The Meyerhoffs are whimsical. Their racing colors are black and blue, to symbolize how racing can beat up on an owner. But from early on, Spectacular Bid had the look of a bully who would be on the giving rather than receiving end.
He won laughing in his first two starts. Then on Aug. 2 he was beaten in the slop at Monmouth when he didn't like the mud flying up and hitting him in the stomach. Next time out, against a pedestrian field in the Dover Stakes at Delaware Park, he got boxed in. Recalls Delp, "We knew we had a hell of a horse but we couldn't prove it to anyone but ourselves."
When the colt was shipped to New York for the Champagne, it was agreed that a New York jockey should be on him. Jorge Velasquez rode the colt to victory—2� lengths ahead of General Assembly and 6� lengths in front of Tim the Tiger—and booted him to a narrow victory at the Meadowlands 11 days later. But Delp was furious, for he says Velasquez would not follow his instructions about pacing the horse.
For the Laurel Futurity, he took Velasquez off and put Franklin back on. In 55 runnings of the race an apprentice jock had never won, and to many observers it seemed as if Delp might have a death wish. First, he could have ended Spectacular Bid's year after the Champagne and been assured of his colt being voted the 2-year-old champ. But if he must race at Laurel, why not get Bill Shoemaker or Darrel McHargue? (Delp had earlier tried to get Steve Cauthen but was shunned.) Why the 18-year-old Franklin? Says Delp, "He likes the horse and the horse likes him."
On the eve of the race Delp gave Franklin his instructions. "In the stretch, I want to prove that this is a super horse," he said, "so let him go a little. If we do that, the others won't be wanting to chase us so much next year."
Spectacular Bid was bet down to the 4-to-5 favorite, but there was a lingering suspicion that General Assembly might be the one. However, the General's trainer, LeRoy Jolley, seemed to be readying an alibi before the race. "Remember, the prime objectives for these 2-year-olds are not this year," he said.
Long before the four-horse field reached the quarter pole, Spectacular Bid was in command with a fluid, rhythmic, effortless stride.
The only challenge came at the turn at the head of the stretch when Cauthen urged General Assembly alongside Spectacular Bid, and Franklin thinks the General may have gotten his nose ahead for a moment. "But then I asked my horse to go," he says, "and he went." Abruptly, Spectacular Bid was three, five, seven lengths ahead. Ultimately, it was 8�, but it could have been 10 or 12 because Franklin only tapped the colt lightly on the left side to keep his interest.
General Assembly raced well and had no excuses. Third was Clever Trick, 20� lengths back, and fourth, also with no excuses, was Tim the Tiger. Said Cauthen afterward, "It was no contest." And Tim's trainer, John Veitch, who had contended beforehand that Spectacular Bid had not dominated his class, changed his mind. "He is now dominating," he said. Delp, continuing to put up but not shut up, bet a $500 exacta and won $1,000.
But while Spectacular Bid has blown away his opposition for the moment, there's no reason to think that General Assembly might not regroup and be back strong in 1979. As for Tim, maybe he is just tired. Flying Paster looks good in California. Maybe Spectacular Bid will go sour. But for now, Delp is talking. "All I want next year is the whole thing," he says, "the Triple Crown and everything else."