Apparently the reasoning used by the public to make Swaps the favorite was based on two premises—he had won the Kentucky Derby and his times had been faster than Nashua's. The public can't seem to fathom that while the Kentucky Derby is a wonderful show, as a true test of horses it is a joke more often than not. This has to be for several reasons. It is run much too early in the year and secondly it is a mad scramble more often than it is a truly run race....
The public seems to be equally in the dark about time. Thus no consideration was given to the fact that Swaps's "sensational" times were made on the California tracks. The poor public doesn't realize that California's tracks have been souped up out there to enable the horses to post sensational times and thereby presumably prove they are better than the eastern horses. So, the suckers turn out to see these world-record breakers and assorted wonder-speed horses for whom excuses invariably have to be made once they get out of the Golden State.
Now we hear that Swaps injured himself right after the start of the race. If this is true, then Shoemaker must be characterized as malicious for having forced a horse that had injured itself to run a mile and a quarter; he should have pulled the horse up. Of course, if Shoemaker didn't know when the horse was hurt (assuming for the moment he was), then how can anyone be sure he hurt himself at the start, in the middle of the race, or a stride before he reached the wire? Swaps may never be the same again as the result of his race with Nashua but if he isn't, it will be for the same reason that John P. Grier wasn't after his classic race with Man o' War.
But, try to tell the man in the street that the horse who won the Kentucky Derby isn't the country's best (with the possible exception of that one out in California who just ran a mile in 1:23 or some such absurd time). He just won't believe you until that day arrives when Barnum's famous expression no longer is true. And, that's why the smart boys took Nashua at 9-5 in the Caliente Futures Book.
? California tracks do indeed have a phenomenal record for speed. All seven world records in these most commonly run distances have been set in California since the end of World War II:
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]
Still, Swaps has turned in some fast times on both his trips outside California. He ran the Kentucky Derby in 2:01 4/5, tying for fourth fastest time in the Derby's mile-and-a-quarter history; and he broke the Washington Park turf course record for a mile and three sixteenths (and tied the American record) with 1:54 3/5 in the American Derby at Chicago.—ED.
LIGHT ON THOSE CONTRADICTIONS
My congratulations on the Swaps-Nashua story (SI, Sept. 12) which I have just read. It is superb reporting and answers every question that I, as a man who reported races from the press box for 10 years, would have asked after viewing the race on TV and reading the contradictory comments in the press. It is couched in the lucid and simple language which I thought had all but disappeared from sports writing too. A very, very superior job from every standpoint.
That was a masterful piece of horse reporting...Finely done, particularly the paragraph where you reported the battle scream of Arcaro as Nashua sprang from the gate. Swell.
CLARENCE P. WOODBURY
South Bend, Ind.
I am a bit disturbed by a number of recent communications in THE 19TH HOLE in regard to the brilliant articles by J. P. Marquand dealing with the difficulties of Happy Knoll Country Club.