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"Man, you'd have to get an adding machine to count the number of times I hit my horse," cracked Arcaro as he slid off Nashua in the winner's circle. Then, running up to Mr. Fitz, he exclaimed, "Boss, you brought him up like split silk." Arcaro was followed to the outstretched Fitzsimmons hand by losing trainer Tenney, who said, quite simply, "Congratulations. I wish I could have won it but I'm very happy for you."
To most of the thousands at track-side and to millions watching on television, the result came with the shock of a chilling summer downpour from blue skies. Reported Si's James Murray from the Coast: "When the time was posted, Californians couldn't believe it. To be sure, the track appeared as soggy as a bride's first biscuit dough. But I would have bet Swaps could run faster than 2:04 1/5 through the Sargasso Sea—backwards. You have to conclude that it wasn't altogether the track that was not to Swaps's liking. Sadly, I have to conclude that he didn't like competition—Nashua and Arcaro's brand of competition. He just didn't seem to like the sensation of that other horse running ahead of him and full of run."
THE QUESTION OF THE FOOT
The Swaps camp did some sad thinking too. Talking to the press half ah hour afterward, Ellsworth, Tenney and Shoemaker agreed that Swaps had not run his true race. "Something may be wrong with him," said Ellsworth. The next day, after a sunup visit to Swaps's stable, Ellsworth announced what the something was: a recurrence of the old bruise injury to the hoof of the right forefoot. Swaps had run with his customary, specially fashioned saddle-leather cushion between hoof and shoe (SI, May 16), plus an adhesive covering to keep out dirt and moisture. On the morning of the race he had seemed frisky and unbeatable, but now, said Ellsworth, the colt was sore and would have to be taken out of competition till the bruise healed, conceivably a matter of weeks or months.
This was news in itself. It meant that whatever chance there might have been for Swaps and Nashua to meet again as 3-year-olds during the fall eastern season was now out the window. But it also roused a legion of Swaps's fans in the press and public to an eager reconsideration of the whole match race. If Swaps had come out of the race with a sore foot, it suddenly became all-important to decide when the foot began to bother him.
Ellsworth and Tenney themselves joined the speculation. The injury, they thought, might very well have come in the first few strides out of the starting gate, when Swaps tried and failed to win the rail position from Nashua. Later in the race, Ellsworth said, "he made three tries trying to run, but it was stinging him so bad." To a circle of watchers from the press, Ellsworth and Tenney pointed out a tender spot on the sole of Swaps's hoof suggesting a small area of inflammation in the pulpy interior.
For a day or two reconsiderations spread, taking on an edge of rancor. Columnists of racing's bible, The Morning Telegraph, chose up sides. One of them, California-based Oscar Otis, flatly declared Nashua's victory "hollow." Another, Easterner Evan Shipman, coldly assessed the stories from the California camp as "a campaign of excuses designed to disparage Nashua and to whitewash the tarnished reputation of their colt."
Rex Ellsworth was as distressed as anybody by the uproar. He said he had never alibied for a horse in his life and never would—adding: "If I had an alibi for this race, which I don't, I'd feel a lot better."
When the match race takes its place in racing's history books, the fundamentalists will almost inevitably give decisive weight to the circumstance mentioned by Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons elsewhere in this issue: over an off track (in patches slow) Nashua and Swaps raced together at killing early speed: five-eighths of a mile in 58 seconds, three-quarters of a mile in 1:10 2/5—two seconds faster than Swaps's time at the same point in the Kentucky Derby over a fast track. Then Nashua began to lengthen his lead. Fundamentalists are likely to conclude that if the speeding Swaps was bothered by his tenderness it was not until Nashua had all but settled the affair with his own speed.
Meanwhile, as Owner Woodward and Trainer Fitzsimmons led their 3-year-old champion back East for a fall season of tests at long distances (up to two miles) against older horses, the handsome Swaps was being headed for rest and, if necessary, an operation on his sore foot back home in California.