and he could waste some time with a journalist. Like an hour.
So when December rolled around, Tower flew to Paris, motored for an hour to Chantilly, where Mathet trains his horses, and presented himself to this most dedicated and unapproachable of horsemen. Whit speaks good American-style French, but as he always does when planning to visit France, he engaged the services of his friend, Godolphin Darley, a French journalist and horse trader and, most important of all, an adept translator.
By the time the prescribed hour was up, Mathet realized—as have so many American professionals—that he was dealing with a journalist who knew his trade. "Why not come back to my house and have some lunch?" he asked Tower (and translator). Back they went, and there they stayed for the remainder of the afternoon, and Tower's interview of one hour stretched into six. The result: the first interview ever granted—and now printed on page 51 following color photographs of the new Longchamp track—with the foremost European trainer of his generation.
The year-round sport of racing keeps Whit hopping. Right now he is occupied with the prospect that Kauai King might become the first Triple Crown winner since Citation in 1948. He will, of course, report for us on the final race in the series, next week's Belmont Stakes. And his account will be, as usual, the most readable and knowledgeable you will find.