"Whatever it was, we'll stick to the planned schedule and hope he comes back," said Laurin. Mrs. Tweedy added, as if making a discovery, "Now we know nothing is certain in racing. I wonder where that man from Marlboro is...?"
The man, Jack Landry, had said earlier, "If Secretariat loses, you'll see one dead man lying in the middle of the track—me." As dusk fell on Saratoga, either the track's harrows had neatly buried Landry or he had ridden resolutely back to Marlboro Country.
Before the race, Saratoga had been enlivened by Secretariat's presence and the anticipation of his appearance in the Whitney. He had wowed them at Churchill Downs, at Pimlico, at Belmont and, most recently, at Chicago's Arlington Park. But at Saratoga, where sophisticated horsemen have grown accustomed to the sight of all the great ones and their owners during 106 years of the best racing in America, it remained for this handsome and confident animal to stand the town on its gossipy ear. "He isn't a horse," said one spectator. "He's a cult."
Bunting of Meadow Stable blue and white flew on Broadway. The entrance to Siro's Steak House across from the track was guarded by cast-iron jockeys painted in the now familiar Triple Crown colors. Pinkertons were on duty around the clock at Barn 24 where Secretariat and Riva Ridge enjoyed togetherness in Stalls 10 and 11. When the big horse went to the main track in the mornings, 2,000 people turned up just to see him gallop once around, and a record 5,000 were on hand at 7 a.m. last Wednesday to see him work a half mile under wraps. The only critics in sight were those questioning the ambitious summer and fall schedule the Meadow Stable braintrust had mapped out for their willing runner. "Counting the Whitney, it will be four races in two months," said Mrs. Tweedy. "Sounds overambitious, and it may be. Who knows?"
Some who thought they knew were most of the members of the $6,080,000 Secretariat syndicate who are paying $190,000 a share for his lifetime breeding rights. They would have been immensely pleased if he had been retired the instant he crossed the Belmont Stakes finish line to become the ninth Triple Crown winner.
Two of Secretariat's upcoming track dates are perfectly in line with standard programming for any 3-year-old champion. One is next week's Travers and the other is the traditional Woodward on Sept. 29. In between these two classics Secretariat will help initiate a new phase of thoroughbred racing in the Big Apple when, for $250,000, he will engage in the mile-and-an-eighth exhibition "race" against Riva Ridge. It is that race that has prompted more than a few traditionalists to take another look at Penny and wonder, "Has she become star-struck? Or money-crazy?"
The Marilyn Monroe program for Secretariat was launched in June as the brainchild of Landry, a native of Saratoga who now labors under the title of group vice president and director of marketing for Philip Morris, U.S.A. "I fell in love with him when I saw the Sanford last August in Saratoga," he said recently. "After the Belmont, the idea for a match race really got to me. I think the timing was right, for Mrs. Tweedy truly wants to do things that are good for racing—she proved it by taking Secretariat to Chicago. NYRA President Jack Krumpe indicated that it was time to bring major commercialism into racing."
Two hundred miles upstate, Krumpe, an energetic former Dartmouth athlete, sat in his Saratoga office and agreed. "Yes, the special race was Landry's idea. I went to the NYRA trustees to recommend that commercialization of racing for substantial amounts of money would be good if it could go on national television. The key was Secretariat and his participation. This is the sort of imaginative marketing racing needs, particularly in New York. Racing here is in desperate shape. We're dying. If we don't do something with bold imagination, we might soon really be dead." The illness has been brought on largely by the state's Off-Track Betting Corp. In the first two years OTB operated, the daily attendance at the New York City tracks, Belmont and Aqueduct, dropped 24% and the average handle was down 14%.
Not far from Krumpe's office Mrs. Tweedy sat in her clubhouse box. "This horse has created a tremendous amount of non-race-fan interest," she said. "As I see it, a purse from outside sources has been offered. If properly done, this race can help the sport and it is a worthy thing to participate in. As for my being money-crazy, that is crazy. My father's estate will owe the Internal Revenue Service around $12 million in taxes on Oct. 3rd. Of course we can pay part of it and get an extension, but we are naturally interested in income. That is one of the reasons we just syndicated Riva Ridge for $5,120,000. But the Marlboro Cup purse won't come to us. My father's heirs will select a dozen or more charities to receive a portion of the $250,000."
Not far from where Mrs. Tweedy sat, Laurin climbed out of his Mercedes in front of Barn 24. "I had nothing to do with the match race," said the dapper, usually cheerful French Canadian. "If the racing secretaries picked Riva Ridge, who am I to say he isn't the best handicap horse around? The only hitch there is that if it comes up slop or mud, this is one time Riva will have to run, because of our TV commitment. I know he won't run his best on an off-track, but that's the way it must be."