En route to the track, Haughton admitted he was troubled by the size of the field. "With 16 of us out there," he said, "somebody has got to move because we can't all get seats." The implication was obvious: early in the first heat Haughton would move. And he did. Leaving from the unfavorable nine post position, the sport's alltime leading money winner ($25 million in purses since 1949) scrambled to the top shortly before the half-mile pole. Then Green Speed, full of himself and trotting better than he had all year, shifted into his record-setting high gear, beating Texas, driven by Bill Herman, by a length.
The message was loud and clear. Unless Speed broke stride in the second heat, the day would be his. The crowd of 15,000 got the message. In the first heat, the fans had installed Green Speed and Cold Comfort, an entry, as the 4-to-5 favorite. For the second heat the pair was bet down to 1 to 9.
There was, however, an element to the drama of which the crowd was unaware. The night before the race Haughton had made up his mind that if Green Speed couldn't win in two straight heats, he was going to scratch him. Billy is still haunted by last year's Hambo in which his Steve Lobell needed four heats to win in hot weather, then collapsed and almost died. "I keep thinking that Green Speed has won more than $340,000 this year," said Haughton, "and I'm not going to tear him up."
But the colt quickly took Haughton off the hook. Blinders in place so he couldn't see the other horses and sponges stuffed in his ears so he couldn't hear them, Speed rolled out and took command of the second heat shortly after the quarter pole. At the top of the final turn Haughton was challenged briefly by Cold Comfort, driven by his son Peter, but Green Speed had too much left.
Once again Texas was his only serious competition, and once again Texas could do no better than second. Herman was philosophic. "When you're second," he said, "it's nice to think that it took world-record time to beat you." It was also nice that second was worth $71,032.75. Third place in both heats went to a horse thought to belong in the ego-trip-for-owners group—Native Starlight, driven by Jimmy Dennis. With only six career starts the inexperienced Reprise was a gritty fourth overall in the intricate two-heat placing procedure. Cold Comfort, after a horrendous first heat in which the colt refused to trot, was placed fifth, and Jodevin wound up 14th.
Before the race, a weighty intramural discussion about the very future of the Hambletonian had kept things lively around Du Quoin. Jack Krumpe, executive director at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, N.J., had written to the Hambletonian Society asking that consideration be given to moving the race there in 1980. Krumpe said he anticipated a $500,000 purse and that with a population of 19 million within 65 miles of the Meadowlands, the starry new track is "singularly unique to host your great race." Bill Hayes, president of the Du Quoin State Fair, was underwhelmed at the prospect of losing the race in which he (and, before him, his father) had invested a fortune since the classic event came to southern Illinois in 1957 from Goshen, N.Y. The Hambletonian Society stewed about the proposition for two months and on the day before the race decided not to entertain any bids for moving the race. Not for now, anyway.
While celebrating Speed's victory, Beverly Lloyds, the colt's owner of record, told how her husband first tried to sell him to her for $50,000, then for $30,000. Finally he made her a birthday present of Green Speed, and the horse was paraded up to a party on Long Island. Mrs. Lloyds was properly impressed. It was six months before her husband confessed that the horse at the party was not Green Speed but another, Green Speed being in training in Florida.
There was no doubt, however, that the real Green Speed, with career winnings of almost $600,000 in two years, was at the Hambo. And while the Cinderella story might have been Jodevin, it was clear the shoes fit Green Speed.