Pia Star had broken on the outside, with Manuel Ycaza subbing for John Sellers, who was at Monmouth Park getting beaten on the favorite, Our Michael, in the $100,000 Sapling. The quick start by the inside horses naturally meant that Ycaza had to hustle right along with Pia Star if he wanted any sort of position in that turn. He gunned it, along with the others, and when everybody straightened out in the backstretch Pia Star was in third place, with Kelso galloping easily right where Hanford and Valenzuela wanted him—fourth, but not too far behind.
Kelso usually makes his big move leaving the half-mile pole. At that point Malicious had a half-length lead over Crewman, who in turn was one and a half lengths in front of Pia Star. Kelso was nearly three lengths farther back, and now suddenly all the spectators in the Saratoga stands stood up. They were poised to applaud the famous move that so often takes Kelly from way back to way up front. But what was this? Kelso wasn't going. "He wasn't picking up his horses," Hanford noted later, "but neither were they coming back to him. For a second there I didn't know what was the matter with him."
"I was a little worried myself," said Valenzuela. "Even at the three-eighths pole he didn't respond. At the five-sixteenths pole I hit him, but it wasn't until we got to the three-sixteenths pole that he really took off."
There are a couple of things that trainers at Saratoga have been saying about the venerable track this season. One of them is that it is fast but considerably deeper than Aqueduct, and another is that you don't want to try and come through within four feet of the rail, where it is deepest of all. Still another maxim holds that the horse who leads at the quarter pole—where the fields straighten out for the run home—will not lead at the wire. Not all jockeys, of course, believe what the trainers tell them, and so Ycaza tried to save ground by sending Pia Star through on the rail turning for home. The maneuver did him no good. Anyway, it probably was a mistake in the first place to take a natural speed horse like Pia Star and try to rate him.
If Pia Star is best running on his own, Kelso is best at knowing when to turn on the speed. The race between Malicious and Crewman was all but over at the quarter pole (where Malicious was still in front). Now Kelso came rushing. Crewman had faded, Pia Star was not to be a threat but, with an eighth of a mile to go. Malicious, with his light package of 114 pounds, was nearly three lengths in front. Foot by foot Kelso made up ground with a heartwarming display of courage. Then, just two jumps before the wire, he put that winning nose of his in front to stay. His fans had to wait for the official result to be sure; then they splashed down into their seats in a limp sweat.
It was Kelso's 38th victory in 60 starts (he has also been second 12 times and third twice), and he cantered back to the winner's circle richer by $35,360. Should he next win the Aqueduct on Labor Day he will become the first double millionaire in equine history (he has now earned $1,954,144), and after that the weight-for-age Woodward and Jockey Club Gold Cup stakes should be at his mercy.
As to mercy, Bishop McKinstry is not dispensing it to Kelso's rivals. "I won't miss any of his races," he assured Mrs. duPont, "if I can help it."