- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Every harness track in the country has been eager to stage the first trotting race between Speedy Scot and Ayres. They are both Triple Crown winners (Speedy in 1963, Ayres in 1964) and co-holders of the world record of 1:56[4/5]. "I think Speedy is the greatest trotter that ever lived," says his trainer-driver, Ralph Baldwin. "Ayres," says his man, Johnny Simpson, "is the most perfect horse I have ever seen." Trotting experts, split in their judgment, are hardly accustomed to such statements from these two normally reticent veteran horsemen.
Until last week, Speedy had won 41 of 51 starts, often setting track records. Ayres, winner of 20 out of 28, had been out of the money just once. Last week they finally met, for a modest purse of $25,000, at equally modest Brandywine Raceway near Wilmington, Del., and the rest of the field in the race included practically all the other first-rank trotters in the U.S. They were:
Big John, Eddie Wheeler's four-year-old, who chased Ayres to the wire in both heats of last year's Hambletonian.
Su Mac Lad, Stanley Dancer's all-time money-winning champ ($826,449), still going strong at 11 years of age.
Express Rodney (Jimmy Cruise, trainer-driver) who had raced against the best and had seldom been beaten badly by any of them.
Speedy Count, Billy Haughton's somewhat lame but very game 4-year-old who, at 2, was best of his age, and had won 35 of 52.
Sprite Kid of Canada, finally, the only outsider in the bunch.
Brandywine's coup in staging a race that drew 15,000 to the closing night of a spring meet and would have drawn more than three times that many in New York, came almost by chance. Racing Secretary James M. Lynch sent telegrams inviting eight trotters just the week before. Ayres' acceptance came back almost immediately. Speedy Scot's was last, on the day before the race, because the telegram to Baldwin had gone astray.
"I actually didn't want to meet Scotty this early," Simpson said. "But I gave my word we would race at Brandywine, and I wasn't going to break it."
"I was anxious to meet Ayres and get it over with," Baldwin said. "There has been so much talk about it that it was beginning to bug me."