Turcotte is a proud and sensitive young man who quietly burns with resentment when it is suggested that his concentration is something less than Bobby Fischer's. Sitting by his locker at Aqueduct and puffing on a Villiger-Kiel cigar a few hours before the Wood, he disagreed that Secretariat was in charge during a race, not his jockey. "This horse is very mild mannered," he said. "Only once, before the Bay Shore, did he try to run off with me, and after I pulled him up I had sore arms for a week. I know he's mild. Why, with his size and strength, if he wanted to be rough he could be, and there's not a jock alive who could hold him."
When Secretariat, Sham and Angle Light (if he goes) arrive in Kentucky, they will have most of the limelight to themselves, although Linda's Chief, who has one victory over Sham this year, should add some interest to the race following his win last week in the California Derby. He spurted off to a 10-length lead midway through the race, but only scrambled home by three-quarters of a length. The colt did seem to have an excuse for his fast fade. He put his tongue over the bit, an antic that causes a horse's mouth to become numb and makes him difficult to rate.
The Derby prep races at Keeneland have produced little excitement. In one, Flamingo winner Our Native was awarded a victory on the disqualification of Greentree Stable's Starkers, a Ribot gelding who had run with no great distinction at Oaklawn Park. In that same Keeneland race, undefeated Mr. Prospector indicated that his best prospects are to remain in the sprint division: he was a tiring third in his first try at a mile and a sixteenth. Two days later, Florida Derby winner Royal and Regal had to run like fury to beat something called Cari County.
Some of these will have a chance to redeem themselves in this week's Blue Grass or Stepping Stone against horses like Arkansas Derby winner Impecunious, Restless Jet, Shecky Greene or the fast-improving Forego, but a week from this Saturday, when they rerun the Wood Memorial at Churchill Downs, the showdown will be for real. Only the results will be different.