- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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After the Sunset Handicap (in which Swaps broke the world record by one and three-fifths seconds) it was excitedly wired that Swaps had blasted Man o' War's mile-and-three-eighths mark en route to his victory. Allowing one-fifth of a second to a length, this meant the first five horses in the race surpassed or equaled the old time.
Soaring testimonials to Swaps's "all-time" greatness would come closer to acceptance after the consecration by a track like Belmont Park, which hopes to draw him and Nashua in the $75,000 Woodward Stakes or the two-mile Jockey Club Gold Cup this fall.
Then again this might not even be necessary. Horses are performing only over the tracks that managements give them, and progressive commercialization is the reason for the superfast tracks which threaten to create a new look in racing.
Long ago men must have sensed futility in their own quest for perfection and found expression for that hunger in the horse. The combination of heart, speed and stamina in a horse has always been their goal.
In the machine age there is really no pressure to maintain an old standard like stamina. It is sad that the giant-striding Italian, Ribot, has passed up an event like the classical two-and-one-half-mile Ascot Gold Cup in England in favor of the newer and shorter King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. This was a none too subtle salute to the new order of the day, "Speed...and more speed."
With our own tracks catering more and more slavishly to the new standards, the importance of stamina and heart in a horse are being lost sight of. We are robbing Thoroughbred breeding and racing of their oldest values. And that is deplorable.
Biggest names in racing, Leslie Combs II (left) and Rex Ellsworth were prominent figures at the Keeneland summer sale of yearlings in Lexington last week. Ellsworth was house guest of Combs, who heads syndicate owning Nashua, but hospitality didn't persuade him to sell Swaps to Combs. Plans for the great 4-year-olds: Swaps will be kept in training next year, while Nashua—who will probably not—may well have another clash with the California colt this fall. Other news from the three-day sale: bargains for buyers, and sales off 11% from last year. With owners absent and conservative-spending trainers doing most of the buying, the first two days of the 13th annual sale were marked by low prices. Total sales: 350 yearlings bringing $3,462,000, an average of $9,891. Combs realized the best average, selling nine for $362,000, including one filly for an all-time record figure of $63,000. Top price, $80,000, went to John D. Hertz for his chestnut colt by Nasrullah, paid by Californians, Mr. and Mrs. George Lewis.