The expansive straightaways and the sweeping, carefully banked turns of the turf course at Chicago's Arlington Park are clogged with heavy traffic these mornings as the nation's best grass horses receive their final preparations toward the rich ($100,000) and significant Arlington Handicap on August 22.
Sharp-eyed, professionally skilled clockers, those colorful keepers of a dawning hour when racing stars are made—not born—are paying particular attention to the work of the United Nations contingent representing Hasty House Farm: the Irish-bred Jack Ketch, the English-bred Troubadour II, the Chilean-bred Sarcasmo and the American-bred Ekaba.
Owned by Toledo's Allie and Billie Reuben, Hasty House has enjoyed unusual success in American turf racing—three successive victories in the Arlington Handicap, for example, from 1953 to 1955—largely with horses purchased abroad by 65-year-old Realtor Reuben and brought to a fine edge of condition by 47-year-old Harry Trotsek, one of America's most competent trainers, whose off-course business acumen is almost on a par with that of his astute and affluent employer.
With the notable exception of the world's leading money winner, Round Table, who seems equally at home on dirt or grass (and who is also pointing for the Arlington Handicap), few of America's top horses have been permitted to race on the turf by owners and trainers fearful they may break down on the relatively uneven surface. Nashua, Citation, Native Dancer, Tom Fool, Bold Ruler and other contemporary greats went through their entire careers racing solely on the main dirt course.
Rather, it is the foreign horses, accustomed to racing on the grass in their native lands and purchased in increasing numbers during recent years by American sportsmen, who have been winning the rich purses established by U.S. tracks on infield turf courses built as a crowd-pleasing novelty.
Reuben, once president of the Toledo Mudhens, who gave Casey Stengel one of his first managerial posts in baseball, is the father of—and the most successful participant in—this comparatively recent trend. Pockets bulging with foreign form charts, extended pedigrees, comparative analyses and other statistical information brought up to date daily by mail, cable, telephone and messenger, the bow-tied Ohioan is a walking library on the performance, quality and value of just about every topnotch Thoroughbred racing anywhere in the world today.
A stuffed briefcase, which accompanies Reuben on his endless travels throughout the U.S., contains those books and photographs he is unable to jam in his jacket; while in Toledo, at his downtown offices and at his suburban, 60-acre Hasty House Farm, extensive card catalogs are neatly indexed to provide him with even more detailed data on bloodlines, conformation, class and other pertinent background.
"Money is no substitute for knowledge in the purchase of horses," Reuben will tell you. "It is important, for instance, to know not only the horse you intend to buy but also the caliber of the opponents he has been meeting and the prospects of his adaptability to our American racing procedures."
Organized like the State Department, the Reubens' international activities involve not only material published abroad but also personal representatives at most of the major turf centers around the world. Experienced and reputable bloodstock dealers like Frank More O'Ferrall of the Anglo-Irish Agency and France's well-known Godolphin Darley are quick to alert "A.E.R." ( Allie E. Reuben) to any opportunities for the purchase of a crack horse in their locale. After checking their suggestions against his files Reuben makes a decision on further action.
Telephone bills reach astronomical figures when Reuben swings into action as he burns up the transcontinental and transatlantic wires in diligent pursuit of first class racing material, for which he has spent over $1 million.