The man who trains Northern Dancer, Se�or Horatio Luro, cuts a splendid figure around the track. Well over 6 feet tall, he dresses in the tweedy elegance of European aristocracy, often with the added fillip of shirts in dazzling pink or yellow. When he supervises the daily preparation of a dozen or more Thoroughbreds at early morning workouts, Se�or stands out like Adolphe Menjou at a soup kitchen. Each time a set of his horses arrives on the track, there rides Se�or aboard his stable pony, his hawklike face peering impassively from beneath a rakish cloth cap, a flawlessly cut hacking jacket on his back and a pair of gabardine slacks over his well-boned English boots. It might be Chantilly or Newmarket, were it not for the prosaic American types who are cluttering up the background.
During the afternoon racing, the rich and famous welcome Se�or to their box seats, basking in the charm of his Continental manners and hoping, perhaps, for a tidbit of profitable information. When Se�or doffs his hat to the ladies, one sees that the hair has thinned to a few brown strands. Otherwise the strenuous 63 years he has lived have left hardly a trace on this handsome man.
Around the paddock and the saddling enclosure, the doubt-torn public is on equally easy terms with him, calling to him by name and now and then grasping his sleeve with soiled hands and rasping into his ear, "Hey, Se�or, anything to tell me?" Though Se�or rarely rewards anyone with more than a sly and conspiratorial smile or a little small talk, no one seems to go away disappointed.
There is ample precedent for Luro to win a big one like the Kentucky Derby. Two years ago he won the race with Decidedly, an outsider that came from George Pope's El Peco Ranch in the San Joaquin Valley of California. In the 27 years since Luro arrived in this country from his native Argentina riding a shoestring, his horses have won a dozen stakes in the $100,000 category, as well as many of the classics, among them the Jockey Club Gold Cup, the Coaching Club American Oaks and the Whitney Stakes. Luro's victories in run-of-the-mill stakes and handicaps from the Arctic Circle to the Mexican border are uncountable.
Even so, Se�or is a legendary character among horsemen chiefly because of Princequillo, a 2-year-old Irish plater he claimed at Saratoga 22 years ago this summer. Within a year Luro developed this courageous little colt, who seldom ran on more than 2� or three legs, into the distance champion of the country, and today, at the age of 24, Princequillo is one of the leading sires in American Thoroughbred history. Round Table, his most famous offspring, is the leading money winner of all time.
In 1944 Princequillo broke down, and soon after Luro did, too. Princequillo was relegated to stud in Virginia, and Luro went to the Mayo clinic. "The war was over," Luro says, "and the help situation was very bad around the tracks. I am very exhausted, and I think I quit racing completely and go to live in Europe or something. But after I spend some time at the clinic and take six months' vacation I feel so good I am itching to get back to racing."
The career of Horatio Luro divides itself neatly into two phases—before and after his postwar breakdown. When he resumed his racing activities, he established himself as one of the most knowledgeable and respected Thoroughbred horsemen, training for such distinguished stables as Liz Tippett's Llangollen Farm, E. P. Taylor's Windfields Farm and Pope's El Peco Ranch. He was married to the popular and pretty Mrs. Frances Gardiner, daughter of a wealthy Atlanta mining executive—his second marriage—and he settled down to a conscientious and reasonably conservative routine for a man who lives by racing. But it was in the first phase of his life that Luro developed his great knowledge of horses and an undying reputation as a lady-killer.
Horatio Luro was one of the nine children (six sons) of Adolfo Luro, a wealthy rancher who headed a large meat-packing company in Argentina. "I learn very early in life," Horatio says, "that my grandfather, Pedro Luro, fought the Indians in the 1800s. They were always fighting back and forth across the lands, my grandfather and the Indians, and he had a very fast horse, a buckskin called El Moro. When things got hot and he was on the run and had to save his skin, he always took that horse. He left his sons millions of acres."
Se�or is very proud of his forebears, and he recalls with fondness the happy and irresponsible days of his youth, when his family had a great deal of money and he lived the life of a ni�o bien, or playboy. The Luro brothers all went to school in Buenos Aires, and during the summer vacations they lived and worked at Haras El Moro, rounding up the cattle and schooling the horses. As Se�or puts it, "Girls, unfortunately, were one of my weak spots." When he was 18 he found one that appealed to him so much he ran away with her, and Father Adolfo Luro had to call on the police to find the romantic couple.
The Luro white and gold racing colors had for years been among the most celebrated in Argentina. Their most famous horse, Old Man, never lost a race in his career and is still regarded as the Argentine equivalent of Man o' War. To earn his filial allowance money, young Horatio had to put in an appearance at the Sunday race meetings, and soon, as he says, "I got interested in racing without knowing it."