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They cheered him in the jampacked walking ring. They cheered him under a beautiful cloudless sky as he walked proudly in front of more than 50,000 horseplayers in the post parade. And they cheered him as he cantered boldly off, his jockey tugging furiously to keep him from running away when the majestic field of 24 runners made its way down to the old mill that is the starting point at Longchamp for the mile-and-a-half Prix de l' Arc de Triomphe, Europe's richest and most important race.
But at the finish there were no more cheers for Carry Back, the American champion who was attempting to add to his record the title of world champion. There he was, running on the outside as usual, his long tail flying straight out behind and his neck thrust forward, his belly low to the ground. He was trying his best, as he always does. There was but one discordant note in this glorious scene: Carry Back was the 10th horse across the finish line. Behind him came 13 more.
While Carry Back was struggling to be 10th—he had gone off at odds of 11 to 2—the rich race was being won by a length by a 40-to-1 shot named Soltikoff, who until exactly a week before the Arc had never won a race of any description. Second and third, separated only by a neck, were the filly Monade (at 19 to 1) and the French Derby winner, Val de Loir. Fourth was another 3-year-old with the delightful name of Snob, while favored Match, fifth in the Arc a year ago, was fifth again. The other favorites were Misti, who was seventh, and the English challenger, Aurelius, who came in 15th.
The winner ran an admirable race, but the story of the 41st Arc revolved around Carry Back, his owner-trainer Jack Price and his curiously uninterested Australian jockey, Scobie Breasley. The latter, having worked him, and disappointingly at that, the previous week, had not been very encouraging about Carry Back's chances when he reached Paris the night before the race. He begged off dining with the Prices and turned down an invitation to walk the course Sunday morning. "I won this race once," Scobie told Price, "and I know what it's all about."
Before saddling up, Price gave Breasley the obvious instructions: "Try to keep in a good position near the leaders, stay out of trouble by going to the outside when in doubt and let this horse really run when you get midway down the hill at the end of the mile." Visiting former jockey Eddie Arcaro tried to jack up Breasley's confidence by telling him that if Carry Back could beat Kelso he must be one hell of a horse. Then he joked, "The only way you can lose this race is if you ride him as badly as you rode Ballymoss at Laurel." (In that catastrophe, in the 1958 Laurel International, Scobie went looking for traffic trouble like a sailor seeking sin in Singapore; despite his atrocious ride, Ballymoss, who had won the Arc that year, came on in the stretch to finish third.)
At the start of this Arc it looked as though Breasley had mended his ways. He and Carry Back actually were among the first three to leave the webbed barrier. They broke from post position 21, and it was as perfect a start as you could ask for. But, alors, the picture did not remain perfect for long. Later Breasley said that Carry Back instinctively took himself back. To Price and Arcaro, atop the stands, it appeared that Breasley got a choking hold on him and took him back. It was plain that Carry Back was so far back after the first three furlongs that he was virtually eliminated from all contention. Whereas at the start he was in the first three, suddenly he had only three horses beaten.
"I felt I would have more chance going inside at this point," said Breasley afterward, "but I knew that Mr. Price had his doubts about the inside and therefore I went to the extreme outside at the top of the hill as we turned down it. The result was that as the course narrowed, the bunched field pushed me to the extreme outer edge and, of course, we were losing ground with every stride."
"What he means," said a perturbed Price later as he cooled out at the Hotel de Crillon bar, "is that he is trying to make excuses for having goofed it so badly after the start. He could have been laying fourth or fifth turning down the hill. Then he could have been on the outside and made his move without losing all that ground. But the way he came into the hill, with horses starting to fan out in front of him, he probably had to go around 10 horses. He lost 15 lengths there—half again as much as the distance by which he lost the whole race."
Fault or no fault, Breasley and Carry Back did make a noticeable move down the hill. Skirting the field Carry Back appeared momentarily to be flying in the old familiar Derby and Preakness style. But when he got to the bottom and was turning for the run home, he had come to the end of the line. Carry Back had run a mile-and-a-quarter race, but unfortunately there was still a quarter of a mile to go. He came on bravely. About where an eighth pole should have been, he was very nearly last and then ran by beaten horses in the last few yards.
Despite the defeat, Jack Price is still convinced that he has the best horse in the world. In order to prove it he quickly laid down an open challenge to meet the first four Arc finishers within the next two weeks at the same distance, again at Longchamp,. "If all of us put up $25,000 for a winner-take-all purse that would be fine by me," Price said. "Next time I'd like to use Sellwood [Jockey Neville Sellwood]. I could throw a 130-pound bag of feed up on Carry Back and he'd do as well as he did under Breasley."