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The three colts blazing through the stretch (below) are running the race of their lives. The three jockeys are approaching the climax of their efforts for a winning ride. One of them, Willie Shoemaker on Jaipur, having held, maneuvered and finally driven his horse with magnificent skill, is about to win the Belmont Stakes—the horseman's race, the mile-and-a-half test of 3-year-olds that is the most demanding of the classics that make up the Triple Crown. Willie and Jaipur are in the center; on the rail is Braulio Baeza on Admiral's Voyage; on the outside is Manuel Ycaza on Crimson Satan.
At the finish, as 50,000 spectators strained to see, it was Shoemaker and Jaipur by a slender nose, the end of a brilliant ride. This was a Belmont that will not soon be forgotten. Before it began, it was one of the most difficult to handicap. In the field were the Derby winner Decidedly, the Preakness winner Greek Money, the Jersey Derby winner Jaipur, the Wood Memorial winner Admiral's Voyage, that faithful old plugger Crimson Satan, a sentimental number named Vimy Ridge and two long shots, David K. and Folk Dancer. And here, too, with the exception of the grounded Milo Valenzuela, were the country's top jockeys: Shoemaker, Ycaza, Har-tack. Baeza, Rotz, Sellers, Ussery and Boulmetis. It added up to a dream race among pros in a beautiful setting.
As the horses were led slowly into the saddling enclosure the first man to show up was 78-year-old Bert Mulholland, trainer of Jaipur. "It looks," said Bert, with a twinkle in his eyes, "like this is the race of the year." When Mulholland was joined by Owner George D. Widener and Willie Shoemaker, the three of them held a hurried board of directors' meeting about the strategy that Shoe should use with Jaipur, who was a slight public favorite. "They didn't want me to go to the front," said Shoe later. "But they figured that if the pace was too slow I better get out there and do my best to hang on." After the race Widener said: "We thought Admiral's Voyage would go on the lead, and we wanted to be just behind him. If he didn't go to the front, Shoemaker would."
Shoemaker didn't have to. At the break Braulio Baeza, coming out of an outside gate, went right to the lead and, with everyone else obviously holding back, found himself setting the pace with Admiral's Voyage as planned. Behind him, also as planned, was Shoe on Jaipur. Behind them, just as the form figured, were Greek Money and Crimson Satan. Decidedly and Vimy Ridge, the late runners, were well behind but still expected to get in the thick of things after the first mile.
Baeza, who won the 1961 Belmont on Sherluck, established the strategy. This Panamanian jockey, whose wooden expression conceals an exquisite sense of timing, rode as perfectly as a man can. He cut out a pace that was neither brazenly fast nor foolishly slow. And before the first mile was over he and Admiral's Voyage had separated the money horses from the also-rans. Having clocked a first quarter in 24 1 /5 and a half in 48 2 /5, Baeza decided to test his rivals. He reeled off consecutive quarters in 23 4 /5 and 24 2 /5, virtually knocking the guts out of the poorly conditioned, and passed the mile in 1:36 3 /5. Jaipur stayed with him, trailing by a length and a half. And on the way to join them was Manuel Ycaza on Crimson Satan. The rest might as well have gone home. Decidedly proved this day that he hasn't the constitution for running week after week. His rider, Hartack, remarked afterward: "My horse never acted like a winner at any point in the race." (In the paddock, the Derby winner had appeared nervous and was damp with sweat.) John Rotz, again aboard Greek Money, struck the same note: "At the half-mile pole I thought I would win it all, but at the three-eighths pole my horse gave up and I knew I wouldn't be in the money." The Preakness winner finished seventh, 14 lengths behind the leaders.
The horses who were going to be in the money began fighting for it half a mile from home. Shoemaker, careful not to let Admiral's Voyage steal away with too wide a lead, made his move going into the far turn. He fully expected it to be decisive. The half mile Baeza had just put his horse through should have taken something out of him. Amazingly, it didn't, and Admiral's Voyage—as game a colt as has been seen among the 3-year-olds in many a season—ran the fifth quarter in 25 3/5 to finish the Derby distance of a mile and a quarter in 2:02 1 /5. He showed no signs of giving up.
Shoemaker had taken Jaipur wide of Admiral's Voyage on the backstretch because this son of Nasrullah dislikes having dirt thrown in his face. Now he was ready. "I felt I had it made," Shoemaker said, "when we went into that turn." But Shoe, like everyone else in the Belmont crowd, did not believe that Admiral's Voyage would hang on and fight to the end.
As these two leveled for their stretch duel they were joined by Crimson Satan. Riding furiously on the outside, Ycaza ranged up alongside Jaipur, who was now head and head with Admiral's Voyage. The three of them had fought this way only 10 days earlier in the Jersey Derby. In that one, Crimson Satan, under a different rider, had lugged in and caused his own disqualification. Now here he was again, this time under a rider who knows what it is to foul—or to be accused of fouling. Abruptly, at the eighth pole, the three contenders were locked in a desperate battle that brought even the earthworms in the geranium beds to attention.
It was a tremendous finish. And Ycaza's reactions gave it added piquancy. Shortly before reaching the eighth pole Crimson Satan revived his old habit of lugging in. He bumped Jaipur once. "If he hadn't hit me," said Shoe, "I don't know what would have happened but, once he did, Jaipur must have gotten mad, because he wanted to get away—and fast. Until he got bumped Jaipur wasn't really leveling; once he did get bumped he got mad and fought his way on."
As soon as Ycaza realized that he had hit Jaipur he did everything to take his horse off the eventual winner. He yanked Crimson Satan's head around in a violent effort to keep a straight course. This made it impossible for him to ride his own horse out for the last eighth of a mile. Crimson Satan may have been the best of the lot last Saturday, but his veering in prevented anyone from discovering it. Now the fight was between Admiral's Voyage and Jaipur. The former still held on, and Baeza nearly got the job done. Three jumps from the end Admiral's Voyage had the race won, but somehow Shoemaker urged Jaipur's nose first across the wire. Crimson Satan finished third, and Decidedly, 6� lengths back, was a feeble fourth.