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Original Issue

Saucy and the Celebrities

Nobody can deny that there have been more heavily capitalized racehorse-owning syndicates than the one that owned Saucy (Vaguely Noble was syndicated at $5 million, Buckpasser at $4.8 million), but it would be hard to imagine a group in which you could get a piece of a horse cheaper. There were 147 members in the Saucy syndicate, and most of them owned as little as 1/256th of the little filly—an innocent 2-year-old of 1951, the daughter of Whirlaway out of Liberqueen.

Shares of Saucy were passed out liberally at the Derby headquarters of the late C. (Dick) Andrade III of Dallas, who came into Louisville each year on the Sunday before the Kentucky Derby and took up quarters on the 14th floor of the Kentucky Hotel.

Until 1942, Andrade owned a large racing and breeding establishment: some 90 head of mares, yearlings, 2-year-olds, 3-year-olds and so forth. He finally sold out to Clint and Ken Murchison of Dallas, but he never gave up his fondness for the turf. His 14th-floor suite in the Louisville hotel was a place where celebrities bounced around a dime a dozen. The foyer led into a living room, and on each side was a bedroom. Between double beds in the left room they stacked some 15 or 20 cases of bourbon. In the right room the space between the beds was occupied by cases of Scotch.

Any night you'd run into the presiding steward—Andrade—and syndicate members Don Ameche, Stu Erwin, Frank Capra, Jerry Colonna, Howard Haws, Bob Hope, Pat O'Brien, or perhaps Edwin W. Pauley.

Winthrop Rockefeller was in the syndicate; also, Nunnally Johnson, Clem McCarthy, Ted Husing, Temple Hargrove, Bob Considine, John Carmichael, Bing Crosby, Bill Corum, Joe E. Lewis, Grantland Rice, Mike Romanoff, Toots Shor and Randolph Scott. There were Horace Stoneham of the Giants, Caterer Joe Stevens, Dan Topping, Adela Rogers St. Johns, Niles Trammell and General J. Fred Miles of Louisville, who sold his bourbon factory but nailed it down in the contract that, as long as he lived, "General Miles" straight bourbon, 100-proof, was to be manufactured.

One time, Andrade and his Texas pals, Roland Bond, Billy Byars and others, imported the Dixieland Band from Steve Valenti's Paddock Lounge in New Orleans to play for a syndicate shindig. Andrade took time out once every hour to bolster the band with bar goodies. About 2 a.m. there was a question whether the hotel's foundation could take it as the band started marching around the ballroom playing "When de saints come marchin' in."

Andrade used to send members of the syndicate special mimeographed bulletins about every two or three weeks advising of Saucy's training progress. She was sent to Washington Park in Chicago to get ready for the races, and her colors were registered as "dark blue hoops, orange sleeves, hooped cap, blue visor." They would have flagged the 20th Century Limited a mile away in the fog.

The first mournful bulletin to the syndicate concerning Saucy's Chicago debut was dated Aug. 22, 1951. Andrade wrote: "Our filly ran three times at Chicago, finishing her first race dead last, showing a little form in her second by being up in the first three during the first half mile and then folding and, in the third race, a dismal failure. Henry McLemore suggests that Saucy, in his opinion, prefers a couch to a racetrack."

Andrade opined that Saucy was a "morning glory," who worked fast in the morning but was likely to flop in the afternoon.

"I thought about working her at night and having the races run in the morning instead of the afternoon, but the various racetracks, for reasons unknown to me, have refused this modest request."

Andrade asked the famous Calumet trainer, Ben Jones, to take a look at Saucy in Chicago. Ben wrote she had been running out of her class and seemed underweight, adding: "You can always use her for a broodmare because she is well-bred and has beautiful conformation and a beautiful pair of eyes."

A "Secret Committee," which Andrade often referred to but never identified, finally decided to send Saucy to Saratoga under the care of Trainer Walter Kelley. The next bulletin from Andrade reported that one syndicate member had sent Saucy a case of Saratoga mineral water.

"This should undoubtedly improve her health, and I feel that by associating with the fashionable element at Saratoga she will improve herself socially and should acquire considerable poise," the bulletin noted.

Andrade ended that bulletin with:

"Since reading this letter over, I have been thinking to myself—what the hell does Ben Jones know about racehorses anyway?"

Saucy never raced at Saratoga, but her trainer brought her to old Aqueduct on Long Island that fall. On the afternoon the syndicate's pride and joy was to make her New York debut, he visited the press box. "Don't bet on her—she's not quite ready," was his advice to all hands.

Several syndicate members among the press corps wouldn't buy that.

"She's our horse and we've got to go along," said the late Joe Palmer, famed racing editor of the New York Herald Tribune. This writer also sent along and bravely placed a minimum $2 bet on "our horse."

Well, with Jockey Jimmy Picou riding for his life—it seemed—Saucy "took command at the break" of the six-furlong race and, as the chart caller put it, she "maintained a clear advantage in the drive under punishment." She won by a length from Fiery Trail. The ground was running out fast at the end of the race, timed in 1:13⅖ but Saucy collected $2,275 for the syndicate from the $5,000 purse. Her backers collected $58.10, $21.70 and $9.30 across the board.

A few days later, Bobby Thomson of the New York Giants hit his famous ninth-inning homer with two on off Ralph Branca of the Brooklyn Dodgers to win the National League pennant in a playoff. That set up the Subway World Series between the Giants and Yankees, and hundreds of celebrities flocked to New York. Among them, of course, were many Saucy owners.

Gene Leone, operator of the celebrated Italian restaurant on West 48th Street, a one-eighth owner (Andrade and some Texas friends also had an eighth), decided there should be a Saucy victory dinner at his place, and on the house. Syndicate members had been issued bow ties, in the brilliant blue and orange colors, and most wore them at the party. Beverages were stacked high; the tables were loaded with never-ending courses. The only thing missing was Saucy herself.

"Our Little Darlin romped in her first time out at Aqueduct," said Dick's special bulletin under the heading: SAUCY SCORES!! OUR BABY WINS!!! GENE LEONE GIVES TERRIFIC VICTORY BANQUET!!!

Then he added: "Saucy ran again at Belmont and was up in front at the half mile and then put her ears back and quit, coming in dead last. One thing you have to admire about our filly—there is no halfway business with Saucy."

Ameche was master of ceremonies at the victory banquet, where Joe E. Lewis told about seeing Saucy run in Chicago. He "never spent a more agonizing 25 minutes, watching her strive to cross the finish line." He went on to say that, "if the jockey hadn't been using the whip so vociferously, the mosquitos were so bad they would have eaten up Saucy and the jockey."

Clippings and letters on Saucy adorned the restaurant walls, and the Secret Committee voted top honors to a note from Bing Crosby.

"Dear Dick," the Groaner wrote, "I am in receipt of your recent doleful ditty relating the dismaying events which have befallen the fleet filly Saucy. I am not surprised. I have been too long around the racetracks to be surprised. What amazed me was the disclosure that several timorous souls have withdrawn the pleasant comfort of their financial support. Not me. I backed Dewey, California in the Rose Bowl and the Pittsburgh Pirates, and I will go down swinging with you and Saucy if it costs me 25 or 30 dollars. Let those purse-proud poltroons keep their loot in backyard tomato cans. I spread what I got around a little. Just the knowledge that I may some day become buddy-buddies with such social giants as Mike Romanoff, John Perona and Henry McLemore cements my allegiance to their association. Just as a hedge, however, when my tab reaches $100 take my ball out of the rack. Assuring you again of my limited support, and with warmest regards—Yours, Bing. P.S. Everett, I think, stole my Saucy necktie!"

When the New York racing season closed, Saucy was sent to Florida where she won a six-furlong race on Dec. 4, beating Cookie K and Up High, among others, in 1:14 and paying $9.60 for $2.

Syndicate members in New Orleans, California and elsewhere began clamoring for Saucy to race at their tracks, but a decision was deferred by the Secret Committee because she had already traveled from Kentucky to Chicago, to Saratoga, New York City and then to Florida.

She ran again on Dec. 12, Andrade reported, "and, as she walked by the odds board, she was surprised to note that she was a 5-to-2 favorite. This disgusted her no end, so she said to herself: I can't get my boys well on that kind of a price,' and in spite of Jimmy Picou's urgings Saucy (being a stubborn sort of gal) had made her decision and she just refused to come in first—she actually came in last in a race in which 10 horses ran."

Saucy ran once in 1952 as a 3-year-old, but never got close, and the Secret Committee went into session again.

Andrade wrote in February 1952 that Saucy was almost claimed in 1951 at Belmont Park, and "I don't want the syndicate to lose her for a small claim...she might well spend the next five or six years or more on second-rate racetracks around the country. Another thing, if Saucy decided not to run, she could bust us all betting on her."

A consultation of minds followed, and the bulletin explained that it would be desirable to retire Saucy. Leone owns a large farm in Central Valley, N.Y., not far from West Point. Syndicate members were polled and voted to send Our Little Darlin to pasture and future motherhood. When the syndicate members voted to close out, they each received a check for 71¢ profit after expenses.

Few cashed the checks, and for months Andrade wrote imploring members to do so—his secretary was going crazy trying to balance the bank account. "A lot of you guys," he wrote, "are in brackets where this deduction is likely to be important."