Which would it be, Falcon or Flight Director? The duel began with Flight Director taking the lead. With all three nearing the quarter-mile marker, Popfinger put the pedal to the metal, moved outside and swept past the two startled biggies. Admitted O'Brien, "I didn't intend to let him go, but he outpaced me." Said Haughton, "I heard him coming and I couldn't believe it." Haughton said he thinks he should have taken off after Escort right then, but he didn't. "That's where I blew it," he said.
Pacing easily and heading home at the three-quarters pole, Popfinger recalls thinking, "Man, I'm going to be tough to beat." Escort beat Flight Director by three-quarters of a length in an unimpressive 2:00[4/5], but nobody was counting. Popfinger tossed his $12 whip to a security guard as a souvenir.
For his effort, Escort won $49,491.40 of the record $186,760 purse. Not bad for a colt that frequently raced for purses of $12,000 this summer. The crowd also was a record—40,896 beer-drinking, sit-on-the-hay-bales-in-pickup-trucks folks.
"Coming into the race-off," says Popfinger in the saloon, "I was like a football player whose team is behind 30-0 in the last quarter but who still thinks something might happen and his team can still win." What prompted him to make his daring move? "Any time you're in a two-or three-horse field, the only strategy is to be on top," he said. The lights were on, the horns were honking and Show Biz was reflecting on his good fortune. "Wheew, if this is the worst it ever gets, I'm in good shape," he said. But in truth, nobody knows better than Bill Popfinger how bad things can get. Or how good.