The seventh running of the Washington, D.C. International at Laurel last week, which produced nearly enough international incidents to warrant a plenary session of the U.N., kept tongues wagging in controversy for days and prompted a leading British writer to proclaim the race the most sensational he ever saw.
Certainly this International (like its predecessors, it was more highly regarded by foreign horsemen than by our own) had all the elements of eye-catching appeal:
The Irish Ballymoss, allegedly the best European runner ever to invade the U.S.
The Soviet entry of Zaryad and Garnir, first Russian Thoroughbreds ever to compete in America.
The record crowd of internationalists, commoners, Communists, capitalists and ordinary horse lovers.
The cloudless blue Maryland skies.
The whirling totalisators, which recorded a bigger betting handle ($2,645,834) than ever before in the 215-year-old racing history of this horse-conscious state.
After a superior promotional buildup it was downright rotten luck that turned the affair into a disreputable shambles. No sooner had the Australian Sailor's Guide been posted as the winner over the fouling American Tudor Era than the once-festive mood was changed by misunderstanding and, in some cases by plain bitterness.
From the start—if it can be so dignified—there was bedlam for the full mile and a half. First, Starter Eddie Blind had trouble stopping the Russians from jumping the flag. Then, the kicking Orsini II had to be moved to the outside. On the seventh attempt Blind got the field off, but Zaryad was hopelessly left.
In any case, the seven-minute delay put added tension on both horses and riders, and as they thundered around the narrow little turf oval it was strictly a case of every man and beast for himself. Naturally, some made out better than others. Scobie Breasley, for example, in giving Ballymoss what appeared to be an indifferent and most indecisive ride that hardly did justice to the European champion, was in close quarters too often and finally, because of it, he was bumped by Orsini and knocked out of contention. Clem suffered, too, from this incident and finished eighth, beaten even by the other Russian, Garnir, who raced creditably.
Meanwhile, up front the fireworks were about to go off. Willie Harmatz had put Tudor Era on the lead at the flag-fall, and coming into the final turn, he had but to hold a straight course to win as he pleased. Going into the turn he had room on his inside for another horse and now, ranging up to Tudor Era's flank, drove Howard Grant on Sailor's Guide. Suddenly, when he should have been straightening for home, Harmatz veered himself and his horse hard left, shut Sailor's Guide off cold (see pictures on page 18) and forced Grant to take back and go to the outside. The point is: Harmatz had the race won and threw it away with a needless foul. The stewards had no alternative but to reverse the order of finish.
In the heat of the International's post-mortems some went so far as to say that the 1958 running would finish this new classic for good. That would be a pity. It would make more sense to reduce the dangerous sharpness of the curves by increasing the size of the track (this has already been planned in a small way by Laurel officials) and to scrap the present walk-up start in favor of Europe's more manageable break from in front of a webbed barrier. Laurel's International is too fine a sporting attraction to be ruined by one hapless race.
Biggest wagers ever made in the International were piled on Ballymoss; colt lost hundreds of thousands for his backers, prompting startling headlines in London.
Much discussed foul, revealed by film patrol, took place on stretch turn as Tudor Era, leading but with racing room on his inside (top picture), let Sailor's Guide move in and then blocked him off.
Bad start shows irregularly positioned horses after six false breaks and Russia's Zaryad (right, rear) left at post after several attempts to beat the flag. Angry jockey wrongly claimed Zaryad was held back.
Good start may be possible in future at Laurel when track adopts foreign webbed barrier such as used to dispatch big orderly field in France's Arc de Triomphe.
Glow of triumph lights Jockey Howard Grant's face 21 minutes after race when he learns his claim of foul is allowed and that Sailor's Guide is named the winner.
Festive-minded Russian Ambassador Mikhail Menshikov, seated beside Baltimore Socialite Mrs. Duane Jacobs, grins gaily at dollars waved by Hostess Perle Mesta.
Serious-minded International racegoers Prince Aly Khan and beautiful Baroness Tiona Thyssen, owner of Germany's Orsini II, find moment of quiet near paddock.
Newspapers were all angry Russian Jock Kovalev had for his silks, until...
Zipper bags were provided for him and Teammate Nasimov by Laurel's jockeys.
Best horse and 11-to-10 favorite was Ireland's Ballymoss, victor in top European races for Philadelphia Owner John McShain. Ballymoss, victim of indecisive ride by Scobie Breasley, was in constant trouble, and did well to finish in third place.
Lonely walk across the darkening infield and back to the barn for the two Soviet riders. Respectful of worldwide custom, both jocks had excuses for losing. Said Nasimov, the Arcaro of Moscow, "race again in three days and Garnir would win."