- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
"A friend wanted to split some $2 tickets, so we used my figures and lost five straight races," the great trainer confessed. "We bet it all on the nose and we got skinned."
"Well, it proves you're a dead game sport, anyhow," someone suggested.
"Nope. It doesn't," Mr. Fitz shot back. "It means that today I don't know how to win at horses."
A few minutes later the majority of the 25,000 witnesses of the Florida Derby were in the same boat. For they bet on Bold Ruler against the Jones boys of Calumet, and they saw Eddie Arcaro aboard Bold Ruler suddenly look like he was fighting an octopus in a steamer trunk. Eddie and the Wheatley star simply were overwhelmed by the artful manner in which Gen. Duke and Iron Liege, ridden by Willie Hartack and Dave Erb, came and went and came again in the last half mile of the bitter battle, to furnish stark drama seldom equaled in horse racing.
Without doubt, we also witnessed the birth of a solid favorite for the Kentucky Derby next month. Gen. Duke won the Florida Derby in 1:46 and 4/5, equaling the world record for a mile and one-eighth, although there was some reason to suspect Iron Liege could have won it had Erb not chosen to hammer Bold Ruler whilst his partner, Hartack, went to the outside in the stretch for running room.
The Joneses—Ben, the old hand at winning around Louisville, and Jimmy, his son and no less a trainer—have packed up their " Kentucky division" and are moving into Lexington. They left their older horses and a few spares to mop up what was left of Florida's gold, but what was left didn't amount to much. For Calumet had walloped the exchequers at Tropical Park, Hialeah and Gulfstream for an astounding $515,855—without doubt the greatest haul by any racing stable in history for a comparable period.
By Derby time, incidentally, Barbizon also should be right and ready to try for Calumet's sixth and Ben's seventh victory at Churchill Downs. "We'll give him a taste of that blue grass and see what happens," Jimmy said. "There wasn't any need to push him too fast in Florida...."
There certainly wasn't. Had Barbizon been a third party to Calumet's trial of Bold Ruler, Arcaro probably would be snapping at chair legs now.
Gen. Duke outbroke the others at the start but made no effort to retain the lead, as Federal Hill dashed for the front, with Arcaro moving Bold Ruler quickly yet in no real hurry into second position around the clubhouse turn—but Gen. Duke wasn't as modest here as expected. He stuck close to the leaders.