One great race and one race that might have been just as great are coming up within the next week. On Saturday, in the $75,000 Trenton Handicap at Garden State, we finally get the long-awaited and decisive meeting of the four leading candidates for Horse of the Year, Gallant Man, Round Table, Dedicate and Bold Ruler. This brilliant quartet may be joined in the mile-and-a-quarter run by Wise Margin, Manteau and either Iron Liege or Fabius representing Calumet Farm.
Two days later the center of attraction will be at Laurel for that colorful mile-and-a-half spectacle known as the Washington D.C. International. However, this $100,000 affair, which actually represents the only U.S. attempt to bring together the best horses from England, France, Ireland, Germany, South America and our own shores, has run into some hard luck. Only the French this year appear to be making a serious foreign bid for the prestige of winning this rich stake. The country whose Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe is still the best of all international tests is sending over Rose Royale II, Denisy and Montival, a trio of thoroughly representative challengers, and Jockeys Jean Massard, Guy Chancelier and Jean Deforge, three reinsmen of the top rank. Germany gets in this big show with Nisos; Ireland with a fair handicap horse in Stephanotis; and Venezuela with McKinley.
It must be as discouraging to U.S. supporters of international racing as to the Laurel management that England—the home of traditional classic racing—has seen fit to pass up the International altogether. One of the obvious reasons is that the best horses are unavailable. Crepello and Ballymoss, the logical emissaries from Britain's classics, are sidelined with injuries and most of the second-stringers, having failed to win big-name stakes, hardly represent an interesting drawing card.
American participation in the 1957 International is somewhat obscure. At one time this fall Laurel had hopes of corralling not only Gallant Man but Round Table and Dedicate as well. Now the U.S. hopes will in all probability rest with Christopher T. Chenery's Third Brother, a colt with respectable if not first-class qualifications and one more horse in the same category.
A WAIT FOR WEIGHTS
The confusion over which American horses were going in either the Trenton Handicap or the Laurel International would have been missing had these races not been scheduled within 48 hours of each other. Nonetheless, the conflicting reports from the two tracks raise some points of serious public concern. First, it is fully the prerogative of every owner and trainer to decide on their own exactly where and when their horses should start. This decision-based on the condition of the horse, condition of the track, weights, caliber of opposition and availability of jockeys—is not the responsibility of the track. But a track's obligation—especially in a race of such importance as the Trenton—might be to release the weights well enough in advance (instead of five days before the race) so that the owner of each prospective entry could declare his intentions one way or the other. (The whole question of weights and their value as a lure by which a track with an unscrupulous Racing Secretary can entice a big-name horse is a subject which could stand further investigation by a body with the prestige of The Jockey Club—whose story is told beginning on page 60 of this issue.)
In this case, no criticism can be directed at the weights allotted in either the International or the Trenton. But because the Trenton weights did not appear until early this week, Gallant Man's connections found a fortuitous excuse for keeping their intentions to themselves and depriving the public of information which it deserved to have.
In recent weeks Owners Travis Kerr of Round Table and Ralph Lowe of Gallant Man have been playing a sort of patsy game with both Garden State and Laurel: allowing both tracks hopes of getting both horses for the sake of a publicity buildup for what each wanted to call "The Race of the Year."
As long ago as September 15 Laurel announced receipt of the following telegram signed by Kerr: "Gentlemen: Kerr Stables, owned by myself, wife and daughter Nancy, consider it an honor to accept your invitation for Round Table to represent the U.S. in the sixth running of the Washington D.C. International at Laurel Race Course on November 11, 1957." A few weeks later Trainer Willie Molter shipped Round Table to Garden State and announced that the colt would not run in the International.
In Gallant Man's case there was indecision as late as last Sunday when Trainer Johnny Nerud, having permitted both tracks to believe he'd bring his 3-year-old star to their establishments, said, somewhat confusingly, "I want to be Horse of the Year and I want to win the International for the prestige. But right now we aren't committed to either of these races."
Dedicate's case is a little different. His owner, Mrs. Jan Burke, declined the invitation to Laurel on the ground that her horse was injured and had to pass up The Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont. When he returned to form she sent him not to Laurel but to Garden State to train for the Trenton.
Racing today is a prosperous sport and the people in it—both on the management and spectator levels—are not nitwits. But if the public which supports this spectacle has a right to expect anything, that something is an honest account of the news instead of calculated deception for the sake of publicity. There is full justification for a famous horse backing out of a big race with an excuse of injury or illness—as was the case within the past two years with Nashua, Swaps, Gen. Duke and even Dedicate. But it is another matter when the public is deliberately misled. It's high time both owners and tracks awoke to the realization that there has never been any percentage in killing the goose that laid the golden egg.