Over the years some fine fillies have beaten colts and won national acclaim. Regret is the only one ever to win a Kentucky Derby, but Top Flight beat the boys, as did First Flight, Twilight Tear, Bug Brush, Silver Spoon and, most recently, Drumtop and Shuvee. On the other hand, Priceless Gem beat Buckpasser in a Futurity and was never the same again.
Who gave the order to put Numbered Account to the supreme test? "Mr. Phipps never put any pressure on me to do anything I didn't feel was right," said Roger Laurin. "We looked at it this way: neither of us might ever again be in a position like this, able to beat the best colt in a championship race. And let's face it. If we win, we could be Horse of the Year. We came to this conclusion together and have decided it is the right thing to do."
About the same time, Lucien Laurin was offering additional reasons why, if he were Roger, he wouldn't chance running the filly. "I don't like a horse's races too close together, and Numbered Account has just won The Gardenia," Lucien said.
Former Calumet Trainer Jimmy Jones was asked his opinion. In the 1940s he trained Twilight Tear and at three she beat colts; he thinks she probably could have beaten them just as well at two. He said, "If the decision to start Numbered Account were up to me, it would depend somewhat on the money situation. If I'd paid my bills I wouldn't try it. If I hadn't paid my bills—or thought I might not be able to—I would probably be tempted to take a crack at the colts."
Now that he is indisputably champion—and an earner of $503,263 (Buck-passer holds the record for 2-year-olds: $568,096)—Riva Ridge will get a well-deserved rest. "He's been to school this season," says Lucien Laurin, "and, like a kid with brains, he's been learning. He now rates easily. In this Garden State, after a poor start, he discovered it wasn't impossible to get through between horses. I've had a lot of nice horses in the 30 years I've trained—Quill, Amberoid, Drone, Dike, Jay Ray and Repeating. I think Riva Ridge may be the best of all of them."
Jack and Penny Tweedy, who first came to Garden State on a horrible rainy afternoon in 1958 when Meadow Stable's First Landing won his Garden State Stakes, hope so too. As the colt (he is named for an assault target in the Italian Apennines where Tweedy served during World War II in the 10th Mountain Division) was being led back to his barn, Mrs. Tweedy raised her glass and smiled, thinking of the future. "Wouldn't it be nice to do this over again at next year's Kentucky Derby?" she said.