Saguaro wins the Excelsior Handicap, leading every step of the way, and then Tarpan wins again, in front from first call to finish. Next, His Jewel opens a four-length lead, widens that to eight, wins by seven. Adelphia chases his stablemate, Timgad, jumps on him at the turn for home and wins by five, paying $15.70. "What did I tell ya?" laughs Stephens. "I claimed him for $5,000! And Fink bet!"
They were all winners for Stephens and Fink that year. Herodotus and Wise Admiral, K. Dorko and Ringoes, White Wine and Old Grad, too. "The show was on the road," Stephens says. "We'd win and run down to the winner's circle."
"We had a ball," says Fink.
It culminated at Belmont Park on Aug. 30, when Stephens saddled three winners on the card—Huntsman ($11.70), First Gun ($16.30) and Herodotus ($8.50). "What a day for the Speed Boys!" Stephens rejoices yet today.
But there was trouble, too. They had won 28 races since opening day, cleaned up at the windows, and increasingly there was talk that there was some kind of larceny at work here. "It was a joke," Stephens says. "There was a lot of jealousy." No specific charges were ever made against them, but that winter racetracks in Miami and California denied them stalls, and they were forced to stay in New York, unable to race at all.
"I've gotten to the point where I'm almost scared to win and scared to lose," Stephens complained at the time to John B. Campbell, the New York racing secretary. "If I lose, we're cheating; if I win, we're winning a big bet. A lot of talk."
If it ever occurred to the racing establishment that the Speed Boys simply might be playing the game smarter than everyone else, it wasn't enough to ease the pressures on them. They continued to race in New York during the spring and summer of 1946, but when it became clear they'd have to spend another winter in the north, unable to get stalls in the sun. Fink decided to sell his horses. He was eventually barred as an owner by The Jockey Club, which alleged that he associated with bookies; Fink launched a successful suit against The Jockey Club and later regained his owner's license.
Fink had bought the horses for about $50,000, mostly in claiming races. When he sold out, he says, they brought about $300,000. Fink figures that, through betting, purses and the sale of the horses, he made about $1 million in two years. Stephens came to the outfit with $400 and figures he left with $70,000.
A year after Fink sold out, Stephens went to work for Royce Martin, who headed Auto-Lite, a company that sold electric automotive equipment, and bred horses at Woodvale, his Kentucky farm. Martin had owned Our Boots, the colt that Stephens had helped Judge to get in shape for the 1941 season. Like Fink, Martin loved to make bets, and Woody was his man.
In June 1950, one of Martin's 2-year-olds, Iamarelic, worked a half mile in a blistering 46 seconds. The clocker missed the workout and Woody grinned, knowing a good thing when he saw it. Iamarelic was a nice horse who was coming around. So Stephens put him into a $10,000 claiming race at Aqueduct on June 19, a $2,500 jump in class from his previous start, despite sensing he was worth a good deal more than that.