For three days Youth's status wavered between dubious and doubtful, but Zilber is a cagey man. He plays for every edge he can get, and by telling stories he often makes the opposition think hard about changing tactics. On the Tuesday before the race he watched Ivanjica and Rose Bowl work together. "I knew what I saw," Zilber said after the International. " Rose Bowl was moving better than Ivanjica. I knew then that Ivanjica was over the hill."
The small crowd of 22,762 at the track on Saturday didn't think that way at all. Until the last flash on the tote board, Youth was a slight favorite, but in the final counting, Ivanjica was pushed into the favorite spot with $46,032 bet on her to $45,616 wagered on Youth: "If the track was not off today," said Zilbert later, "Youth would have won by 20 lengths."
Between now and next year drastic changes will have to be made to keep the International afloat as a world-class race. Oh, it has a fine list of winners, but by today's standards the purse is too small. John Schapiro, who founded the race and still runs it, is hopeful that he can find a sponsor willing to put up a $500,000 purse. This year the race was not covered by television in this country, and thus there was no TV money to help defray the costs of bringing in horses and paying the participants' expenses, which have often exceeded $300,000. It would come as no great surprise if Philip Morris, which sponsors the Marlboro Cup, were to join Schapiro in promoting next year's running.
One thing that Schapiro must do before then is rebuild his turf course so that it will shed water. The trainers were furious about the condition of the course: horses' hooves plunged down into it as deep as a foot, which was why John Russell scratched Effervescing. "My horse is in a whole lot better shape than he was when he won the Man o'War at Belmont," Russell said. "But he is a speed horse and wouldn't get any traction here. You can't change the way you train a horse in a few days. The way the course is now suits the European horses much better because they are used to running over wet courses. I want to run in the International because that's my kind of thing, but I'm not going to risk the career of a 3-year-old by sending him out on a track he can be hurt on. There is very little drainage on the track. It's like a bog. I really hate to scratch, but a horseman's job is his horse."
Another major problem facing the International is the fact that the $350,000 Champions Handicap is run on the same day at Santa Anita. A purse that large naturally lures the better U.S. horses. Schapiro and the management at Santa Anita must work out the conflict. The Champions was won by King Pellinore, who turned down a bid to the International and who many feel is the best grass horse in this country. At Santa Anita, King Pellinore won on dirt.
The International has had problems before and solved them. The race will surely get other good horses, but how many like Youth? Horses like him don't come down the bog every day.