Well, Bold Ruler's critics can now reconvene. Little had been heard from them since the spring of 1957, but his dull race in last Saturday's $57,000 Brooklyn Handicap at Jamaica was probably enough to flush them out of hiding. As has happened to most of the great weight carriers in history (see chart), the handicapper caught up with him when mere opponents couldn't. Under 136 pounds, he finished next to last in a field of eight, spotting from 22 to 31 pounds, in what was probably his worst race in a lifetime of very good ones.
For those who still adore him—and he received a greater ovation in defeat than Cohoes did in victory—there is one historically proved consolation. Weight carriers usually spend a little time in the valley but eventually the great ones get back up the mountain. And on his record (23 wins in 33 starts) Bold Ruler is a mountain climber.
His mission last week was doubly difficult. For one thing he was carrying 136 pounds, and for another he was returning after only a week's rest from lugging 134 in the Monmouth Handicap. He showed the strains of his campaign when the gate opened. Usually he breaks first, but this time he was away third. In the first run past the stands he resembled a carrousel horse: his head bobbing up and down and his legs unable to gain traction. When he finally started at the leaders, Mark Antony and Cohoes, near the head of the stretch, the late-running Sharpsburg came to the outside and knocked Bold Ruler sideways. But as Jockey Eddie Arcaro said later, "I knew he wasn't going to get any part of it even before he was hit. He didn't seem himself, his action was funny and awkward. I can't explain what was wrong with him. I guess it was the weight."
Greentree Stables and nearly everyone else had thought Cohoes would one day be a good colt. Everyone, that is, except Cohoes. This was his first stake win in over a year.
Earlier in the week, at Hollywood Park in California, Bold Ruler's old nemesis, Gallant Man, was able to pick up an assigned 132 pounds and run off with the $107,600 mile-and-five-eighths Sunset Handicap. Not since 1920 had any horse been able to carry over 130 successfully in a race at a distance greater than a mile and a half. The Sunset also ended the continent-spanning foray for Gallant Man, normally one to stay in New York. Within 10 days he won $161,500, and as his trainer, John Nerud, said, "Californians are constantly being looked down at by the rest of the world. But I'll say this, I've never received a reception like the one those people gave me and my horse. In two races he averaged 46,628 people, and the Los Angeles Examiner considered him important enough to assign eight men to cover his every move in our appearance in the West. For 10 days he seemed to make people forget all about Chavez Ravine."
On other frontiers last week the brightest and most talked-of event was William Hartack's victory in his first hurdle race at Monmouth Park. "It was," he claimed, "a greater thrill than winning the Kentucky Derby."
This week racing settles down in that sleepy, verdant retreat named Saratoga. For 24 days the sport makes the solitary move of the New York racing year that is not aimed directly at the cash register. Its purses are minute and attendance and mutuel handle are paltry when compared to Jamaica or Arlington or Garden State. It is still able to do noisy things in a quiet way for those people who think Thoroughbred racing is a sport and not merely a crap game played at six furlongs. Both Gallant Man and Bold Ruler have been shipped there, and when they arrive they will find themselves strolling over a bright and green courtyard and looking directly into one another's eyes.