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Her story, which appeared in the May 13, 1957 issue under the headline How You, Willie?, read in part:
A dark bay horse comes from the barns, ridden by a jockey in an orange cotton shirt. The jockey wears no hat, his dark hair is oiled and smoothly brushed. All eyes turn. This is Willie Hartack.... Voices are friendly. "How you, Willie." Willie inclines his head, taking his time. "What do you know," he answers easily. There is no interrogation to it, no inflection; the syllables are blurred as if one word, not four, was spoken. It is the greeting of a king to his subjects, courteous, noncommittal. What do you know. I find myself repeating it admiringly, under my breath.
Next came Nelson Algren, who had achieved critical acclaim for such novels as A Walk on the Wild Side and The Man with the Golden Arm. He approached his 1958 Derby assignment with a fierce determination to do all that was asked of him and more. He had been told that he would not be hobnobbing with the swells at any fancy River Road parties. Instead, he was to stick with the infield mobs by day and haunt track bars and fleabag nightclubs by night.
Algren showed up with a sidekick, an old Chicago friend named Jess Blue. Mr. Blue, as we referred to him that week, was a quiet little man who had obviously spent many afternoons at the Chicago tracks. He was startled—and almost overcome—when I handed him a tax-free working press badge that allowed him to accompany Algren on his appointed rounds. "This," gulped Mr. Blue, "may be one of the nicest things that has ever happened to me."
None of us saw much of Algren and Mr. Blue during the week. They went their singular ways, which is to say that early mornings were spent at trackside, and nights seldom ended until the last sleazy floor show folded at 3 or 4 a.m. During the middle of the day Mr. Blue would nap or study the Racing Form on the porch of SI's house, while Algren did a few hours of rapid typing in his room. He would then emerge fully charged for further exploration of the sleazier environs of a city he was coming to like very much.
On Derby night, long after Tim Tarn had soundly trounced the sentimental favorite, Silky Sullivan, Algren worked away at his typewriter. In the morning he flew with a copy of his story to New York, fully convinced that he had done some fine work.
Possibly, in a different age of magazine writing, it might have been a prizewinner. But in 1958 what he wrote seemed a little too fractious, not to mention too fractured, for publication. Not a word by Nelson Algren appeared in SI that year. All vestiges of his story disappeared until a few months ago, when some scraps of it surfaced at the Ohio State University Library, which has the bulk of Algren's papers.
Here is a sample of his Derby piece:
Today dawned cold, grey, cheerless with a biting wind, so I decided to go to the track. The closest one is a place called Churchill Dumps.... In the sixth race I bet a jockey because he was a Japanese boy and I know a Japanese dentist in Chicago. The horse ran like he thought the dentist was riding him.
Algren also wrote about a conversation between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans about whether Silky Sullivan was a real horse or "a hydroponic monster." Another peculiarly interesting passage had to do with Silky Sullivan, a horse that liked to make a charge from far, far behind: