This year's crop of 2-year-old Thoroughbreds had hardly stepped out of the barns before each section of the country was boasting that it had the potential 1962 Kentucky Derby winner right on the premises. Midwesterners were touting Ridan. a heavily muscled colt who goes after his seventh straight win Saturday. On the West Coast, C. V. Whitney's Rattle Dancer shapes up as the likeliest Derby contender. Easterners tagged Christopher Chenery's Sir Gay-lord, winner of five in a row, as their own private choice, and installed him as a 3-5 favorite for last week's 57th running of the Hopeful at Saratoga. Then the rains came, and the Spa's track turned into vegetable soup. Sir Gaylord was dumped by George D. Widener's Jaipur, and horsemen were reminded once again that the 1961 2-year-old picture is full of vigor, excitement—and unpredictability.
The Hopeful marked the first time anywhere this year that the youngsters were asked to go six and a half furlongs. Before the race Owner Widener huddled in the walking ring with his elderly jockey, Eddie Arcaro. "Go to the front and stay there, Eddie," said the chairman of The Jockey Club in a voice that left little doubt that Jaipur was capable of climbing one of the infield flagpoles. "Let the others catch you this time."
Arcaro snugged his colt right in behind Su Ka Wa for the first part of the race, and the Hopeful turned out to be a contest between these two. Sir Gaylord, sixth at the start, moved up early to third, but that's where he stayed the rest of the trip. Arcaro, never more than two lengths off the lead, moved to Su Ka Wa with Jaipur on the turn for home and nailed him at the three-sixteenth pole. Working his whip like a boy with a new toy, Eddie took no chances. "I put some fire on him on the way home," he joked afterwards. "I knew I had Su Ka Wa beat, but I was taking no chances on something coming up behind him to nail me on the wire."
He needn't have bothered. Jaipur won by six easy lengths, and the surprising Su Ka Wa hung on to finish another five lengths ahead of Sir Gaylord, who obviously disliked the footing and failed completely, as his rider Milo Valenzuela noted, "to give me the run we all know he is capable of." Jaipur turned in a clocking of 1:16[2/5], just two ticks off the track record.
It never hurts, as Mr. Widener now knows better than ever, to have a mudder ready to run in the fall, but in Jaipur this distinguished American racing leader may also have a colt of all-round ability. The Hopeful was his fourth start, and his only loss was at the hands of Cain Hoy Stable's Battle Joined. "He really had no excuse in that defeat," says Trainer Bert Mulholland, "but remember, he was still a little green and maybe a little too smart."
Jaipur, by Nasrullah out of the Eight Thirty mare, Rare Perfume, is a picture horse. He stands 15 hands 3 inches, with powerful shoulders and superb conformation. Certainly he's the best homebred colt owned by Widener since the days of Lucky Draw in the early '40s.
But Jaipur's victory in the slop doesn't mean the end of the line for Sir Gaylord. The next time they meet on a fast track it will be a sight worth seeing. Sir Gaylord, at 16 hands even, is himself so well put together that Owner Chenery says, "If you had a handful of flesh you wouldn't know where to put it on him to fill him out. He's bred for distance [Turn-to out of a Princequillo mare], and instead of trying to take the lead from sprinters in his races thus far, we are thinking more in terms of the classic races, including—quite naturally—next season's Triple Crown events."
While Sir Gaylord and Jaipur are the East's standouts thus far, Battle Joined cannot be overlooked. He has, however, a couple of tricky knees and, as racing men know, gimpy underpinnings can be crucial in a 2-year-old. Other eastern youngsters with names worth noting are Sunrise County, Joe Roebling's undefeated Rainy Lake, Stevward, Clover Leaf, Gun Glory and Old World Charm, Alfred Vanderbilt's Roman gelding who won his first start by eight lengths.
But none of these names are likely to cause much of a stir among Midwest racing enthusiasts. Out at Arlington Park this week the fans thought they had the fastest 2-year-old in the world, and one reporter went so far as to proclaim the local hero the equal of Man o' War, a judgment which may be a trifle premature.
A perfect record