Let last year's winner of the Vineyard Derby testify. He is a tall and lean young man crowding 30 and his name is James Walpole. Reached on the job at a Martha's Vineyard hardware store, he had this to say about what his winning striper (51 pounds, 11 ounces) had meant to him:
"It was the most terrific thing that ever happened to me. I hadn't even had a strike for six years. Overnight, I'm a big man. I'm on television. I pose for newsreels, I give out interviews for sportswriters. I get my picture taken shaking hands with the governor of Massachusetts. Everybody stops me on Main Street with the big hello. I seem to get more confidence. They tell me my whole personality has improved. All this that one big striper did for me."
This year's big striper is out there right now, swimming slowly toward his rendezvous with the surf caster who will win the 1954 derby. And the lucky fellow will never be the same again.
Win, place and revolt
The London Daily Worker has been printing racing selections since 1935, presumably on the theory that the workers of the world have nothing to lose but their change. Almost from the beginning the Worker's horse-seer has been Alf Rubin, who at 18 won a newspaper contest by picking eight winners out of eight. This topped a previous achievement, at age 9, when he precociously forecast the winner of the 1926 Derby (Coronach, 11-2) and the second and fourth horses as well.
When the Worker began publishing in 1930, the party line, based on a conviction that the revolution was only a furlong away, grimly opposed mention of the morning line. But after some experience with recurring crises of circulation the paper decided to humor, for the time being at least, the fascination which horse racing holds for the British working class as well as for British royalty. The Worker ran a few predictions and then decided to get itself an expert. Standing outside the door was Alf.
Alf Rubin, at 37, has thinning hair, blinks out at the world through thick glasses, and talks somewhat incoherently when the subject is not horses. He claims that he is no Communist and that he never votes.
"It doesn't matter which government is in," he says, "so long as you keep out of trouble with the police."
Furthermore, Rubin disagrees with the Worker's editorial policy.
"What the British public wants," he says, "is good sports coverage in a newspaper, not all that politics."