After his track-record, seven-length victory in last week's Hopeful at Saratoga, the Wheatley Stable's Bold Lad most deservedly rates nomination as the best 2-year-old in America and as an early favorite for the 1965 Kentucky Derby. This son of Bold Ruler, out of the equally brilliant Princequillo mare Misty Morn, astounded a crowd of 20,702 by the facility with which he ran away from a worthy field—a field that included, in the order of their finish behind him. Native Charger, Time Tested, Turn to Reason and O'Hara. He broke Hail to Reason's track mark of 1:16 by two-fifths of a second in winning his sixth race in eight starts (in the other two he was second). Everything about this perfectly formed chestnut of 16 hands exudes superiority.
There are, of course, many major stakes ahead: the futurities at Arlington Park, Aqueduct and Pimlico, the Cowdin, the Champagne and the Garden State. In addition, others besides his beaten Hopeful field will want to take a crack at Bold Lad before conceding the 2-year-old crown. This is a season in which the crop of good ones may be short in quantity but is above par in quality. Among those based in Saratoga who missed the Hopeful but who cannot be counted out are Cornish Prince (another son of Bold Ruler), New Act and Groton. Still another Bold Ruler colt named Neke was a midsummer flash in California, while Bosun and Sadair seem to be the best in New Jersey. In Chicago, Royal Gunner, I'm Nashville, Umbrella Fella and Tom Rolfe are the class in the Sept. 12 Arlington-Washington Futurity.
Still to be heard from are dozens of unraced youngsters whose owners and trainers are playing the waiting game—waiting, that is, for the fall and winter racing with their fresh stock. Their strategy is to aim for the 3-year-old classics in 1965.
One of those biding his time is a colt at Saratoga named Rameses. When the vets suggested he should be rested for three months, his owner, John Galbreath, decided six months would be better. If Rameses gets to a stakes race this fall it will not be before the Pimlico Futurity in late November, but he will be watched very closely, for he happens to be a full brother to Kentucky Derby winner Chateaugay.
While decisive evidence on champions among the 2-year-olds is still to come, the big talk at every U.S. track and in every tack room this year revolves around Bold Ruler, whom many now consider the best sire since Calumet's famed Bull Lea. Owner Howell Jackson, who has had so much success racing abroad, may have had something when he jokingly said to Ogden Phipps and Mrs. Henry C. Phipps recently, "Your stallion [Bold Ruler] is going to break up the game in America." In the Saratoga paddock last week another owner looked at Bold Lad and then at the knot of Phippses of all ages and cracked, "Owning too many horses by one stallion can often be dangerous, but owning too many Bold Rulers is like having too much money." As the racing world and the financial world now know, the Phippses are guilty on both counts.
Racing, however, is built around controversy, and some of the sport's most knowledgeable students are not ready to admit that the verdict on Bold Ruler as a sire is in. One trainer says flatly, "Bold Ruler won't make it. His get are better at 2 than at 3. The 3s are better than the 4s, and at 4 what is there of his that has been a valuable addition to the handicap division? Only one of the first crop, Lamb Chop [who was fatally injured at Santa Anita last winter], proved that Bold Ruler could sire a distance runner. And one Lamb Chop doesn't make a sire." There is a certain amount of truth in this. Bold Ruler himself was not a truly classic horse, although he did win at a mile and a quarter. He will go down as one of the finest middle-distance horses to race in America. "With his weight up," his regular jockey, Eddie Arcaro, used to say, "this horse could accelerate faster than any horse I ever rode or saw."
Bold Ruler, by the temperamental but vastly successful sire Nasrullah, wanted to do only one thing as a racer, says John Fitzsimmons, son of Sunny Jim, who developed and trained him to win 23 of 33 races and $764,204 from 1956 through 1958. "He wanted only to run, and not to be rated. He was ailing for most of his career with a form of arthritis, and he often ran purely on heart—which is what he seems to be passing on now to his sons and daughters." With only three crops of offspring represented thus far, Bold Ruler has sired a phenomenal 17 stakes winners, and all of his get together have won nearly $2 million. Unlike most top stallions, who customarily produce either good colts or good fillies but seldom an abundance of both, Bold Ruler has been successful with both sexes. In addition to Bold Lad, his outstanding colts include Chieftain, Ornamento and Bold Commander; on the distaff side there have been, besides Lamb Chop, Batteur, Beautiful Day, Speedwell, the current 2-year-olds Queen Empress and Bold Experience and one who may be the best of the lot named Terentia. With the exception of Lamb Chop, none of these has yet proved, or had the chance to prove, that he or she is a true stayer. "In other words," says one of Wheatley Trainer Bill Winfrey's rivals, "the Bold Rulers are knocking us dead now, but are they going to hold up or just be good milers?"
A change of mares
Owner Phipps and Arthur B. (Bull) Hancock, at whose Claiborne Farm Bold Ruler stands to serve a predominantly Phipps-owned band of broodmares, have one good reason for confidence in Bold Ruler's ability to sire stayers as well as sprinters. "In his first couple of seasons at stud, Bold Ruler was bred to many speed mares," says Phipps, "and you wouldn't necessarily expect that they would develop into distance horses." Bull Hancock adds, "This is definitely not the case anymore."
Bold Ruler's status may still be uncertain, but there was a fair amount of finality about the statement by winning Jockey Braulio Baeza after the Hopeful. Cracking ever so slightly the stone-faced expression he perpetually wears, Baeza said, "Bold Lad might be the best horse I have ever been on."