Visually and traditionally, England's Epsom Downs and New York's Belmont Park may be a world apart, but in the story that begins on page 14 Whitney Tower and Jerry Cooke bring these famed racetracks next door to each other in a combined word-and-picture report on the Derby and the Belmont Stakes.
Long past are the days when covering two events an ocean apart within a single week presented unusual logistical problems; from England on Wednesday to New York by Saturday is hardly difficult in this age of jet aircraft. The principal difficulty facing Tower and Cooke was, according to the latter, "those clothes. You have to have them to get into the members' enclosure at Epsom, which is where you want to be." So instead of heading straight for the racetrack, Cooke and Tower went first to London's Moss Bros., the clothing establishment where British gentlemen rent attire for everything from garden parties to coronations.
The experience was not new for Cooke (he suffered through it three years ago when he photographed Royal Ascot for us), but Tower was astounded. "You go through a production line there, even get a card to wait your turn," he said. "Why, at half past 10 in the morning Cooke and I were Nos. 69 and 70."
Whit's impatience was mollified when he discovered that the cost of looking expensive is "awfully cheap"—only about $10 from Monday through Thursday. "And," he said, "you leave the clothing with the porter at your hotel after you use it and Moss Bros. picks it up."
June 14, 1970
Cooke was less fortunate than Tower in the clothing department. The store was short of his size in the accepted gray striped trousers, so he got black and white checks instead. "Looked like a sideshow barker," said his partner.
Properly turned out at last, Tower and Cooke, along with Mrs. Tower and Photo Assistants Frank Allen and Ann Bridges, left early on Wednesday for the track. Cooke stationed Ann on the roof of the press stand with one camera and Allen on the finish line in the infield stand with another, keeping himself free to wander among the racing personalities on hand.
Taking pictures is pretty much equally tricky at all racetracks, but Tower found special hazards facing him as a reporter at Epsom. "Over there," he says, "everyone is on his own. The walk to the paddock is long, and I was in unfamiliar surroundings. At English tracks they have no publicity departments, no charts, no printed-up and handed-down quotes, and a reporter can never go into the jocks' room as we usually can here. The only way Epsom is comparable to our tracks from a writer's standpoint is that, thanks to TV, a writer both here and there can actually find out more about the race itself by watching the rerun on television." At Epsom, Tower carefully studied the rerun from one of the bars in the members' enclosure. At Belmont he watched it on the winner's circle monitor.
No topper required.