"I know we're interested in the Marlboro Cup for Holding Pattern," said Gerbas after the Travers, "but we'll go to Chicago first, and we may run back in the American Derby on the grass." Gerbas, who has been in racing four years, and Schleicher did not go to Holding Pattern's family tree for his name (his dam, Miss Caesar, is by All Blue) or to some exotic story for the stable's racing silks of white, purple and gold. One day, as Gerbas was circling endlessly over a New York airport awaiting landing instructions, the name Holding Pattern suddenly seemed highly appropriate. And inasmuch as the plane he was flying was painted in the colors of the Minnesota Vikings, why shouldn't his silks be the same? Around the barn they call Holding Pattern "Shorty," and neither Trainer Sarner nor his owners feel their tiny charge needs strenuous training. Before the Travers, which was his first start in a race as long as a mile and a quarter, all Holding Pattern did in five days in Saratoga was walk and gallop. "He doesn't need much," said Sarner.
Despite his long odds at Monmouth and Saratoga, Holding Pattern is not quite an unknown. Last year he won six of nine races, including a division of the Champagne at Belmont. But he chipped a knee last fall and had to sit out the 1974 Triple Crown events. His first race of this season came on the same day Little Current was winning the Preakness. Holding Pattern won a modest one-mile allowance race that afternoon at Churchill Downs, of all places. And now, while such early-season stars as Cannonade, Judger and Agitate are having their problems, here is Holding Pattern with 10 wins in 15 lifetime starts and earnings of $275,457.
There is no disgrace in finishing behind the likes of Holding Pattern and Little Current, and Chris Evert is far from discredited. In running so well in two 10-furlong races only a week apart, she probably showed more ability than she did in her winning match race against Miss Musket. After losing the Alabama the previous Saturday by a neck to Quaze Quilt, she may well have been due for a rest. But Owner Carl Rosen and Trainer Joe Trovato, who have long wanted to see her tackle the colts, went against the majority of professional opinion and ran her back in the Travers. "I know we'll be criticized if Chris Evert loses," said Trovato beforehand. "That's always the way. But that's part of racing. The only reason we're doing it is that she came out of the Alabama so well that it wouldn't be fair not to give her this chance against colts."
As for Galbreath, Trainer Lou Rondinello and the Little Current supporters, two defeats to Holding Pattern do not mean the end of the world. Or even the end of the year. The Marlboro Cup may be the next race for the chestnut, who was syndicated for $4 million during Travers week, and Galbreath is not ruling out a trip to France in October for the mile-and-a-half Prix de l' Arc de Triomphe over the Longchamp turf.
"I've never won either the Travers or the Arc," says Galbreath, whose Roberto finished a disappointing seventh in the Paris classic two years ago. "I'd love to try the Arc with Little Current. For one thing, his action is so perfect that I have no worries about his ability to handle grass. He could run over anything. And the farther the better.
"But there are lots of details still to be worked out. The timing of the trip, the choice of a jockey, the possible assistance of a French trainer, etc. The main point is that racing is still supposed to be a sport, and as far as I'm concerned making a sporting try is the name of the game."