Things are getting into a pretty state of affairs when it is no longer sufficient for the poor $2 better to be able to depend upon a tip straight from the horse's mouth. These days the horse player must check with the mount's psychiatrist as well.
The trend was established sometime last month when the plush Chicago racing plant, Arlington Park, announced it had hired an "equine psychiatrist" to mingle with its four-footed citizens and prescribe for their mental shortcomings.
Now news filters in from London that one of Queen Elizabeth's oat burners has also been placed under the care of a dabbler in four-footed psychology, a Mr. Charles Brooks. His first official act was to recommend travel abroad for the royal racer, and Landau, a temperamental three-year-old, is now on his way to gallop around United States tracks.
Mr. Brooks, who gave up a legal practice to indulge his psychiatric theories on horses, did not reveal whether Landau was a manic-depressive or a dementia praecox, merely stating that a complete change of scenery will do the horse good. It is to be hoped that Landau turns out to be merely a slight schizoid type and recovers quickly in the good old U.S.A.
Those who scoff at the idea a horse needs something more than the old-fashioned veterinarian should listen to Dr. Burg Waddill, the Arlington Park consultant.
"Some horses are like people," he said recently, stating a fact which has been said many times before in a slightly dissimilar way. "They need acts of kindness and encouraging words to do their best.
"Perhaps your horse is capable of outstanding performances," Dr. Waddill went on, "but just isn't producing. Have you petted him on the nose lately or given him a friendly slap on the rump? Or even said 'nice going, Prince,' into his ear after a workout? That may be all he needs."
This may work for those who have horses named Prince. Others should be careful, for horses are notoriously jealous and prefer to be called by their own names.
The habit of showing thoroughbreds kindness above and beyond that normally called for is old stuff, however, even to the leather-tough old horsemen of the liniment and saddle-soap school. Trainer Ben Jones tells of the mare who wouldn't work well at all until they cut a window into her stall so she could watch the stable boys and occasionally nuzzle a passer-by. And legion are the good race horses who live with a pet donkey or dog close at hand to keep them from getting lonesome.
Landau, however, is a special case. The horse is described as an eager beaver in training but hates crowds and goes to pieces when he parades in front of a grandstand full of people. The psychiatrist firmly believes a change of scenery will work wonders.
Just how British crowds contribute to claustrophobia in a race horse and U.S. fans can have the opposite effect is a puzzling question and one which won't be settled until Nov. 3 when Landau goes to the post in the $25,000 International Handicap at Laurel Park in Maryland. If he should win, there can be only one answer. Landau is psychosomatic and the victim of a split personality.
In the meantime the poor little $2 better is going to have to add an item of equipment to his usual assortment of racing forms, dope sheets and early line selections.
It will be a little treatise by one Sigmund Freud entitled "Collected Papers" on analytical psychology.
No horse player will be found without one. Things are tough enough as it is.
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