Patrick-Louis Biancone, the 31-year-old trainer of All Along, calls her Cheval de Fer, the Iron Horse. Jockey Walter Swinburn rates the 4-year-old filly, "the equal of Shergar," England's kidnapped wonder colt, who was syndicated in 1981 for $18.7 million. Swinburn should know. He has ridden them both. Many who have competed against All Along feel her name should be changed to All Alone because she wins with such ease it approaches contempt. Years—nay, generations—from new, racing fans may still be debating just what to call the extraordinary bay lady who, in a 42-day span, advanced from The Horse of September-October to The Horse of the Year to a brand-new title she forged for herself: The Horse of the World.
Last Saturday afternoon, as the harsh fists of winter began knocking on Maryland's door, All Along easily defeated seven rivals in the 1½-mile Washington, D.C. International at Laurel Race Course and carried off a prize of $1,150,000, the richest winner's purse in thoroughbred history. In six weeks All Along has won four of the world's most important races: Paris' $531,675 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp; Canada's $520,350 Rothmans International at Woodbine; New York's $585,700 Turf Classic at Aqueduct; and the U.S. race best known to Europeans, the $250,000 International. By sweeping the Rothmans, the Turf Classic and the International, All Along won a $1 million bonus. In sum, in her four big races All Along ran 6‚⅛ miles, defeated 51 world-class opponents and earned $2,126,380 for her owner, the renowned Parisian art dealer Daniel Wildenstein. Some people may have a Manet, but only Wildenstein has an All Along.
All Along won the Arc running from left to right, her three North American races moving from right to left, and only in Paris did she have a firm turf course. On this continent she found yielding courses that she doesn't particularly care for. Following her win at soggy Laurel, however, it must now be assumed that she can run through the briars and the brambles and the bushes where a rabbit wouldn't go. All Along was held in such esteem by the crowd at Laurel that she paid only $2.80 for each $2 win bet. In 1964, Horse of the Year Kelso returned $4.40 on winning the International, while the 1970 Horse of the Year, Fort Marcy, paid $4.20. Turf champion Run The Gantlet paid $3.60 in 1971, and last year's top grass filly, April Run, paid $3.40. In 31 previous runnings of the event none of the 283 starters had ever been held in the esteem accorded All Along.
The Arc and The North American Turf Triple, as the bonus races are called, are run only 42 days apart, and some observers suspected that All Along might lose her form at Laurel. "Quite often a horse will tail off after winning three races in such a short period of time [28 days]," said Jockey Steve Cauthen, who rode England's Cormorant Wood at Laurel. "I'm not saying she will, but that is what you have to hope if you are going against her." Charlie Whittingham, one of the world's most successful conditioners, was asked why he decided to run the U.S. representative, Palikaraki, against All Along after losing to her by three lengths in Canada. "We had some trouble in the Rothmans," said Whittingham. "Palikaraki jumped up in the air when he ran across the dirt patch in the track. Also, Palikaraki loves soft going, and it often comes up soft at Laurel. My horse won the Arlington Handicap on soft going in September by nearly 10 lengths. All Along had to ship to Canada from France, and she came out of post position 24 to win the Rothmans. Then she had to ship to New York and then to Baltimore. That's a tough road for any filly. Hell, my horse is named after some kind of Greek warrior, and he may have to be that to beat her. But the more rain the merrier."
It rained hard at Laurel all day Thursday and harder still Friday morning. "I don't like this at all," said Biancone. "Everybody else seems to want rain so that they'll have a chance to beat All Along. If the rain keeps up I'll do a sun dance." Around lunchtime Friday the rain ceased, but Laurel's course was wet as a drenched sponge. So wet, in fact, that Canada's representative, Nijinsky's Secret, a speed horse, was scratched. Then the question was: Who would go to the lead?
As things turned out, two other French horses, Lovely Dancer and Welsh Term, went to the front early, with Palikaraki not far behind. Swinburn kept All Along back in the pack, the jockey's rear end high in the air. All Along seemed to get into trouble a couple of times, but going down the backstretch Swinburn's light blue cap could be seen moving up on the outside. And then, swoosh! All Along bounced to the lead just before the mile and Swinburn took a look back over his right shoulder. He could have thrown goodby kisses to the field. All Along moved three lengths in front, then five. Swinburn took seven looks backward before hitting the finish line VA lengths in front. Welsh Term, a 44-1 shot, finished second and Majesty's Prince, a U.S. entry, third. The filly's winning time of 2:35 over the gooey going was only so-so, but as most racing men will tell you, winning is what matters; time only counts when one is in jail.
Racing lore holds that a good horse can come from anywhere, but the barn of Wildenstein is not just anywhere. Wildenstein owns 250 horses (yep, horses!). Until All Along came along his best known was the remarkable filly Allez France, who won the 1974 Arc. Last Saturday's victory was particularly sweet for the art dealer; Wildenstein had tried to win the International four times, but Waya's third in 1978 was his best finish.
All Along made her first start in November of 1981 at Amiens, one of the many provincial tracks that dot the French countryside, and dead-heated with a horse named Tarbelissima. In 1982 she won four of nine races, the most important being the Prix Vermeille at Longchamp. In that race she defeated Akiyda, who three weeks later came back and won the Arc while All Along finished 15th. "The Prix Vermeille was a little tougher on her than we thought," Biancone says, "and she didn't take to soft going in the Arc. It was after that race that the plan came up."
Ah, yes, the plan. At Thanksgiving time last year, All Along ran in the Japan Cup in Tokyo and finished second. It was then that the trainer and owner decided to try to win this year's Arc and what Biancone calls "The American Triple."
"The fact that there was a $1 million bonus for winning the Triple had a lot to do with it," Biancone says. "If the bonus had been $2 million, All Along would have come over here quicker."
All Along was brought up to this year's Arc carefully: one race in June, one in July, one in September. With no wins. Still, Biancone felt he had an excellent chance in the Arc because he had the filly in perfect condition and had a commitment from Europe's best jockey, Lester Piggott, to ride her. But Piggott changed his mind, which made Wildenstein so furious he decreed that Piggott would never ride one of his horses again. Several other jockeys were offered the mount on All Along before Biancone and Wildenstein selected the 22-year-old Swinburn. All Along won the Arc at odds of 17-1 while Piggott finished 13th on Awaasif.
Fillies have won the last five runnings of the Arc, but no Arc winner had ever competed in the Rothmans. Of the five previous Arc winners to try Laurel, none had won. But if All Along could travel, the master plan of Wildenstein and Biancone could reach fruition—and All Along ships better than Auntie Mame. "She likes to go places," Biancone says. "She enjoys new surroundings. She liked Canada and loved New York."
There are some horsemen willing to concede the title of Horse of the World to All Along, while questioning her right to be named the North American Horse of the Year. International racing has certainly not caught on in the U.S., as the crowds of 22,000 for the Turf Classic at Aqueduct and the 20,000 at Laurel indicate, and the admirers of 2-year-old Devil's Bag and 3-year-old Slew o' Gold undoubtedly feel that their horses are more worthy representatives of the best in American racing. Granted, All Along "got good" in a short period of time and she has raced only on grass, but she beat colts and fillies of all ages in her sweep of the North American Turf Triple. In a racing year so murky and confusing, this filly stands out like a beacon. In so many ways she was the horse that everyone had been waiting for. All along.