The way the year has been going for Stanley Dancer, the little millionaire from New Egypt, N.J. could draw three cards to an inside straight and never come up empty. There is Albatross, his 4-year-old pacer who has long since pushed past the million mark in winnings. And then there is Super Bowl, a year younger and, going into last Friday night's $50,000 Pacific Trot at Hollywood Park, the winner of 22 races—including the Triple Crown—and more than $400,000 in 1972. That's like finding a gold mine in the middle of your oil field. But when Dancer entered Super Bowl in the Pacific Trot, well, there were those who thought his love affair with Lady Luck was headed for splitsville. The race is a free-for-all, which means it is open to trotters of any age, and obviously no place for a tender 3-year-old.
The Pacific is the last prep race for this Friday night's $100,000 American Classic at Hollywood, and it is rare for a class trotter—over the age of 3—to pass up a shot at the $22,500 top prize. This time was no different. There was, for example, Une de Mai, the 8-year-old French mare who has added $1.6 million to Count Pierre de Montesson's meat-packing fortune. The last 3-year-old to win a major free-for-all at Hollywood Park was Armbro Flight in 1965, and Super Bowl's chances of ending that drought appeared even slimmer when Une de Mai reportedly worked 1½ miles in world-record time.
"Aw, I don't really believe that," Dancer scoffed mildly. "You know those Frenchmen, they never use a stopwatch. They get all their times out of their heads."
To further complicate Super Bowl's young life, Flower Child and Dayan were in the race. The latter won the American Classic two years ago. Flower Child had won seven straight races before Dayan snapped that streak last month.
"A 3-year-old is out of his class in a free-for-all," said Kirk Kirstein, the retired New Jersey textile man who is one of Dayan's owners. "Take Super Bowl. He's won his last 17 races, but always against the same competition. The older a horse gets, the stronger he gets. All these horses will take a shot at Super Bowl. He's used to fighting off maybe one challenge. In this race he'll fight off one challenge and somebody else will challenge. And if we get out in front, he won't have to worry about challenges because the race will be over."
But Dayan has been having his problems. Last year in Toronto three men locked Ollie Webb, the horse's groom, into a tack room. When Webb finally broke out, he found Dayan foaming at the mouth. "Somebody got to him," said Kirstein. "He was out for three months and then, when he did come back, he never regained his form. Not until late this year."
Understandably, Kirstein has been very jumpy. When a three-inch slash was discovered across the base of the horse's tail three weeks ago, Kirstein cried foul. "Somebody slashed him with a razor," he charged. "They were trying to cut the cord just above the tail. If they had got that, he*d have been finished for good."
"I don't believe in violence," said Webb, "but if I had caught the guy who cut him, he'd have wound up on the end of my pitchfork." "We've got a damn fine security force here, and they investigated," said Pres Jenuine, Hollywood Park's energetic little general manager. "They found a big sliver in the stall with horsehair on it. That's how he got cut."
Kirstein also is slightly worried, but mostly tongue-in-cheekishly, that Arab guerrillas might get to his horse, whom he named after Moshe Dayan, the Israeli defense minister during the Six-Day War in 1967. Recently an Israeli newspaper writer asked if she could do a feature story on the horse.
"Go away," said Kirstein, recoiling at the request. "You never heard of the horse. You don't know his name. He was named after Dayan O'Sullivan who played first base for the Knights of Columbus. You print a story about him in Israel and some crazy Arab will read it and mail him a plastic bomb in a bale of hay. Me they wouldn't want. The horse, maybe. Chances like that I don't want to take."
Jenuine, meanwhile, will take all the publicity he can get. With the Super Bowl coming to Los Angeles in January, Jenuine figured he had a natural in Dancer's horse. And so, about a week before the race, he asked the Los Angeles Rams if he could borrow a few players for a press conference. The Rams sent two. Halfway through the conference Dancer pulled Jenuine aside. "Who are those two big guys?" he whispered.
"They play for the Rams. One's a halfback and the other is an end," Jenuine said.
"Oh," said Dancer. "What in hell is an end?"
By midweek Dayan emerged as the early favorite to cut down Super Bowl in the mile test. Dancer's colt had had his first West Coast outing the previous week and he hadn't been impressive in winning by only half a length against ordinary competition.
"It wasn't the colt's fault," said Johnny Barker, Super Bowl's groom. "He hadn't had a race in nine days, and he's the kind of horse who has to work every day and race every week. He was sharp and he was real sound, but he came up 80 yards short. I don't know what to tell you except I've got $200. and it's going on Super Bowl to win."
And no one was forgetting Une de Mai. She had won only one of eight races since coming over last summer, but most of her defeats had come on the half-mile tracks in the East. The big horse is made for sweeping turns and longer stretches, and she figured to do much better on Hollywood Park's magnificent mile strip.
"Everybody is talking about Dayan and Une de Mai," said Dancer. "I'm more worried about Flower Child. That horse can trot. Billy Myer said Dayan was acting funny, trying to run away with him the last couple of times out. I think the horse has gone crazy. Most of the good ones do after a while. They get so used to being out in front they can't race anyplace else. I'd have to say Super Bowl is the nicest fast horse I've ever had. He's no trouble at all."
In what is becoming a habit, Dancer drew the rail for Super Bowl. Flower Child, with Jim Dennis subbing for the injured Joe O'Brien, was in Post 3. Une de Mai, who likes to go outside, was in the six hole, with Dayan all the way outside.
"We've got that Luther Hanover next to us, and he could be a problem," said Kirstein. "He's a jumper. We've got to get out fast. They've got some horses in this race that couldn't win if everybody else fell down. I should have said something."
"Send Billy Myer over to protest," someone said.
Kirstein laughed. "Silent Billy? The longest sentence I ever heard him say was, 'Eh.' "
Count de Montesson and a small party flew in from Paris for the race. Their arrival was greeted with less than warmth by Kirstein, who believes the French Revolution fell a little short. "He's a cold fish," growled Dayan's owner. "He's royalty, and that stuff is dead, only he don't know it. The only royalty I know is a horse that can race under two minutes."
Ignoring Kirstein, the count made plans for a few days of celebrating in Las Vegas after the race. "I'm going to lose all the money I win," said Une de Mai's trainer-driver, Jean-René Gougeon. "I don't know this Super Bowl. I have never seen him. On paper he surely looks good. But Une de Mai looks very calm. That is good. She will have a very good race."
In spite of the experts and flaunting tradition, the fans sent Super Bowl off as the 4-5 favorite. Among them was Rochester, Jack Benny's ex-all-round man, who said, "You can't pick against the Bowl."
As expected, Dayan came swooping to challenge for the lead, but as they came out of the turn Super Bowl was on top and everybody else fell into line. "I was just teasing Billy," Dancer said later. Halfway through the backstretch Une de Mai made one small move: up on the outside from fifth place to fourth, but then the mare fell back a bit, and she was never heard from again.
When they passed the half-mile mark in 59⅘ Dancer figured he was in for an easy ride. All the mature horses were waiting for someone to challenge, but none did. Not until they straightened out in the stretch, when Flower Child came pounding from fourth place to chase Super Bowl to the wire, only to lose by three-quarters of a length. Oppy, a 57-1 long shot, was third, followed by Dayan and then Une de Mai.
"I guess Super Bowl is for real," said Jim Dennis. "He sure wasn't short tonight."
Super Bowl won in 1:57⅘ his 12th mile under two minutes this year, which is a record for all harness horses. The winner's purse fattened his 1972 earnings to $439,211, which wiped out Nevele Pride's previous single-season record. The American Classic will be Super Bowl's last race before retiring to stud. Albatross moves on to Hollywood Park for the $50,000 Western Pace Nov. 24 and the $100,000 American Pacing Classic Dec. 1, and then he will be retired.
"Between them," said Dancer, "they will be just short of earning $1 million by the time they finish this year. That has to be some kind of a record. With them gone, I don't know what I'll do next year. They are going to be an awfully tough act to follow. But, you know, I've got some darn nice yearlings down on the farm. There's this one Nevele Pride colt...."