A Legacy on the Block
The Kentucky Horse Park outside Lexington attracts about 250,000 visitors a year. It's the home of aged geldings Forego and John Henry, two of the best thoroughbreds of the 1970s. But the park's main attraction is the gleaming gathering of trophies won by Calumet Farm's horses between the early '40s and the late '50s, when that farm dominated racing much as the New York Yankees dominated baseball.
The collection of 129 gold trophies, 298 silver ones and 103 silver julep cups was loaned to Horse Park in 1982 after the death of Lucille Markey, the widow of Calumet owner Warren Wright. Sotheby's recently appraised the collection, part of which is shown at left, at between $800,000 and $1.2 million. The prize pieces are Calumet's eight Kentucky Derby trophies, including that of '48 Triple Crown winner Citation.
Bankruptcy trustees for Markey's heirs are attempting to sell the trophies to pay debts Calumet accumulated in the '80s and '90s. An anonymous bidder reportedly has offered $1.2 million for the lot, while others have offered to buy pieces. Meantime, James (Ted) Bassett, former president of the Breeders' Cup, is leading a drive to keep the collection at Horse Park. He's being assisted by Margaret Class. Calumet's treasurer during its heyday. "It would be criminal to allow this historic collection to be broken up," she says.
She's right. Though the farm's last great horse was Alydar in 1978, the Calumet name remains synonymous with excellence. A troubled sport like racing should do all it can to remind the public of the greatness that it once had—and that it hopes to reach again.
The Pull of the Tug
William Lukoya of Uganda had been looking forward to his trip to Torquay for more than two years. Torquay, a resort village on England's southwest roast that's famous as the setting of John Geese's Fawlty Towers, last Saturday hosted the World Indoor Tug of War Championships, and Lukoya, the chairman of the Uganda Tug of War Association, was on hand as an observer, watching the grunting and yanking of dozens of heavily calloused men and women from 13 countries competing in six weight classes.
"Tug-of-war is very popular in Uganda," said Lukoya. "When there is a football match, we have the tug-of-war as an appetizer. If our king is coming in the area, we have a tug-of-war to celebrate."
The proceedings in Torquay were more sophisticated than the tugs Lukoya was used to. "For us there are 30 people on this side of the rope and 30 people on that side, and then they all pull," he said. In England teams of eight pullers wearing shorts and rugby shirts in their nation's colors marched side by side into the gymnasium. Competitive categories ranged from 1,058 pounds for the lightest women's teams to 1,496 pounds for the heaviest men's.
The Irish teams were particularly intriguing, made up primarily of farmers and laborers, including several men in their mid-to-late 40s. They had trained with their clubs for six months, five days a week, 2½ hours a day, running many miles and pulling on weighted ropes, all with no incentive save the glory to be had in Torquay. As important as strength was the teams' timing, with each country showing its own style: The Spanish, represented entirely by Basques, waited patiently for the opposing tuggers to exhaust themselves; the coach of the English swept his hand back and forth in a Basil Fawlty-style flourish, as his men chanted with him, "Left! Pull! Left!"; the Scots just seemed to grab and heave and not let go; the Swiss coach shouted commands in German with precise cutting movements of his hand. (The U.S. was not represented in Torquay.)