People interested in racing 2-year-olds who can afford to wait until fall are becoming more numerous every year. By the same token, it isn't too often in recent seasons that the colts who were most highly thought of in August have held their reputations through October. Take last season as an example. Of today's leading 3-year-olds, a year ago on this date only Bold Ruler (who had established his class early in the season) was mentioned as the possible leader of his age. There was little talk of Iron Liege, Gen. Duke, Gallant Man and Round Table. But there was a lot of talk about King Hairan, Greek Game, California Kid, Cohoes, Prince Khaled. It would then seem that, if last season (and many other seasons too) have produced top older runners from among those who did nothing to distinguish themselves as 2-year-olds, there must surely be some hidden talent around this season too.
Some of it, as we have mentioned before, is hiding in the Calumet barns. One Calumet colt, Kentucky Pride, a Bull Lea out of Blue Delight, smothered his opposition in his only two starts. Two others, a Tom Fool colt named Tim Tarn and a Citation named Temple Hill, have earned the highest praise from Trainer Jimmy Jones even before their first starts. Still another is a full brother to Mark-Ye-Well named Seventy-Six, described as a monster in size but quick on his feet. Some of the other talent isn't exactly hiding but just has been a little slow in coming to hand. For instance, the two best 2-year-olds at Saratoga last month may have been a couple who never won a stake; one is Greentree's Prank, the other A.B. Hancock's Nadir. Prank is another Tom Fool (whose first crop also includes George Widener's Jester), and he looked very impressive in winning his first start, although, as Jockey Ted Atkinson was quick to point out afterwards, "Don't forget he was running with other maidens and you can't tell what he'll do against top opposition. However I will say that his ability to overcome difficulties (he was almost left at the gate) reminds me of Tom Fool, and there was never any hesitation about his getting rolling. After that I could have rated him with a shoestring." Greentree Trainer John Gaver, who is as patient a man with his horses as can be found on any race track today, likes Prank's wonderful disposition but is in no particular hurry to rush him into the tough races until he's ready. Another Tom Fool (out of Paddleduck) named Donald looks good to Gaver but, as John puts it, "He's a great big colt and is slow to come around. I think we'll probably wait with him till next year." A couple of other Greentrees worth keeping an eye on, however, are Turpitude, a chestnut son of Shut Out, and Fleagle, a son of Your Host.
Nadir must rank as the largest good 2-year-old in training. He is a bay son of Nasrullah, with a big bold eye and a good deal of his daddy's unpredictable temperament. One afternoon at Saratoga he unseated his rider on the way to the post and, once there, had the gate crew working overtime to keep him under control.
Among the other 2-year-olds who show signs of further development already are Sir Ruler, Hit The Trail, Fleet Feet, Crasher, Hip Hip Hurray, Whitley, Circle Lea, Disdainful, Nasco, Counterspy and Misty Flight. There are obviously many many more than those named here, but the trouble with trying to pick them out now is that more and more horsemen are employing the so-called "Calumet Pattern" in bringing along their young stock. It is said among racetrackers that Calumet is in favor of year-around 2-year-old racing—for everybody but themselves. The pattern is simple: sit back and let the other guy race (and often wear out) his 2-year-olds until you're ready to jump in at the end of the season and mop up the richest races. Calumet has always been cautious with their 2-year-olds. They bring them along with meticulous slowness, teaching each one individually rather than hurling him into too many early races to learn by experience. In California the trend is more in this direction now than ever before. Lou Rowan, president of the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association, was commenting on it just the other day. "If they [Californians] have a precocious colt bred for speed," he said, "they will run him. You had just as well get that money then. But if he gives an indication of going a distance, a lot of experienced horsemen are following Calumet's pattern of waiting." In looking at the over-all national picture, Jimmy Kilroe thinks that possibly one of the reasons California may be producing better horses (aside from the obvious fact that western breeding stock has improved so much in recent years) is that California has an ideal program for a man of patience. "After Hollywood Park and the two big 2-year-old stakes at Del Mar," he observes, "there's nothing much left for them out there, and owners have a perfect chance to wait and let their horses grow and develop before the tough 3-year-old season ahead. By contrast, in the East we have so many attractive 2-year-old fall stakes that there's no telling how many potentially top 3-year-olds are overworked too soon and thereby ruin whatever chance they might have had to turn into top classic contenders."
In the next few weeks the men who have waited long enough will join those who are trying to get the last bit of run out of already overworked young colts and fillies in a series of 2-year-old races with staggering financial possibilities. After the Belmont Futurity (at 6 l/2 furlongs on September 28) the distance stretches out: the Champagne at a mile, the Garden State and Pimlico Special at a mile and a sixteenth—and, for slightly lesser purses, the Remsen, Breeders Futurity and Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. A colt good enough to win three of these could take home up to $350,000.
Racing men have argued over the wisdom of trying to stretch a 2-year-old out to these longer distances. The points are good on both sides. Two seasons back the best fall 2-year-old distance runners were Prince John, Needles and Career Boy. Prince John was injured later, but both Needles and Career Boy went on and the next spring finished one-two in the mile-and-a-half Belmont Stakes. But now take last year, and for our example let's use the Garden State, Remsen, Pimlico Futurity (all at a mile and a sixteenth) and the one-mile Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. Of all the colts who finished in the first four positions in these four stakes only two this year have been able to run farther than one mile in creditable fashion. This fact obviously could be merely a combination of circumstances, but it can also stand as a pretty fair testimony to the fact that winning—or even placing—the richest distance races can hardly be an accurate yardstick by which to gauge the following year's form.
So the major fascination for the keen racegoer this fall should not be so much in envying the earnings of one or two get-rich-quick colts but rather in trying to pick the colt with the ability to win the 1958 classics. The best-bred and costliest products aren't always the best. Llangollen Farm's Rise 'n Shine, the $87,000 1956 yearling (most expensive yearling ever sold at auction in the U.S.) has yet to show top form. "Although he's got good action," says Eddie Arcaro, "you can't tell what he's got inside—where it counts." The overnight heroes are not always the lasting ones: last year Calumet's Barbizon won the richest race in the world and hasn't done a thing since.
But somewhere in the fields going postward during the next few weeks is another crop of Gallant Mans, Iron Lieges, Bold Rulers and Round Tables.
To find them could be expensive as well as difficult—but anyway will be a lot of fun.