Windsor castle, a 7-year-old jumper bought in Canada two years ago for $2,000, made two kinds of news at New York's National Horse Show last week. First, he won the jumping championship and in so doing made Dorothy McLeod the first woman rider to guide a jumper to the title in the 76-year history of the show. Second, he was sold for the highest price ever paid for a U.S. jumper—the equivalent of $50,000.
Windsor's victory was not unexpected. With Miss McLeod aboard, he had won the jumping championships at the Washington and Harrisburg shows. Both the sale and the price were surprises. Harold Marzano and Si Jayne of Chicago had bought Windsor last June from Carl Miller Jr. for $25,000—no record, but a jingling sum in a class where first usually amounts to $50.
However, Windsor's new owner, Robert Ballard, a Canadian businessman who shows jumpers as a hobby, was not looking for an investment. Ballard offered $40,000 plus a $10,000 horse named Pocahontas because, as he said, "I think Windsor's the best and I can afford him. After all, I drive a Cadillac, not a Volkswagen." Ballard will ride Windsor, but this does not leave Miss McLeod, a young old pro, completely unhorsed—she rides most of Jayne's other entries.
The drama of the sale tended to distract attention from the show itself. Actually the show was very good in some ways—and quite bad in others. On the good side was The Lemon Drop Kid, the fine-harness horse who has dominated the open classic since 1952, but was making his first eastern appearance in the unhappy role of a just-defeated champion. A fortnight earlier Lemon had been beaten at Kansas City's American Royal by a horse named Calcutta in what surely was the year's most controversial decision. I thought Calcutta had a ponified way of going, but the judges ruled otherwise. At the Garden, Lemon won both the open and championship classes, in what probably was the best fine-harness event seen there since Vanity and Noble Kalarama clashed in the '40s.
Lemon beat Evelyn Gray, driven by Lloyd Teater, in the Championship Stake, but Teater had a satisfying victory in the Roadster Stake. He drove Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Bunn's Bombsight, a horse undefeated in three years of show-horse competition and the winner of $46,000 on the track in harness races before his conversion.
The National has always been strong in hunter, jumper and international events and weak in other divisions—just the opposite of the Midwest shows. This year the National can take a small bow for strengthening its weaker areas, but no bow at all for its newest offering—an international pony competition. This event, perhaps the dreariest ever offered at the Garden, pitted a non-uniformed crew of American youngsters riding what, by contrast, appeared to be poorly trained ponies, against a spit-dressed and dressage-polished pony team from England. The pony competition, if held at all, should have been held some quiet morning at the armory—not as the interminable feature of a Saturday night Garden show that lasted until 2:15 a.m. With horse shows constantly getting bigger (but not necessarily better), late nights are becoming a pattern. The Kansas City Royal also ran late, but not as late as the Garden, and the Royal had 1,227 horses entered against 471 in New York.
For those brave or inert enthusiasts willing to stay to the end, there was some reward in the National's international competition, featuring teams from the U.S., Canada, Argentina, Brazil and Mexico. This was as exciting as the ponies were dull, even though the U.S., in general, and its captain, Billy Steinkraus, in particular, won almost everything in sight. Canada took the tough Prize of Nations event, and Mexico retired the Good Will Challenge Trophy.
Ironically, the first two legs on the latter had been won by Mexico's tempestuous Brigadier General Humberto Mariles, who is not a member of the 1959 Mexican team. Mexico is represented instead by a team headed by Mariles' archrival, Lieut. Colonel Ruben Uriza. The general, of course, attributes this to politics and has made a strategic withdrawal to regroup. While Uriza's men ride in pursuit of blue ribbons, Mariles is readying himself for a new assault with the Olympic team as his objective. His plan is twofold and flamboyant, and if successful, should silence all aspirants for his position.
First, a national trial will be held in December to choose Mexico's Olympic team, and Mariles plans to enter six riders and 12 horses. He also plans to win. Then comes part two: an international competition in January, in Mexico, with the top European and U.S. riders competing against his team. If the Mexican team does not win 50% of the classes against the world's best riders, Mariles will withdraw his team as Olympic contenders—a contingency which, naturally, he considers highly unlikely.
THE TITLE TRIO included Rider Dorothy McLeod, Windsor, Buyer Bob Ballard.