The last major weekend of the 1963 U.S. racing season began in the mud at Garden State and finished on the lush grass at Laurel. There were upsets in both races, the more important one in the finale, the 12th running of the mile-and-a-half Washington, D.C. International.
Mrs. Richard C. duPont's Kelso, invincible on a dirt track, was defeated at Laurel after a mile-long head-to-head battle with Mrs. Marion duPont Scott's Mongo, America's turf champion. All of the foreign competitors were also-rans, France's Nyrcos finishing 12 lengths back in third position, followed by England's Expresso, France's Misti, Russia's Ivory Tower II, Hungary's Imperial II, Venezuela's Ferumbras, Ireland's Christmas Island and finally Russia's Bryansk, 43 lengths back.
After watching his chestnut win the International, Trainer Frank Bonsal said, "We had hoped to meet Kelso on terms advantageous to us: on the turf, in the slop, in the rain, in cold weather and receiving 10 pounds." The only advantage Mongo got was the turf course. But it was all he needed.
When the tapes flew up at the start, Kelso was caught sideways and lost two lengths. Mongo, in ninth post position, was off on the lead with Christmas Island. After the first half Kelso replaced the Irish horse as challenger. From there on Kelso and Mongo raced together. Actually, Mongo was never headed, but at the 5/16ths pole he drifted wide. Jockey Wayne Chambers straightened him out and went on to win by half a length.
A foul claim by Kelso's rider, Milo Valenzuela, held up the official decision. Valenzuela contended that Mongo had hit Kelso when he drifted. But the stewards, after deliberating for 15 minutes, decided there was no contact and that the foul claim was frivolous.
Saturday's upset came in the mile-and-a-sixteenth Garden State Stakes, which is supposed to crown a 2-year-old champion and, indeed, often has. But whether the 11th Garden State winner, Hurry to Market, is the best of the current lot is open to speculation. In beating Roman Brother for the second time in eight days, the big To Market bay colt ran his own record to three wins in six starts and thereby put in a justifiable claim.
Jockey Bill Cook kept Hurry to Market on the inside most of the way and, after racing with Sophia's Boy to the far turn, took the lead and held it for good. Roman Brother was the big threat from the stretch to the wire, and Ishkoodah came on well in the final furlong to take third place. Johnny Rotz, on Roman Brother, claimed foul against Cook after being beaten a length. He said Cook had hit Roman Brother on the nose with his whip at the eighth pole. The patrol films vaguely verified this, but they also indicated that Rotz had accidentally ridden into the arc of Cook's whipping arm.
At any rate, I think the best horse won, and the reason you haven't heard much about him is that, in this day of racing 2-year-olds until their poor legs drop off, Hurry to Market belied his name by not making his first start until September 10 at Hawthorne. He had a quarter crack on the heel of his right foreleg and Trainer Dave Erb had to stop his training. "It may have been a good thing," said Erb on Saturday evening. "He had a chance to grow." In fact, he grew so much he now weighs about 1,100 pounds and stands 16 hands 2 inches (in contrast to Roman Brother at 890 pounds and 15 hands 1 inch). Hurry to Market's owners, Oilman Roger Wilson and his partner's daughter, Mrs. T. P. Hull Jr., are aiming at Hialeah's Flamingo on March 3 and after that a full campaign along the Triple Crown route.