They brought William S. Farish III's Bee Bee Bee back to stall No. 4 in the Pimlico paddock right after he won the 97th running of the Preakness and $137,000. They patted him and checked him over, took off his equipment and made him feel comfortable, and then led him away, to applause, to his barn.
Six minutes later, another horse is led into stall No. 4. He has made $1,200 so far in 1972, eaten about that much worth of food, has been offered for sale at $3,000 with no takers, and is named I'm Irving. Irvin David's I'm Irving.
He is a bay 6-year-old, by Etonian out of Chalvedele, bred at Fountainhead Farm in Kentucky, presently residing in Forest Hill, Md., trained by Ray Mikkonen, with Jockey Dale Gress in the irons today, under 109 pounds, wearing black and white silks, 6 to 1 in the morning line for the ninth race, a handicap for 3-year-olds and upward who have run for a claiming price of $3,500 or less since Aug. 31, 1971.
I'm Irving has won one race in his life, and that was two years ago when he beat Mr. Lish and Where It's At in a hard drive. But things are looking up again. A week ago, at 46 to 1, I'm Irving finished second in a race similar to this one. He was trailing by 21 lengths—or "linnts," as they always say around the Maryland tracks—but he only got beat two limits. Everybody screamed, "Here comes Irving!"
Well, maybe things aren't looking up, after all. Right after the Preakness, just as I'm Irving came into the paddock, it started pouring outside. Cats and dogs. And I'm Irving is no friend of Jupiter Pluvius. "Someone just spits on the track and he doesn't want to run; Irving is not too crazy about mud," Irvin Myers says, neatly glossing over the fact that up to now Irving does not seem to be too crazy about any surface known to man or beast. Irvin Myers has an interest in I'm Irving that is largely sentimental, and along with his friend, Irvin David, more or less lent his first name to the horse. They added the "g" for effect, and to help I'm Irving's popularity if ever he ran in New York.
Irvin David, who bred the horse and then registered it in his wife's name, gives a friend $6 and tells him to buy a combination ticket on the horse. They put the saddle on Irving, and blinkers, although Irving does not care for them and makes these feelings known. Irving likes to look around when he is running. Since the blinkers make it impossible for him to see out the sides he prefers to stay in last place so that he can see everything unfold in front of him. With Irving, getting there is half the fun.
Despite these eccentricities, several people love I'm Irving. He is the only horse racing for Irv David. He is the only horse Irv Myers has ever named. He is the only horse Ray Mikkonen trains. Dale Gress averages riding only a couple of mounts a day. I'm Irving means every bit as much to the two Irvins as, say, Bee Bee Bee does to William S. Farish III. At 33, Mr. Farish is by Humble Oil out of Sears Roebuck, bred to Du Pont. The two Irvins are pharmacists. If people cared only for horses like Bee Bee Bee, there wouldn't be any racetracks.
Each year there are 25,000 thoroughbred foals registered in the U.S. There are at least 200,000 owners and comparable numbers of jockeys and trainers and exercise boys and girls. There are even more bettors, and there are 750,000 races run every year to give the bettors a chance to catch up after the daily double at Tropical on Jan. 1.
Very few of these races are the quality of the Preakness. Almost all of them are like the race after the Preakness. "But we need the Preakness. We need the races like that," Irv David said earlier in the afternoon, munching on a crab cake. Because it was Preakness Day, he could not get a seat, even though his horse was running. "Without the Preakness, without Riva Ridge, without a star there's no show. It's the stars that pay to clean up this place and paint the barns where Irving stays," David continued.
But the opposite applies. Racing needs all the I'm Irvings and the people who own I'm Irvings. Certainly, it needs a last race, which always has a high per capita handle, for the same reason that the last lifeboat off the ship is always crowded. As the two Irvins reached the paddock, many others in the crowd were working their way to the exits, but not to leave. There, at the gates, you can pick up for free the discarded tout sheets—Ad Tab, Jack's Little Green Card, Clocker Law-ton and so forth—that were commanding a dollar sale price just a few races before. Invariably, the comment next to the last race selections on these cards is GO HOME A WINNER. This day, sadly, not one of the tip sheets viewed I'm Irving as the vehicle for this happy ending.