The Finest aspect of the sixth Garden State, that mile-and-a-sixteenth test for 2-year-olds which comes up again in New Jersey this week, is that in a year that seems to have produced an uncommon number of truly qualified runners the four best ones (pictured on the opposite page) may all start. Only Claiborne Farm's Dunce, who may well be better than any of them next year, is missing from this all-star lineup.
Oddly enough, despite the presence of the cream of the crop The Garden State would not have merited such importance now had not the first meeting of this quartet—in Belmont's Champagne Stakes two weeks ago—failed so utterly to settle the matter of supremacy. In that inconclusive scramble First Landing was virtually handed the victory because Tomy Lee bolted and took Intentionally out of the race with him. A major rematch was positively in order.
On the basis of what this quartet has already done, the two standouts have to be First Landing and Tomy Lee, both of whom have lost but once each. Intentionally could be a very good one, too, and his victory over First Landing in the Belmont Futurity could under no circumstances come under the heading of a fluke. True, First Landing may not be the sort who willingly puts forth his best effort while running down the Widener Chute, but when Intentionally came back to run another fine race in the Champagne (before being fouled by Tomy Lee) it showed that he is a colt with both the gameness and ability to run with the best of them. As for Restless Wind, he seems to have tailed off since his summer successes at Arlington, finishing fourth in the Champagne and getting tripped by long shot Rico Tesio in one division of last Saturday's Garden State prep. First Landing, incidentally, won the other division in his first attempt to go a mile and a sixteenth, and his time of 1:44 3/5 was considerably better than Rico Tesio's 1:45 4/5.
In the Champagne, Tomy Lee made his first appearance in the East after an undefeated career in California. Whether it was an instinctive revolt against an unfamiliar rider (he was being ridden by Bill Hartack for the first time) or something bothering his left foreleg no one will ever really know, but Tomy Lee from the start tried to bolt. And at the half-mile pole he succeeded, swerving sharply and dangerously to the outside and taking Intentionally out with him. Of course, what this meant was that Arcaro, on First Landing, found a gaping hole in front of him on the inside, and in order to take advantage of this unexpected break he had to make his move fully a quarter of a mile before he wanted to. Tomy Lee and Intentionally, clanking into each other all the way around the turn like a couple of polo ponies riding each other off, finally set sail after First Landing in the stretch and, considering the extra yardage they had traveled (not to mention the disturbing effects that physical contact must have had on them), they both put in remarkable races even to have finished in the money. Then again, First Landing might have won by many lengths had not Arcaro's saddle turned with him in the stretch, putting Eddie into such an awkward riding position that his mount went off stride and at one point did all but stop and chuck the whole business. All in all, the Champagne was an inconclusive disappointment and a race which obviously necessitated another meeting under less trying conditions. This week Tomy Lee will have Willie Shoemaker, a familiar old friend, back in the saddle, and not the least of Willie's problems will be to see if he can keep Tomy Lee from running off into the parking lot as The Garden State field roars into the first turn almost immediately after the start. As Hartack said the other day, "This is going to be something to see. I pulled my arms out of their sockets trying to get the colt to go around one turn. What's going to happen when they try to get him around two turns?"
If the four leading candidates present a vivid contrast of running habits and noteworthy accomplishments, this contrast is paralleled by four owners hopefully anticipating at Garden State the heftiest track payoff of their respective and varied careers. Two of them, Christopher T. Chenery (First Landing) and Mrs. Richard Lunn (Restless Wind), now call Virginia home and are familiar figures on the national racing scene. Another, Harry Isaacs (Intentionally), is a clothing manufacturer from Baltimore whose Brookfield Farms stable sticks close to the New Jersey circuit. And the fourth, Fred Turner Jr. (Tomy Lee), a regular patron of western racing for over 30 years, is a popular Midland, Texas oilman with a knack for making friends and money—and, unlike some Texans, avoiding publicity whenever possible.
When Chris Chenery, now in his early 70s, isn't in New York attending to his duties as chairman of the board of Southern Natural Gas or to his racing responsibilities as vice-president and treasurer of the New York Racing Association, he is likely to be found roaming his 2,000-acre farm at Doswell, Va. With a keen eye for a horse and a solid knowledge of horsemanship, Chenery has earned the respect of racing men everywhere. He has accepted success with gracious modesty, and when a horse in his blue-and-white silks loses he has never yet been known to utter a complaint. In 1950, when his Hill Prince was voted Horse of the Year, it probably occurred to Chenery that he'd never again be so lucky as to have a really top colt. At the time Chenery couldn't be expected to know that in Hildene, Hill Prince's dam, whom Chenery had bought at auction for only $750, he had acquired one of the most remarkable producing mares of this generation. Hildene gave him Prince Hill, then the good stakes winner Third Brother, and then in 1955 Chenery bred her to Turn-to, winner of the first running of The Garden State and nearly everybody's early favorite for the 1954 Kentucky Derby (a role he justified by winning Hialeah's Flamingo Stakes just before a breakdown brought on permanent retirement to the stud). The mating of Hildene and Turn-to was almost too good to be true: First Landing, who, in the words of Chenery's trainer J. H. (Casey) Hayes, "could be as nice a colt as anybody's seen in a long time. If he doesn't run away and hide from his opposition it's because he has a habit of not putting forth his best effort until some other colt runs up to him. But then, by golly, First Landing will dig in and go as far—and as fast—as he has to."
Oilman Turner and his trainer Frank Childs have the same sort of quiet confidence in Tomy Lee but, being shrewd horsemen with a healthy respect for eastern competition, they are not going to shout quite yet. The sensible approach, says Childs, is to wait and see. "If we win," says the trainer, "I'll think he's a great horse. If not, we overrated him. The trouble is, you can be terribly fooled bringing a horse East from California. If he has a good record out there, it's only natural that you are going to overestimate him. But we wanted to find out how good he is, and the only way to find out is to come back looking for all the other good ones."
OIL IN THAT HORSE
This natural competitive spirit on the part of Tomy Lee's trainer is also typical of his owner. Fred Turner, one of 11 children, first struck it rich when, as an oil rigger in Midland in the '30s, he discovered how profitable it could be to buy and sell leases at the right time. Now 61, this onetime near neighbor of fellow Horse Owner Ralph Lowe has been described by one of his friends as "quiet, never flashy, big [6 feet 2, 200 pounds], bowlegged, a genius for organization and just as much of a genius at fixing things with his own two hands. He is also probably as rich as any man in Texas." Turner was prepared to go to $12,000 to acquire Tomy Lee, but the colt was knocked down to him for $6,672, and since then he's won $154,010 which, as any oilman knows, is considerably better than a dry hole.
Clothingman Harry Isaacs has not been in the racing game for 30 years the way Fred Turner has, but in a way it's surprising that he's had the perseverance to stay in it at all after a most inauspicious start—four years without a winner. Things had to improve for a man with such uncommon persistency and, sure enough, a few years ago Isaacs came up with a real star, Intent, who made a big name for himself in California, winning, among others, the Santa Anita Maturity, the San Juan Capistrano and the Santa Anita Handicap (although in this race he was disqualified). Now Intent's son goes after the wealthiest pot of all and, the only one to have beaten First Landing, is qualified to do it again. But it will take his best effort all the way.