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This has been a long year for horse racing, almost a dreadfully long year. In 10 months 43 races with purses of $100,000 or more have skipped past, settling little except for a few debts here and there. For the average racing patron there were few bright moments and fewer real memories. There was no Native Dancer, no Tom Fool, no Nashua, no Swaps, no Gallant Man, no Tim Tarn.
Yet could it possibly be that Racing 1959 saved its good wine until the very last? Could it be that on one dreary, wet afternoon in New York and New Jersey two runners came forth to project themselves into 1960 with their banners waving on high?
The demonstration given by Sword Dancer in the Jockey Club Gold Cup certainly makes him one of The Ones, the handicap horse to watch next season. And Warfare's win in the Garden State in New Jersey may establish this charcoal-gray son of Determine as one of the shortest-priced Kentucky Derby favorites in years.
Warfare came east but a month ago, after a rather mild career in California, where he won only three races. His owner, Clifton Jones, thought he saw some spark in the horse, however, and hoped that Trainer Hack Ross could build a flame from it. On October 5 at Aqueduct, Jones supplemented Warfare to the Cowdin. Cost to supplement and start: $1,500. Result: victory. Profit: $44,195. Twelve days later Warfare was supplemented to the Champagne, the richest race ever run in New York. Cost: $11,000. Result: victory. Prof it: $139,195. Last week Warfare went after the Garden State, the world's richest race. Cost: $12,000. Result: the same. Profit: $157,845. Meanwhile, the public started taking Warfare seriously. As the races got longer the odds got shorter. In the Cowdin he was 10 to 1, in the Champagne 2 to 1 and in the Garden State 6 to 5.
Unlike the other nine Garden State starters, except Tompion, Warfare had never been over an off track, and the surface for the Garden State came up sloppy. Standing by his barn in the morning Hack Ross said, "I don't know, but he doesn't seem to me to be the type of horse that has to carry his race track around with him. When he runs he doesn't hit down hard; he sort of skims along the top of the track, and to me that means that he should like a sloppy course. Of course, you never really know until the race is run."
Three hours before the race Jimmy Pitt, the trainer of Bally Ache, was chatting about his horse and the weather. "Mud," he said, "moves my horse way up. He loves any type of bad surface. I hope it rains. I'm going to have his rider, Bobby Ussery, send him to the front and let the field try to catch him."
Bally Ache went to the front right from the gate, curving into the first turn a little more than a length ahead of his field. After six furlongs he had a bit more than that length, with Warfare's jockey, Ismael (Milo) Valenzuela, who was sitting in second place, measuring him. At the head of the stretch Warfare started wearing Bally Ache down, and he went by him at the eighth pole. Bally Ache tried to hold on, but at the 16th pole there was no longer any doubt. It was Warfare, driving, but drawing off.
In the jockeys' room afterward, Valenzuela smiled and wiped his muddy countenance. "The world's richest race," he said. "The world's richest race! Milo won it. Do you remember this race in 1955? My brother, Angel, rode the winner, Prince John. The race has been run seven times, and twice the Valenzuelas have won it. Twice! Angel is in California, and I shall go out there on Monday." (Warfare will be shipped there, too, to be readied for the major 3-year-old races at Santa Anita before the Derby.)
"Are there any other Valenzuelas riding?" he was asked.
"Yes," he said. "There is my other brother, Albino. Maybe next year he will win the world's richest race."