Hillsdale, with Round Table at his flank, galloped leisurely off after the start, while Arcaro dropped in on the rail behind them to save ground. Back of him was Inside Tract, all alone and, for the first six furlongs, the object of considerable sympathy.
But suddenly, as the field neared the quarter pole and the crowd turned its frantic yell into deafening full volume, the race took on a different look. Shoemaker started challenging Hillsdale, and at the same moment Arcaro let out a notch on Sword Dancer. He looked to the front of him and was ready to take to the outside for his stretch run. He had no way of knowing that what the crowd was yelling most hysterically about was poor forgotten Inside Tract, who, under Ray Broussard, had let loose a jetlike run and in a flash had come up on Arcaro's outside, blocking any move he might have wanted to make to the outside and putting him, for a moment, in a blind switch from which there was no immediate escape.
At that second, however—and it is a second that Tommy Barrow will never forget—Hillsdale was taking the final turn. He took it just too wide, for with the speed of a cobra striking for its life Arcaro shot Sword Dancer through the opening on the rail. He jumped Hillsdale's heels to make it, and just did.
THE REAL BATTLE
Now came the race. Four of them were in a tight pack for a fleeting instant before Inside Tract fell back. Next it was Round Table's turn to falter, down around the eighth pole, and then there were two, riding knee-to-knee in a savage and brutal duel. Inside the sixteenth pole Arcaro switched his whip to his left hand and cracked it with authority. Sword Dancer did what he knows how to do: he responded with the gut-busting courage that marks a champion and, digging in once more, he poked his chestnut head in front.
No excuse was found for Hillsdale, and he need seek none, although it is true that Barrow admitted he never knew Arcaro was cutting to his inside until he saw Sword Dancer's head beside him, and then it was too late. As for Round Table, Shoemaker said he liked the track fine but just had no finishing kick at all. "Could be," suggested Willie, "that his race the previous week, when he carried 136 pounds, took too much out of him."
Be that as it may, Sword Dancer and Brookmeade Stable won their championship the hard way last week, and it was a deserving one at that. As for Arcaro, he's been a champion all along anyway. Remember when he once said, "I really believe I have my best judgment when the money is hanging up there"? Anyone who wasn't convinced then should have been at Aqueduct for the 1959 Woodward Stakes.