Exactly one hour before Carry Back was put into the starting gate at Pimlico to go after the second leg of his Triple Crown, a dashing young filly named Bowl of Flowers entered the gate at New York's Aqueduct to run in the first leg of the Triple Crown for Fillies. Like Carry Back, Bowl of Flowers is 3 years old, and she too runs from behind. But where Carry Back is homely, Bowl of Flowers is handsome. She is perfectly bred, he is not; she comes from one of the biggest stables in the country while he is owned by "little people."
Bowl of Flowers got the first leg of her Triple Crown by winning the one mile, $57,750 Acorn Stakes in a desperate, punishing finish, and next month she may get legs two and three by winning the Mother Goose and the Coaching Club American Oaks at Belmont Park. In time—perhaps as early as August—Bowl of Flowers may be the only horse in America to pose a threat to Carry Back's domination of this racing year.
The Acorn was the second start of 1961 for Bowl of Flowers (Carry Back has had nine) and only the tenth of her career (Carry Back has started 30 times). She overcame a race track that had been fluffed up as a result of griping by trainers that the surface was so hard horses' bones were snapping like matchsticks. She didn't like the soft going, but she won. Eddie Arcaro, who rode her, did not ride the best race of his 45 years, and she still won. Four speed horses scratched out of the race, changing Trainer Elliott Burch's strategy, and she was still able to win. With almost a third of a million dollars bet on her, she seemed beaten at the 16th pole, but she still got up to complete the job. Who could ask for anything more?
Can she beat the colts?
Since last November there have been many who believe that Bowl of Flowers is the equal of any 3-year-old colt. Last week, after watching her, some said "yes" and some said "maybe," but no one said "no."
Bowl of Flowers' sire, Sailor, came along with that marvelous crop of colts that included Nashua, Swaps, Summer Tan, Saratoga, Dedicate and Traffic Judge. If it had not been for bad ankles, Sailor might be better remembered. In the 1956 Gulfstream Park Handicap, Sailor beat Nashua by seven lengths, something no other horse ever did. Bowl of Flowers' mother, Flower Bowl, was also unfortunate. She came along at a time when filly and mare racing was at such a low ebb that there were only two good handicap events at a mile and a quarter or over—the Delaware and Ladies handicaps—and she won both.
After Bowl of Flowers' Acorn win last week, Eddie Arcaro summed her up in this manner: "I'm not bragging," he said, "because I've been lucky over the years to have ridden some good horses regularly, like Citation, Whirlaway, Nashua, Sword Dancer, Bold Ruler and Hill Prince. And I've picked up horses like Native Dancer, Phalanx, High Gun and Kelso. There's one thing, though—even when a terrific horse runs a rotten race he'll win. I might have made a mistake last year when I said Bowl of Flowers could probably beat all the colts. I'm not taking that statement back. It takes her a long time to get goin', and I would have liked to have had a piece of the book at the eighth pole today. But when I hit her, and I hit the hell out of her, she went after the money. Maybe her stride is too long, maybe she's lazy comin' out of the gate 'cause she's never an easy horse to find her stride. Everything is there, though. Just give her time."
Speak softly, Jack Price, speak softly. Take a look, Johnny Sellers, take a look. Stand up, Carry Back, stand up. A lady has entered the room.