On the Friday before this year's Florida Derby the traditional post position drawing was held. Rivers was there with Louie, a cigar-smoking, beer-drinking chimp. In a flash of inspiration, Tanenbaum had announced that Louie would draw the positions. In the past, Gulfstream President Jimmy Donn Jr. had done the job. Just before the draw, Donn walked into the track's dining room, braced Tanenbaum and said, "I understand I have been replaced by an ape." At first Tanenbaum thought he was kidding. Then he didn't. So he stepped to the microphone and said, "And here's Gulfstream President Jimmy Donn Jr. to draw the post positions."
Louie was miffed. So was Rivers.
Rain fell that night, leaving Gulfstream scrubbed and shiny for Derby Day. At exactly 11:45 Rivers wheeled his three bears onto the track. The jockeys—Maletto, Carmine Donofrio and John Beech Jr.—were there in their elf costumes, trying to ignore the taunts of the crowd. "The patrons were making some very unkind remarks about our attire," says Beech. "You may say I retorted in kind, only under my breath." It was Beech who drew Beulah, the one with claws and ideas of her own. On her first pass, as they were entering the starting gate, she ripped open the front of Beech's jersey, Beech punched her in the mouth, puncturing his right thumb on a tooth. And then they were off. Beech grabbed two handfuls of fur and was rewarded with a bear-sized rrrrrhhhhhhh! "He or she got plenty mad," Beech said later. "There was a big rumble that sounded like it was gonna turn into a roar. I figured I would be just a good mouthful so I let go. I pressed my hands down on her shoulders and she settled down." Then Beech discovered the correct way to ride a small bear. You put your legs on the ground and run with it. By the time he crossed the wire a winner, Maletto had quit on Barney and was walking. Donofrio finished a distant but grateful second.
Then they offered Beulah the winner's purse: 100 pounds of honey in a giant orchid derby hat. She turned her nose up at it.
Upstairs in the press box, Tanenbaum watched with a satisfied look. "This year the Derby drew 28,520 fans. That's the largest horse-racing crowd of the Florida winter season. Not bad. But next year, Rivers promises that I'm finally going to get my hippo race."
Downstairs, Rivers was loading his bears into the trailer for a drive to Tampa, where they would be delivered to the Clyde Bros. Circus. "Next year," said Rivers, "Tanenbaum is going to get giant wild sheep called aoudads. What does he think hippos do, grow on trees? They cost $4,000 and eat like elephants. Hippos, my foot."