As far as money goes, Hialeah's Everglades Stakes, which had its 26th running last week, is small potatoes. The victory of Mr. and Mrs. John Galbreath's His Majesty earned a paltry $22,165, and while that beats a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, it must be remembered that there are about 50 races in the U.S. each year with purses of $100,000 or more. What makes the Everglades so special is that it is the first stakes of the year in which top 3-year-olds, the ones with their eyes on the Triple Crown, meet in an honest-to-goodness test of both speed and stamina. The mile-and-an-eighth distance of the Everglades is the same as that of the Flamingo, the Florida Derby, the Santa Anita Derby, the Wood Memorial and the Blue Grass Stakes—and only one furlong shorter than the Kentucky Derby itself. Considering that past Everglades winners include Citation, Gen. Duke, Tim Tam, Carry Back, Buckpasser, Forward Pass and Arts and Letters, one can appreciate why horsemen have long treated this race as a reliable barometer of things to come.
If things to come include any more near-disasters for His Majesty, then the Galbreaths and their trainer, Lou Rondinello, may spend May 1 at the Miami Heart Institute instead of in their box at Churchill Downs. "This is worse than working," said Galbreath after watching the full brother to Graustark dart through a hole that almost wasn't there to nip Jim French by a head right on the wire and 1:50[2/5]. That was only the last of many excitements in this fine race. Almost as soon as the 14-horse field was free of the gate, Jockey Bobby Ussery behaved as though he were in a five-furlong sprint on the plains of his native Oklahoma as he shot out to a six-length lead on Greentree Stable's Dynastic. Dynastic may be a son of Bold Ruler, and his mother, Track Medal, may be a full sister to Swaps, but even with that breeding and Ussery opening the throttle there was no way he was going to steal a race from this posse.
Dynastic's closest pursuers were Bold Reason and Adobe Ed, while Twist The Axe was a steady fourth. Jim French, the star of the Florida 3-year-old season up to now, was way back, as were His Majesty and Will Hays. Going into the far turn the slowpokes began to move. Angel Cordero on Jim French started circling the tiring leaders, while Braulio Baeza hugged the rail on His Majesty. Jim French took the lead from Dynastic just after the eighth pole, but he had bothered Twist The Axe along the way (and ultimately was set back from second to fifth place). Adobe Ed, tiring toward an 11th-place finish, nearly went into the rail on His Majesty, and when His Majesty got past that threat, Bold Reason came in to do much the same thing. That His Majesty got through at all is astonishing, but get through he did and in time to take it all in a spectacular finish. Sole Mio came on swiftly in the stretch to take third place (second on disqualification), while behind came Dynastic, Twist The Axe and Will Hays.
His Majesty still runs like a green horse, but he is learning all the time. The Galbreath contingent insists that this big bay son of Ribot can run just as well out on the track as he does down on the rail, and let's hope he can, because Baeza can hardly count on always finding a hole in the nick of time.
Mrs. Taylor Hardin's Sole Mio, a son of Hail to Reason, should benefit from his good effort in the Everglades, and if his rider uses any judgment at all the next time, Dynastic will be closer, too. As for Twist The Axe, after being intimidated by Jim French he did well to hang in there. George Poole, who trains this son of The Axe 2nd for Mrs. George Headley, thinks he may have something quite special in his care. After the Everglades he said, "If His Majesty beats us the next time, the drinks are on me."
The next time is the Flamingo on March 3, and the drinks that night could very well be on Calumet Farm, whose Bold and Able turned in the week's most impressive performance when he won his second straight six-furlong test, this time by seven lengths in a splendid clocking of 1:09[4/5]. Trainer Reggie Cornell has another Calumet colt called Son Ange (by Raise A Native out of Tim Tam's full sister Mon Ange), of whom he says proudly, "He's not a very big fella, but what there is of him is all run. The thing about both these colts is that they have speed and the breeding to make them go on. Bold and Able will take on these Everglades horses in the Flamingo. Son Ange will skip it, but you'll see more of him at Gulfstream next month."
Meanwhile, the Everglades remains as the first valid glimpse into the future of the classic 3-year-olds, regardless of what is taking place at Santa Anita, the Carolina training centers (where the star is still Hoist the Flag) and at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas where Staunch Avenger recently won his fifth straight. It doesn't even matter if the Everglades winner fails to stay in the headlines. A year ago a colt named Personality finished fourth in the 'Glades, 5¾ lengths behind the winning Naskra. All Personality did later was win the Wood Memorial, the Preakness, the Jersey Derby, the Woodward—and the 3-year-old championship.