Rushing for thewire on Hialeah's turf course, Thoroughbreds form a moving backdrop for massedbegonias that are typical of the Miami track's pink motif. In the next 10 daysmany of the finest horses in training will flash their brilliant colors here inthe winter classics, and racegoers will judge the early form of some KentuckyDerby candidates. For a preview of the first major test in the East for3-year-olds, turn the page.
The Long ShotsMake Their First Bid
As the winterseason approaches its climax at Hialeah and Santa Anita, upsets are thekeynote. Heavy favorites, odds-on in many instances, are falling before lesspopular horses. In a few days at Hialeah, such overwhelming choices as Ridan,Carry Back and Cicada all finished second. Last Saturday at Santa Anita,Admiral's Voyage and Rattle Dancer were beaten.
The mostinteresting thing about this surge of the long shots is its effect on theannual pre-Kentucky Derby guessing game. The 88th Derby will be run on May 5 atChurchill Downs, and suddenly it seems that the Big Three—Sir Gaylord, Ridanand Crimson Satan—may no longer be in the commanding positions they enjoyedafter the Bahamas. This week they meet in the mile-and-one-eighth Everglades intheir first effort over a genuine distance. They'll have a rematch in theFlamingo on March 3.
Last weekend atSanta Anita the mile-and-one-sixteenth San Felipe Handicap was won by DocJocoy. The victory strengthened his chance to be the favorite for the SantaAnita Derby, also on March 3, but the way the colts have been belting eachother around in California this winter that test could go to any of half adozen horses. So this may prove to be a season of long shots.
Some may questionthe tag "long shot" on a colt like Dead Ahead, since he has not lost inhis four starts. Yet Dead Ahead has had to take a back seat to the big shots ofhis division. He may start against the Big Three for the first time in nextweek's Flamingo. If he does, don't underestimate him. He is amagnificent-looking bay son of Turn-to (a winner of the Flamingo), is owned byCaptain Harry F. Guggenheim's Cain Hoy Stable and is a half brother to thatstable's Bald Eagle and One-Eyed King. All three are out of the remarkable mareSiama. Brought along painstakingly as a 2-year-old, Dead Ahead was given onlytwo starts at Aqueduct last fall. He won the first by a length, the next by twoand a quarter lengths. A suspicion of leg trouble persuaded Trainer WoodyStephens to take it easy with him at that point. Dead Ahead spent the firstpart of the winter in steady training at Columbia, S.C. In his first start atHialeah, the same day that Intentionally was putting the ax to Carry Back, hespreadeagled a good field by six lengths, covering seven furlongs in 1:234/5.
One of theobservers at Hialeah that day was Wathen Knebelkamp, the white-hairedentrepreneur of Churchill Downs, who was hustling nominations to the KentuckyDerby. He leaned over to Captain Guggenheim and said, "Well, Captain, Iguess I can count on you in our big race. What do you say?" Guggenheím,whose Dark Star was a startling upset winner over Native Dancer in the 1953Derby, peered over the rims of his glasses and replied, "What do I say?Wait till we beat something. Then we'll see." On Flamingo Day, Guggenheim,Woody Stephens and Dead Ahead will have a good chance to "beatsomething."
There are othercolts at Hialeah that cannot be discounted now. One who also made his firststart of the year a winning one is a gray son of Determine named Decidedly,owned by San Francisco Shipping Executive George Pope Jr. Though a little lightbehind compared to some of the Florida powerhouses, Decidedly ran his winningseven furlongs in 1:24 2/5. He hadn't started since last fall's Garden State(in which he was embroiled in a horrendous traffic jam), so his showing was agood one. Decidedly is in the hands of Trainer Horatio Luro, who did so wellwith Edward P. Taylor's Victoria Park two years ago. Pope, who races chiefly onthe West Coast under the name of El Peco Ranch (his leading winner to date:Anisado), has the right spirit for the campaign ahead: "I think if youdon't shoot for the moon with your best horse you'll never getanywhere."
Joe Roebling'sRainy Lake, badly beaten in the Bahamas, may have had an excuse when he got offpoorly and never settled into his running stride. Later, it was discovered thathe was bothered by splint trouble. Certainly this son of Royal Charger hasloads of potential. He is going to win his share of races this summer.
Waiting for theBelmont
Finally, there isJaipur, first in the Hopeful and two other stakes against top competition, whoalso will win his share. There's nothing wrong with Jaipur but, unfortunatelyfor Hialeah fans, he is there to train rather than to race. Owned by George D.Widener, chairman of The Jockey Club, Jaipur won't make his first start untilafter the New York season opens in March. Then his owner will point him for theBelmont Stakes rather than for the Kentucky Derby, as he traditionally doeswith his well-bred stock. It may seem strange that Widener, whose name standsfor the very best in American racing, has never had a Derby starter. Does hehave something against this race?
"Not anymore," says Widener. "Up until winter racing became so important, I wasdefinitely against a race of the Kentucky Derby's caliber being run so early.But now, with most of the good 3-year-olds in training throughout the winter, 1am not against the idea. I have had several horses nominated for the Derby. Thefirst was St. James in 1924. He was the winter book favorite but unfortunatelybroke down in his final preparations. Since then I have nominated at varioustimes but never had a starter." Although Jaipur won't make the 1962 Derby,Widener has a colt at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans named Endymion (underTrainer Syl Veitch), who might be a useful substitute.
There are 10weeks to go before the Derby—plenty of time for these long shots to turn theodds around.
While bettors may be in the red as they note the payoffs reflected in a paddock pool (below), the fans' bible, "The Daily Racing Form," turns a bright pink (left) to honor the big race on Flamingo Day. The tote blinks its message in water that is heated electrically to keep the South American lilies blooming at their accustomed tropical temperature.