Traditional Maryland hospitality was in evidence during Preakness Week at the proud old Pimlico Race Course. Management stabled most of the leading Preakness contenders in the same barn, allowing Tim Tarn, Silky Sullivan, Noureddin, Lincoln Road and Gone Fishin' to keep a suspicious eye on each other and encouraging their trainers to indulge in a favorite pursuit: a pleasant exchange of "white lie" flattery and cheerful evasion.
Calumet's trainer, Jimmy Jones, always a leader in these conversational sorties, was—like his Tim Tam—in the pink. He was ready to accept a jocular wrestling challenge tossed at him by Silky Sullivan's exercise boy. He watched Silky's final prerace blowout and told Trainer Reggie Cornell, "One thing about your horse, Reggie, you sure got him legged up nice for this one; he's a different colt from when we saw him in Kentucky, and he looks like he's ready to run."
The Sullivan entourage was registering mild optimism. "Silky's goin' to show his best," declared a relaxed Cornell. "He likes this track, his works have been fine and if he doesn't run his race this time we'll have not one excuse. Not one."
All this, of course, was before Tim Tarn, Calumet's Kentucky Derby winner, transformed the 82nd Preakness into a victory-run shambles last week with as gallant a show of combined ability and racing disposition as has been seen in many a year.
The running of the Preakness itself was no anticlimax except for the unfortunates who held close to their hearts the faint hope that Silky Sullivan was about to redeem himself with such a nerve-shattering performance that forever more he would be likened to Man o' War instead of to the potential color-bearer of a St. Patrick's Day parade. And Silky was a scene stealer to the very end. The enormous chestnut, whose California dramatics—together with the advantage of racing's greatest promotional press-radio-television buildup—had made him the most popular horse in history, was just another big bust. Knowledgeable horsemen everywhere felt Silky was no great shakes, but even the severest of his critics, themselves fascinated by the magnitude of Silky's personality, admitted that they hoped the colt would "run his race," giving his audience, at least, the benefit of a California run which might conceivably put the Santa Anita Derby winner in the money.
And in the paddock, while Tim Tarn and the others drew normal attention, it was Silky Sullivan who again monopolized the applause. It was all he drew that warm cloudy afternoon in Baltimore. His one run in the race, after trailing by over 30 lengths up the backstretch, was quickly dramatic but quickly over. Moving under Willie Shoemaker at about the half-mile pole, Silky put in a great lick of about an eighth of a mile—a move that television audiences were treated to at the expense of a view of the fabulous skill with which Tim Tarn was collaring the leaders and exerting his mastery over the best of his age. But by the quarter pole Silky Sullivan was finished, a tired "hanging" colt who saved himself eighth place in the 12-horse field and earned himself a ticket back home to California on the now inescapable grounds that 1) he cannot, for all of his momentary speed, concede 30 lengths to good horses and hope to get them back; 2) he probably isn't a distance horse anyway, as his pedigree (SI, April 28) certainly suggested; and 3) if he's the best California has to offer this year, he'd better confine his racing to that part of the world.
Tim Tam, on the other hand, won his Preakness the way many a champion has to: with courage from the start and determination and class at the finish. At this mile and 3/16 distance a come-from-behind horse like Tim Tam is at a certain disadvantage against good speed colts able to negotiate Pimlico's tight turns and equally able to cash in on the comparatively short stretch. With this in mind Jimmy Jones had one major reservation: "The horse that takes the money home will have to catch Lincoln Road."
Well, Tim Tam did take home the money, but he worked hard for it. Off to his customary slow start, he was back in ninth place going into the first turn and it took the most commendable courage on the part of Jockey Milo Valenzuela not to press the panic button there and then. But Milo, blessed with both skill and patience, worked out just the right formula for "using up" his horse little by little in a brilliantly sustained run that saw the blur of devil's-red and blue pick up horses one by one up the backstretch. Then it didn't seem possible that Tim Tam would have a finishing kick sufficient to overhaul the front-running Lincoln Road, who, as usual, had bounded out of the gate and barreled immediately to the front in another of his plucky door-die efforts to steal it all from end to end. But Valenzuela stormed up on the outside of Lincoln Road and, after a brief head-and-head duel, Tim Tam rolled away to finish a length and a half in front. Gone Fishin', who has recently appeared to be a far better California representative than Silky Sullivan, managed to take third place by a nose over the long-shot Plion, while the second-choice Jewel's Reward ran disappointingly all the way and finished seventh.
It seems more than likely that U.S. racing has found in Tim Tam the ninth Triple Crown winner in history, and the first since another Calument colt named Citation turned the trick just 10 years ago. "We've got a good shot at it now," said a jubilant Jimmy Jones after the race. "Even if Tim Tam wins the Belmont [June 7], I wouldn't want to compare him to Citation—how can you compare any horse to Citation?—but even right now I've got to put this colt down as one of the most honest tryers I've ever seen."
BURSTING BETWEEN LINCOLN ROAD (10) AND TALENT SHOW (2), SPIRITED TIM TAM (8) STARTS HIS VICTORIOUS STRETCH RUN INCHING PAST FRONT-RUNNER LINCOLN ROAD IN MIDSTRETCH, CALUMET COLT CROSSES PIMLICO FINISH LINE ALERT AND ALONE
END OF SILKY: Irritably swishing his famous tail after running eighth, Silky Sullivan and his chubby trainer, Reggie Cornell, start on long trip back to California.