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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.
But Jockey 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 move