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Original Issue

Hail the magnificent chestnut

Stepping up the distances on his way to the Derby, Graustark goes seven furlongs and wins laughing

What was resolved in last week's racing among the 3-year-olds hopefully heading for the Kentucky Derby is that undefeated Graustark won't be bothered by girl trouble—at least, not until he retires to stud at John Galbreath's Darby Dan Farm. While the magnificent chestnut ran his win streak to seven in another allowance race at Keeneland, the country's two best sophomore fillies, Moccasin and Priceless Gem, indicated in different ways that neither is about to threaten Regret's record as the only filly to win at Churchill Downs.

Priceless Gem's recent loss of weight and her generally poor looks prompted Trainer Hirsch Jacobs to keep her out of the one-mile Gotham—which resulted in a one-two finish for the Wheatley-Phipps entry of Stupendous and Impressive. The treatment Jacobs is giving her will retard her training by a crucial two weeks or so. But it was loss of form rather than weight that was plaguing Moccasin. In Keeneland's six-furlong Ashland she went off as the 3-to-10 favorite and lost for the second week in a row.

This time Moccasin was never in the hunt as she finished sixth, beaten more than six lengths by Justakiss. After the race, her jockey, Larry Adams, suggested she didn't like dirt being thrown up at her. To others it seemed more likely that her complete loss of zip was the result of something hurting her. Whatever the reason, she would have a hard time winning the Kentucky Oaks now; a mile-and-a-quarter Derby against Graustark would be out of the question.

Who should tackle Graustark? At the moment, I'd say nobody. Although Stupendous ran his Gotham mile in a lightning 1:34⅗ he has been too inconsistent to rate as a top contender for classic honors. Impressive is a fine sprinter with no business at Churchill Downs, either, and the biggest disappointment of all was Mrs. Edward Lasker's Indulto, who finished fifth.

It is hard to look beyond Graustark. He is inspiring every time he takes to the track, and last Saturday he was perhaps more so than ever. He was originally scheduled to run this week in Friday's Forerunner, but Owner Galbreath and Trainer Lloyd Gentry had a sudden change of mind. Around any racetrack this always starts a rash of rumors. "The decision was made," said Galbreath, "purely to give the colt his best chance. On looking ahead, it appeared that the Forerunner might not fill—what with all the publicity about Graustark running in it—and we'd have had to run, in effect, another exhibition. Slipping Graustark into this seven-furlong race guaranteed him some competition."

The race was a picnic for Graustark, although it was not entirely without incident. Breaking from the inside post in the five-horse field, Braulio Baeza allowed Graustark to be outrun by He Jr., who came out of the No. 2 slot. Trainer Gentry wants Graustark to get accustomed to being rated behind early speed, and He Jr. is a quick little thing for a half mile. His jockey, a refugee from Oaklawn Park named Jack Fieselman, had a trick or two of his own. "All the way down the backstretch," said an unusually angry Baeza later, "the son of a bitch tried to put me into the fence. He bumped me twice, so before we came to the half-mile pole—sooner than I wanted to—I went to the front to get away from him." From there home it was goodby Charlie. He Jr. had covered the first quarter in 23⅕ but the rest of the fractions (45⅖ 1:09[1/5] and the final time of 1:22[1/5]) were all Graustark's as he beat Cabildo by three and three-quarter lengths. Graustark galloped out a mile in a snappy 1:35.

Baeza mustered some praise for his favorite horse. "I'd have to say," he murmured cautiously, "that this horse gets better every time out. I've never yet had to get into him and really set him down. What he'll do then will be interesting to see."