There were seven other entries in the Woodward, but from the start it turned out to be a match between Key to the Mint and Riva Ridge. For a full mile and a quarter in the depressing slop Key to the Mint, on the inside, and Riva Ridge, on the outside, dueled, first one head in front, then the other. The pace was moderate: six furlongs in 1:11[2/5], the mile in 1:36[1/5]; then it quickened, with the mile and a quarter in 2:01[2/5]. A long shot, Favorecidian, made an early run at the pair—in vain. Then King's Bishop challenged; he fell back. And finally, on came Summer Guest.
Now the brave pair of front-runners were testing each other to the limit. Suddenly, as had happened in the Belmont Stakes, one of the leaders gave way, but this time it was Riva Ridge. Key to the Mint went ahead for good just inside the three-eighths pole. The only threat as he raced to the wire in the creditable time of 2:28[2/5] came from his stablemate, who passed both Riva Ridge and Autobiography to close to within a length and a quarter. But the chestnut filly had cut across Autobiography going into the first turn, and although the latter had a mile and a quarter to recover before finishing third, the stewards disqualified Summer Guest and moved Autobiography into second place.
Riva Ridge had finished fourth. His excuses were nil, even according to Trainer Laurin: "Maybe he has lost a little flesh, maybe he's going back a bit and maybe he's tired from losing to Canonero in world-record time. All I know is that Riva Ridge did his best today, and it just wasn't good enough."
Horse of the Year votes won't be tabulated for another couple of months, but it is unlikely that Key to the Mint and Riva will face each other again this season. The Key may start in the two-mile Jockey Club Gold Cup and his rival could wind up the year in the Washington, D.C. International.
After the Woodward was all over, Laurin and Burch pumped hands and the latter allowed, "Maybe I'm just lucky." But a man who develops such champions as Sword Dancer, Bowl of Flowers, Quadrangle, Arts and Letters, Fort Marcy, Run the Gantlet—and now Key to the Mint and Summer Guest—has something more going for him. He may have available the best stock in the world, but it takes more than that and more than luck.