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The 1969 racing season has yet to conclude its long run, but considering the bizarre happenings of last week this is as good a time as any to wish the sport a better finish another year. In the space of five days in the outer regions of New Jersey and Maryland, Sonny Werblin's Silent Screen won the nation's 2-year-old championship by languishing painfully in a cold stall at Garden State, while a 19-to-1 shot named Forum won The Garden State Stakes. Up to last Saturday, Forum had won only one of five races and $7,175, but he led all the way and took the prize of $198,375. Five days earlier an Irish-bred runner representing England captured the $150,000 Washington, D.C. International at Laurel, defeating a field of six in which there was neither an American-bred horse nor an American-born jockey.
In both races horses owned by Charles Engelhard's Cragwood Stable finished second, giving Engelhard and Trainer MacKenzie Miller a pot of $91,125 for not winning. And speaking of money, the week's biggest winners were a trio of bandits who made off with more than a million dollars of Aqueduct swag, prompting an avalanche of jokes among everyone except the police. Jack Dreyfus Jr., new head of the New York Racing Association, showed up to watch his Fried Eggs Over in The Garden State (he finished seventh) and cracked, "No, it's not true that the money is already at work in the Dreyfus Fund."
The disappointment of the week, for horsemen anyway, was the last-minute defection of Silent Screen from The Garden State because of a slight infection around the cannon bone and hock of his left hind leg. His night watchman noticed the colt was in pain at 4 a.m. on race day, and by the time Trainer Bowes Bond and Werblin reached the barn a few hours later there was no question that the season's most successful 2-year-old was through for the year. Normally such an infection poses no long-term problem for a horse. Caught as it was, in time, and before a race in which he might have seriously injured himself, it may have been a blessing. "It will give him a longer rest in Florida," said Bond.
Silent Screen, who won $397,966 and five of his six races, including the Arlington-Washington Futurity, the Cow-din, the Champagne and the Garden State Trial, will be pointed for a Hialeah campaign on the way to the Triple Crown events. He will be the early winter book favorite for the Kentucky Derby, at least until he indicates that 3-year-old distances are not to his liking, a development that does not appear probable.
With the heavy favorite out of the mile-and-a-16th event, The Garden State field was cut to an even dozen, among whom High Echelon and Brave Emperor were considered the best. Neither was in the money as Forum, a son of Jaipur and the Court Martial mare Decor II, beat Engelhard's Protanto by four lengths. High Echelon, winner of two futurities this year, actually was first out of the gate, but Manuel Ycaza quickly took the roan Native Charger colt back to a trailing position along the rail. Wally Blum brought Forum, who had damaged a tooth in the walking ring, out of the No. 4 stall and rolled to an easy lead going into the first turn. Long shot Prize Silver, who broke on the outside, rushed up to take second place.
The race was between these two until just inside the eighth pole, for most of the other riders were taking their mounts back, waiting for Blum and Forum to give up. But Forum did not give up, and after Prize Silver made his one futile challenge turning into the stretch Blum and Forum opened up five lengths and coasted home in the slow time of 1:44[2/5]. Protanto, a son of Native Dancer, came up from seventh place to get second money of $66,125, beating Prize Silver by three-quarters of a length, while the latter headed Count Alibel for third place. Brave Emperor made a good run from eighth to third in the stretch, but faded again to sixth. High Echelon came from 11th to finish fifth after knocking his head so severely in the gate that he came home with a deep gash over his left eye. A possible excuse for throwing out his race entirely is that he ran it in a dazed condition.
Is Forum destined to be another Sadair or Prince Saim, both of whom faded to obscurity after a moment of glory in The Garden State? "I think not," says Eugene Jacobs, Hirsch Jacobs' younger brother, who trains a public stable that includes 10 horses for Wall Street Financier Herbert Allen. "I really think we may have something here, and at least I know that Forum has broken a two-year slump for me. At Gulfstream Park in 1968 I had a good horse—Favorable Turn—break a leg on me, and I've had the worst two years since then in all the time Eve been training. This year Eve won only about half a dozen races, and the only race until now that Eve won for Mr. Allen was when Forum won a maiden race at Belmont Park last month. So now along comes The Garden State, for which we're not nominated. I say to Mr. Allen, 'It will cost us $12,000 to supplement, enter and start. I couldn't buy you a decent horse for that, so why don't we put up the $12,000 to run in The Garden State and go for broke? It's the last chance of the year to go for the big money.' Mr. Allen agreed with me, and see what happened! But I can't say I'm entirely surprised. When I paid $65,000 for this colt [to his breeder, Mrs. Joseph Walker Jr.] at the 1968 Saratoga sales I thought I was doing the right thing. I wanted a Jaipur, and this one was the most perfect yearling I had ever seen. Max Hirsch came to me the next day and told me I had bought the best colt in the sale."
Hialeah is in Forum's future, too. Despite his meager earnings prior to The Garden State, he had been out of the money only once in five races, finishing second once to Paul Mellon's highly regarded Bell Bird and third to Silent Screen and My Dad George in the Garden State Trial. Last Saturday it was a case of Herbert Allen gambling $12,000 and winning $198,375 (the richest Garden State of the 17 runnings) and Sonny Werblin gambling $11,000 on his supplementary nomination and going home with nothing but a horse blanket. "This is all a gamble anyway," says former Calumet Trainer Jimmy Jones. "While we're talking about the colts in The Garden State, most of whom are cannon fodder anyway, let's not forget that the 3-year-old year is another thing entirely. How much did anybody know of Tim Tarn at the end of his 2-year-old year? And this time a year ago how many people could have told you that the Derby, Preakness and Belmont would be strictly between Majestic Prince and Arts and Letters? Remember, neither of them was even in The Garden State."
At Laurel earlier, the accent was not so much on money—although Lord Iveagh's Karabas collected $100,000 for winning the 18th International—as it was on riding ability. Britain's longtime champion jockey, Lester Piggott, a victor on Sir Ivor a year ago, demonstrated his skill by turning in a cool ride aboard Karabas, while most of his rivals acted as if they were competing in the bush league. The American team of Czar Alexander and Hawaii were running one-two, as expected, turning for home, while behind them on the rail sat Piggott on Karabas. Piggott had saved ground every bit of the way, while Jorge Velasquez had lost ground most of the way by running Hawaii on the outside. On the final turn Angel Cordero, on the lead with Czar Alexander, went slightly wide, taking Hawaii out with him, and Piggott quickly drove Karabas through inside of them. He won drawing away by a little over a length. Hawaii, the South African-bred who is this country's best grass runner, beat Czar Alexander by half a length for second, while the four other foreigners in the seven-horse field (the two French entries and the U.S.'s Nodouble were withdrawn) trailed from 12 to 33 lengths behind.
Karabas, filling in for his stablemate, the brilliant mare Park Top, made the many visiting Britishers (some 170 were aboard a jet chartered by the 17,000-member Racegoers Club) a bit wealthier when he paid $9.20. Trainer Bernard van Cutsem had been so displeased with the slipshod transportation methods used to get foreign horses to Laurel that he threatened never to bring over another challenger. But after the race he said, "Lester, after all, did what we practice everywhere, didn't he? The shortest way home is the best way, isn't it?" The lesson to be learned from the International, obviously, is that if this country is to hold its own in such competition U.S. horsemen must develop more mile-and-a-half turf specialists. To the point is the advice of French racing official Jean Romanet: "Every American wants to come and see our Prix de l' Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp. Maybe more of your horsemen should actively participate in it in order to discover what international racing is really all about."