When Hail to All, winner of the Jersey Derby and Belmont Stakes earlier this summer, galloped off with the Travers at Saratoga last Saturday (see below), it was at the expense of probably the most miscellaneous bag of 3-year-olds ever to face the starter in this 96-year-old American classic. Included in the 13-horse field (unusually large because many owners and trainers felt Hail to All could not possibly be as good as his Belmont Stakes form indicated) were one hopeful sprinter, one good grass horse, two sons of Bold Ruler (whose distance ability will always be suspect) and a chestnut gelding with the James Bondish name of Wesley Ashcraft. Wesley, a son of the Belmont winner Cavan, had recently won a Derby of sorts, the St. Louis Derby, under the lights at Cahokia Downs, but at Saratoga he finished a very bad last.
Of the remaining good horses in the 3-year-old division (and for the moment we must discount such early bloomers as Bold Lad, Jacinto, Lucky Debonair, Dapper Dan and Native Charger, who are all in the barn for one reason or another), the one colt that can dispute Hail to All's bid for a championship was not even at Saratoga on Travers day. He is, of course, Raymond Guest's Tom Rolfe, who this week will race in Chicago's Arlington Classic. On the basis of his record in Chicago and elsewhere this summer, Tom Rolfe should win easily.
With the two best colts of their age seemingly playing hide-and-seek with each other, you might assume that Guest and Hail to All's owners, Ben and Zelda Cohen, prefer to keep their potential champions 1,000 miles apart. The fact is that neither side is ducking the other. A horse owner traditionally has the prerogative of saying, "We have different objectives."
One of Hail to All's objectives is to make money. Instead of going after Tom Rolfe, he is going to Rockingham Park to compete in the $250,000 New Hampshire Sweepstakes on September 4. A win in this rich one not only would please the Cohens, Trainer Eddie Yowell and Jockey John Sellers, but it would also gladden the Cohens' new partners.
Three days before the Travers, Hail to All—the best colt to date in Hail to Reason's first crop—was syndicated by the Cohens for $1.65 million. The Cohens retained 13 of a total of 33 shares for themselves and sold 20 shares for $50,000 each. Hail to All's winning purse in the Travers was $56,777.50. But wait a minute before you start cutting this up 20 ways. When you get through deducting trainer's and jockey's shares, entry fees and other miscellaneous items (including three days of training bills), a syndicate participant with one $50,000 share will get back about $1,350 as his part of the Travers purse. Nevertheless, this figures out to a healthy 2.7% return on his investment in three days.
Ambassador Guest, however, has other objectives; he has enough walking-around money to keep things humming at the Embassy in Dublin and no desire to let anyone else share in the ownership of Tom Rolfe. Guest has just about made up his mind that if Tom Rolfe holds his current excellent form he will be shipped to Paris for the mile-and-a-half Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe on October 3, with Bill Shoemaker riding. Rolfe's sire, Ribot, won the Arc twice, and the little colt who runs so courageously may be just the sort to give the Europeans a fight on the great Long-champ grass course, and on their terms.
Depending on Tom Rolfe's condition following this week's Classic, he will either be kept in Chicago for the September 13 American Derby and then sent to France directly, or be sent earlier in September to Guest's Irish trainer, Vincent O'Brien, to work at his up-and-down turf course at Cashel (almost an exact duplicate of Epsom).
There will be much interest in what both Tom Rolfe and Hail to All do this fall, particularly if they find themselves on the same racetrack. Make no mistake about it, Hail to All is a genuine runner, and one who fancies the distances as they get longer. He had only two horses beaten in the first part of the Travers, and it was not until he got into high gear leaving the three-eighths pole that one knew for sure he would win. Pass the Word, an 11-to-1 shot who set all the early pace, hung on to be second, five lengths back, while the Bold Ruler colts Cornish Prince and Staunchness (the latter claimed from Ogden Phipps for $25,000) were third and fourth respectively. "It was," said Zelda Cohen, "the best race Hail to All ever ran." Ben Cohen added, as he sipped a glass of champagne, "When we get to running him two miles in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, I think he'll find that distance absolutely ideal."
Let the syndicate take note that the last five runnings of the Gold Cup have been won by a horse named Kelso. If he meets Hail to All in the 47th Gold Cup in late October, it should be some race.