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A Flamingo for the birds
William Nack
April 08, 1985
Chief's Crown won at Hialeah and then lost after a controversial inquiry
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April 08, 1985

A Flamingo For The Birds

Chief's Crown won at Hialeah and then lost after a controversial inquiry

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"I love this game, but this is an outrage!" de Kwiatkowski said. "This is ludicrous. The arrogance of the stewards!"

On the eve of the race, there was considerable hope that the Flamingo would bring some clarity to a murky 3-year-old picture in the East, but the ambiguous outcome left it murkier than ever. What it did manage to establish was that Chiefs Crown, Proud Truth and Stephan's Odyssey are not far apart in terms of ability, and that Laurin knew exactly what his colt needed to get him ready for the Flamingo.

In the week before the race, Hialeah was rife with speculation that there was something physically wrong with Chiefs Crown, most of it fueled by the lightness of his training regimen and by the apparent breathing problems he'd had in his final workout on March 25, when he dashed six furlongs in 1:11[3/5] and then galloped out very slowly afterward.

"The last eighth of a mile he sounded like one of his lungs was going to explode," one veteran trainer said. "I never heard anything like it."

John Veitch, the trainer of Proud Truth, the winner of the Florida Derby and Fountain of Youth Stakes this year, considered Stephan's Odyssey the colt to beat. Stephan's Odyssey had finished sixth in the March 2 Florida Derby, beaten 4� lengths, but since then he had overcome some minor physical problems and looked the part of a racehorse. Of Chiefs Crown, Veitch said, "I'm not worried about him at all."

The one advantage Chiefs Crown had—on paper, at least—was that he was the only horse in the race with speed. In fact, Chiefs Crown used that speed to take a slow, easy lead, waltzing a half in :48[4/5], then three-quarters in 1:12[2/5], with the stretch-running Proud Truth just behind him. Chiefs Crown had enough gas left to open 2� lengths midway through the homestretch. Then, the trouble began inside the 16th pole, and with it the bitter disappointment and cries for justice that ensued.

"The race didn't prove anything," said Veitch. Chiefs Crown finished first by a length, in 1:48[2/5] for the nine furlongs, with Proud Truth a neck in front of Stephan's Odyssey. Stephens and Veitch are taking their horses to New York, perhaps to make a race of it against Rhoman Rule, winner of the Everglades, in the April 20 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. Laurin says he is not certain just what he will be doing with Chiefs Crown, except to say he is bound for Churchill Downs.

"I thought he ran a super race today," Laurin said. "He proved he's the best horse. They weren't catching me at the end. A mile and a half or a mile and a quarter, I have no compunctions about this horse. The way he ran today, that's him. He'll go like that forever."

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