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And now the big three
Whitney Tower
September 28, 1959
This week's Woodward brings America's top horses into a fight for the championship
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September 28, 1959

And Now The Big Three

This week's Woodward brings America's top horses into a fight for the championship

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ROUND TABLE

5-year-old bay horse
(Princequillo-Knight's Daughter)

OWNER: Kerr Stable

TRAINER: Willie Molter

JOCKEY: Willie Shoemaker

STARTS

WINS

EARNINGS

1956

10

5

$73,326

1957

22

15

600,383

1958

20

14

662,780

1959

11

8

343,050

Totals

63

42

$1,679,539

Once in a while a race comes along that rises above the ranks of those rich, run-of-the-mill Saturday stakes into an exalted niche clearly labeled: championship. This week's Woodward at the new Aqueduct track in New York is such a contest.

Not since November 1957, when the Trenton Handicap at Garden State brought about, finally, a three-horse showdown among Bold Ruler, Gallant Man and Round Table, has any track in the country managed to stage such a star-studded attraction.

The Woodward is not a handicap. It is run over a distance of a mile and a quarter at weight-for-age, which simply means that every 3-year-old will carry 120 pounds and every horse 4 or over will carry 126. The goal of a weight-for-age race in the fall is to bring the very best of each division together—not to race the arbitrary weights imposed by the racing secretary but strictly each other.

Toward this goal the 1959 Woodward should succeed admirably, for, barring mishaps, the field that goes postward this Saturday should include 1) Sword Dancer, the 3-year-old champion, 2) Hillsdale, the leading 4-year-old and 3) Round Table, now a 5-year-old, who, fresh from a sensational 136-pound weight-carrying victory in last week's United Nations Handicap, has increased his world record total earnings to $1,679,539. In addition, Bald Eagle may enter the Woodward along with two or three others, such as Inside Tract, Cross Channel or Babu.

For reasons obviously inherent in any championship race the Woodward should be a dramatic struggle. But this race, like the 1957 Trenton, has something more.

For example, let's take Sword Dancer. Undisputed king of the 3-year-olds, this little but beautifully made chestnut has taken on older horses three times—and twice beaten them under handicap conditions. But, ask the doubters, has he ever faced anything like Round Table? The answer is "No." Then, too, Sword Dancer is once again getting a new jockey—but hardly an apprentice, mind you. After carrying Boulmetis, Boland, Shoemaker and Ycaza this year, the Brookmeade colt draws Eddie Arcaro for the big one. This is hardly a disadvantage, but nonetheless it does raise the question of why Shoemaker, who has alternated between Sword Dancer and Round Table, chose the latter.

Speaking for Shoe, Agent Harry Silbert puts it plainly: "At weight-for-age, a top older horse should beat a top 3-year-old. If these two were in a handicap Round Table might be carrying 132 to 118 on Sword Dancer. But at 126 to 120 I think Round Table has the best of it, and that's why Shoe will be on him."

For his part, Arcaro agrees with the majority of racetrackers who claim that a 3-year-old's only chance against good older horses in a race of this sort is for the 3-year-old in question to possess truly great ability. "If he's really tops," says Eddie, "he has a chance."

Racing Secretary Jimmy Kilroe points out that weight differences should not be confused with over-all ability. "If you figure," says Kilroe, "that two pounds is equal to a length going a mile and a quarter, you can get an idea of this race by imagining that Round Table, Hillsdale and Bald Eagle will all, in effect, be spotting Sword Dancer three lengths. Then ask yourself if any of them, carrying six more pounds, are good enough to make it up."

Hillsdale has benefited from sound management all year. Owner Clarence W. Smith and Trainer Marty Fallon set dead aim early last winter on winning Horse of the Year honors for this lean and leggy colt, and after virtually cleaning the slate in California they gave Hillsdale a long and well-earned rest. Sensational in his New York debut at Belmont, Hillsdale followed it up by giving Bald Eagle 10 pounds and winning the one-mile Aqueduct Handicap in an exceptionally good 1:36 2/5. "We're here," says his jovial owner, "because this is where the championship is going to be won. This colt will do anything in the world we've asked him to do, and now we're ready to show everyone he's as good as Marty and I know he is."

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