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The time comes in the annual racing calendar when, quite suddenly, the names we have heard so often through the year tend to lose some of their noteworthiness. That point comes at the end of August, and the only possible reason why we can momentarily put from our thoughts such, for instance, as Swaps, Nashua, Bobby Brocato, Needles, Fabius, Swoon's Son and others, as familiar as they are successful, is that standing in the wings of racing's coast-to-coast stage is a spanking new cast of nervous characters, waiting breathlessly to be introduced. They are the 2-year-olds.
The awakening of interest in Thoroughbred 2-year-olds at the end of each summer is a unique sporting phenomenon. In most sports the youngster who is finally given his chance on center stage gets there with a respectable past performance chart in his traveling bag. The rookie who shows up at a major league spring training camp points with pride to his record in the minors. The varsity football hero often turns out to be the same young man who was also an all-state high school hero.
But 2-year-olds are unknown quantities on the verge of fame. They approach the crucial month of August bursting with spirit and energy while their owners and breeders tag along behind feeling like the parents of a boy acting in a first-grade play: they just hope he'll do all right.
There is no way on earth of predicting with any certainty before a horse gets to the races how he'll turn out. Perfect conformation and the most fashionable breeding are no more than important clues. Competition is the only test, and it is in August that the competition begins to get truly tough. Between now and late November the speed sprinters will be forgotten. The champion will be a colt who has proved his ability to go a distance of ground and who will be conceded the best chance of winning next year at distances up to a mile and a half.
Where is that champion going to come from? Most of the East's leading juveniles are at Saratoga, long a traditional testing ground for 2-year-olds, while the Midwest's best, now joined by a few good invaders from California, are running in Chicago.
The safest way to find your best 2-year-old is to look for the best breeding among the young colts and fillies who also have some performance to their credit. The candidates to date come quickly to mind: Bold Ruler, Cohoes, California Kid, Greek Game, Lucky Mel, King Hairan, Clem, Lucky Dip, Nearctic, Beauguerre, Nashville, Leallah, Amarullah, Thin Ice, Alanesian, Miss Blue Jay and many more besides.
Bold Ruler, winner of all five of his races, is a son of Nasrullah (the sire of Nashua) out of a Discovery mare—a combination of bloodlines it is nearly impossible to fault. The colt, trained by Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons for the Wheatley Stables ( Mrs. Henry Carnegie Phipps) is a little lengthier and lighter than Nashua at the same age but, like Nashua, he shows some of the unpredictable Nasrullah temperament.
"He's really the nicest horse in the world to train," says Mr. Fitz, "but in his races he likes to loaf a bit. He's not a sulker, just a loafer."
Unfortunately Bold Ruler won't get back into action with the rest of the East's top colts in this week's 6�-furlong Hopeful at Saratoga. He has not entirely recovered from a strained back muscle and a slight injury to his left rear hock, so Mr. Fitz has decided to keep him away from the races until the Belmont Futurity on October 13.
The mention of King Hairan, the Florida-bred son of King's Stride out of Lady Hairan, who races in the colors of Leo Ed wards, actually constitutes a contradiction of the general theory that unfashionable parents do not produce a good horse. Turf Authority Evan Shipman recently summed it up perfectly when he pointed out that King Hairan is one who makes his own pedigree, so to speak: he stands or falls by what he does rather than by what the stud book says he ought to do. So far he's been doing just fine, although twice beaten by Bold Ruler. But this week in the Hopeful, instead of meeting Bold Ruler for the third time, he'll be going up against a new number by the name of Cohoes.