A kiss from his jockey, Manuel Ycaza, was Bald Eagle's reward after his runaway victory over a superb field of U.S. and foreign Thoroughbreds in the ninth Washington D.C. International at Laurel. For the story of the race and the Russians' controversial claim of foul, turn the page
THE RACE WAS FOR SECOND PLACE
The ninth running of the Washington D.C. International over Laurel's fine course last week clearly proved that this race is now not only an American but a world classic. It is an invitational event, run on turf as a courtesy to foreigners, who rarely race on dirt, and it had already drawn horses from 14 countries in previous years. Last Friday's 11 starters represented the best field of foreign and homebred horseflesh ever assembled on an American track.
Parading under a clear sky on a crisp afternoon were the best from France, fresh from running one-two in their own classic Prix de l' Arc de Triomphe. England was represented by another pair, perhaps not as formidable as Ballymoss (who ran third two years ago) but solid contenders nonetheless. There was one Irish horse, two Italians (for the first time) and a hopeful new pair from Russia.
The host country was well prepared for this group of invaders. The leader of the American team was the defending champion himself, Cain Hoy Stable's Bald Eagle. Invited also was Sword Dancer, the champion of everything else a year ago, but Sword Dancer was injured a few days prior to the International. As his replacement, Laurel asked for Mrs. Richard duPont's late-developing 3-year-old, Kelso. But Mrs. duPont decided against giving Kelso his first start on grass against such a field, and so another standby was called. His name is Harmonizing, and although he was picked up for $6,500 in a claiming race earlier this year, his credentials on turf were excellent: in his last grass race he had beaten both Bald Eagle and Sword Dancer at this same mile-and-a-half distance.
As it turned out, his trainer should have given him a chance to get acquainted with the tricky new web-barrier gate used this year. Every other horse in the race was familiar with it, either through racing abroad (where such a gate is standard equipment) or through schooling sessions in the days at Laurel immediately prior to the International. At the start, Harmonizing did not break with his field, and it is conceivable that this cost him the victory.
The crowd of 29,336 saw a thrilling horse race—for second money. The $70,000 winner's share of the $100,000 pot was won at the start when fiery young Manuel Ycaza charged away from the line on Bald Eagle with all the skill and confidence of a hot pilot opening the throttle of a graceful jet. From that point on, as Bald Eagle's magnificent long stride carried him away, the only question was his ultimate winning margin. He tired noticeably in the last few furlongs but managed to hold off Harmonizing by two lengths. He was 10 lengths ahead of the field for the better part of the race.
With the U.S. finishing one-two, the real drama and excitement of the ninth International was the amazing show of strength by the Russians, who came in third and fourth with the entry of Zabeg and Zadorny. The French were fifth and last, the Irish sixth, the Italians seventh and eighth and the English ninth and 10th. Actually, Russia's Zabeg, a big brown 3-year-old, would have been second if a legitimate foul claim by his rider, Nikolai Nasibov, had been made at the proper time, before the result became official.
Turning for home, four horses still were in the hunt for second money. The French colt, Hautain, was leading this pack but starting to tire. Harmonizing was about to take over but, outside of him, the two Russians were also getting into high gear. Suddenly John Ruane, aboard Harmonizing, allowed his mount to drift out and, when he did, he put Zabeg momentarily off stride. By the time Nasibov, an accomplished horseman, could get straightened out, it was too late, and Harmonizing beat him to the wire by a length.
Naturally, Nasibov wanted to claim foul, but he had either forgotten or had never properly understood the instructions given to each rider on the proper procedure. "In Russia," he said later, "we claim foul by waving the whip at the stewards." Riding back to the unsaddling area, Nasibov did exactly that. Of course it did no good, for in this country all riders are instructed to tip their whips toward the stewards' stand in a salutatory gesture before dismounting. Over the years this has come to indicate a recognition on the part of the jockey of the stewards' authority.