Claim was too late
What made it all the more difficult for Nasibov was that his trainer, Yevgeni Gottlieb, had watched the race from the stands and was now fighting his way to trackside through a mob that refused to give ground. Furthermore, the Russian interpreter had assisted at the starting gate and, by the time he returned to find his rider in the jocks' room, the official sign was up and all protests were useless. In the face of all this, the Russian team was surprisingly calm. "We are not mad," said Trainer Gottlieb, "because we know that in horse racing there is some good luck and some bad luck. Still, being third is not as nice as being second, is it?"
Actually, it was astonishing that the Russian rider should have had to claim a foul on his own. Movies of the race clearly show Ruane to have been at fault. It is the responsibility of the patrol judges and stewards to flash the inquiry sign well before any jockey feels a need to raise the question himself.
There was, of course, considerable controversy over the start—which is always the case when horses are sent away from anything but our cold and grisly mechanical contraptions. Starter Eddie Blind had given each rider specific instructions on how he was going to get the field away, and when the time came he did a good job of it. What trouble there was could in no way be blamed on him.
But there was trouble—for Puissant Chef, the French winner of the Prix de l' Arc de Triomphe, and for Harmonizing. Having drawn the rail position, Puissant Chef showed an immediate dislike for the whole business. Several times he backed away from the line. Then, at the instant of the start itself—and there was no interference from starters or other horses—he wheeled in fright, did a complete 180� turn to his right and spun his jockey, Maxime Garcia, off like a runaway top. Garcia remounted and galloped off in pursuit of his field, but the best horse in France had traveled 3,000 miles in vain.
Harmonizing just chose not to run when the barrier went up. Later, in a surprising display of poor taste and bad sportsmanship, Trainer Ev King blamed the starter, even to the point of claiming that Eddie Blind had rigged the start in favor of Bald Eagle.
As a matter of fact, the Bald Eagle team of Owner Harry F. Guggenheim, Trainer Woody Stephens and Jockey Ycaza had no definite prerace plan to take the lead. "We don't know where the early speed really is," said Guggenheim in the paddock. "Most of these foreigners, you know, like to gallop off for a mile and then run their best for the last half mile. If there's nobody who wants to show some early speed, we'll tell Ycaza to go to the front and rate his horse out there as best he can."
No matter what the Cain Hoy team had on its mind, the only thing Bald Eagle had on his was running. And he did it from the start in such a way as to pulverize his field. For those trailing him there was no excuse. Everybody was simply outrun by a horse who, when he is so inclined, can be the very best in America—and maybe in the world.
A single race never can prove conclusively the superiority of one nation's Thoroughbreds over another. The Laurel classic is valuable in that it brings together racing people and competitors from all over the world. But obviously the conditions of such a race will seldom suit all participants.
American horses break from a starting gate; visiting foreigners do not. Our horses are accustomed to turns considerably tighter than those on European courses. Many foreign horses never race in a counterclockwise direction before coming to Laurel. Many visiting jockeys do not understand English.