The 93rd running
of the Belmont Stakes at the antiquated but always-beautiful old Long Island
plant was geared for a victory by Carry Back—the choice of the people, the
experts and even a former President of the U.S.
The day was
cloudy at the start, drizzly as it wore on. But the weather did not bother the
customers. More than 50,000 showed up to see if Carry Back would pull one of
his electrifying runs from way back, the kind that had brought him home
triumphantly in the Flamingo, the Florida Derby, the Kentucky Derby and the
Preakness. Co-owner, Trainer and Breeder Jack Price, more nervous than he'd
been since the pre-Triple Crown days at Hialeah, admitted, in an
out-of-character statement: "I want to win the Belmont more than any other
race in the world." Katherine Price, who does not lose her poise even under
the most trying conditions, added, "I think Carry Back is deserving enough
to win. I just hope we are deserving enough, too."
When the Prices
were introduced to former President Eisenhower, who was attending a race track
for the first time in 15 years, Ike wished them luck and meant it. "My good
friend Bob Kleberg has a horse in this race," he told them, "but I'd
sort of like to see a Triple Crown winner." The huge crowd, too,
contributed to the drama, whooping and hollering for the Eisenhowers and
cheering, praying for and betting the Prices' horse. Carry Back went to the
post at odds of 2 to 5—a mathematical circumstance that brought superstitious
Katherine Price to further thought. "I usually jinx the other horses by
betting against Carry Back," she said, and then explained she had brought
$80 to the track to bet $10 each on her eight rivals. Later Jack Price sadly
noted that she hadn't had time to bet—which, he joked, "cost her $600 and
probably cost me the race!" Neither of them felt well about it.
As for Carry
Back, he evidently felt well enough going into the race, not so well near the
end of it—and was decidedly lame 24 hours later. At the finish he was soundly
trounced, beaten by more than 14 lengths and seventh to a dark bay 65-to-1 shot
named Sherluck. Carry Back had beaten Sherluck by six lengths in the Derby and
by nine in the Preakness. The Belmont result made sense only to those who said,
"Every horse in the world has to throw in a bad one once in a while, and
today was Carry Back's bad one."
Not to take any
credit away from Sherluck, who won Keeneland's Blue Grass Stakes in excellent
time, this was both a heartbreaker and a tear-jerker of a race. As the crowd
stormed the mutuel windows to put their money on Carry Back, there was an
unmistakable mood that drove them. They all seemed to be saying, "We may
also bet other horses, because the odds are too good to turn down, but we're
all hoping that Carry Back wins. He's obviously the best horse."
It was just that
sort of day—gloomy, but electric with hope and anticipation. When Jockey John
Sellers came out to climb aboard Carry Back the Belmont crowd—which normally
regards sentiment as foreign to horse racing—actually cheered him and his
mount. The other eight horses drew hardly any notice.
When the field
broke from the gate, the expected happened at first. Globe-master, renowned for
speed, shot to the front, while Sherluck took off after him like a little boy
who didn't want to be left behind by his best friend. Then came Hitting Away,
another speedster, and Bal Musette, the unseasoned colt owned by Ike's friend
Bob Kleberg. Carry Back, as usual, was way back, with Ambiopoise, Flutterby and
Dr. Miller—all, like himself, late runners. No real excitement yet.
Sellers apparently felt immediately that things weren't going as smoothly as
they should. "There were nine of us jocks in this race," he noted
later, "and it seems that eight of them were watching me. I'm not saying
that the boys had it in for me. What they did to me was just race-riding. They
did what they had to do."
What did they do?
Well, at the start Sellers, who always takes back on Carry Back anyway, dropped
in on the rail to save ground. For the next three-quarters of a mile it seemed
that Bob Ussery on Ambiopoise and Manuel Ycaza on Guadalcanal made absolutely
sure that Sellers stayed inside and, furthermore, that he stayed back where
they wanted him to. "It was rough, to put it mildly," said Sellers.
"There was a lot of jostlin' going on, and all I can say is that when I
asked for racing room, I did a lot of asking but didn't get much."
High time to