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Frozen followers of the species Thoroughbred were left with two positive impressions after 147,204 of them struggled through the snow and sleet of the first six days of the long New York flat-racing season. One of these is that if the sport must be started as early as March 21 the state's dream park known as the Big A (for Aqueduct) should—in keeping with its scrubby, barren winter wonderland motif—be rechristened the Big I (for Igloo).
The second, and no doubt more lasting, impression was thoroughly heart-warming. For Clifton S. Jones's Warfare, the California-bred colt who turned in such spectacular performances last fall that he popped up as the unanimous 2-year-old champion, finally made his long-awaited eastern debut in a campaign designed to lead him arduously through the Triple Crown events. Before Warfare stepped out for last Saturday's six-furlong Swift Stakes there were a few doubting Thomases who figured that after a two-and-a-half-month layoff Warfare wouldn't be up to the task of beating such seasoned sprinters as Francis S. and Greek Page, who were among his seven rivals.
When it was over there was Warfare winning with ridiculous ease and setting his third Aqueduct track record (this one was 1:09 [3/5]). Many oldtimers couldn't remember the day when any colt had come up with a better seasonal New York debut than this.
Warfare was the object of considerable concern at Santa Anita this winter. His training was interrupted by a fever in December, and when he made his first 1960 start on January 6 he was upset by T. V. Lark. Then Jones announced that Warfare would henceforth be trained by Bill Winfrey, in order to allow his own trainer, Hack Ross, time to devote to managing the rest of the Jones farm and stable.
Winfrey, now trainer of a public stable after many years of service with Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, recognized in Warfare the same potential that he once saw in another gray colt he trained. The other's name: Native Dancer.
Two months later he and Jockey Eddie Arcaro (who will ride Warfare this year) are both highly pleased. "He's a colt," says Winfrey, "who does everything just right—and so easily, too. How does he compare now to Native Dancer? I honestly think he may have the potential to be as great."
With Warfare now the solid Derby favorite among horses in New York, and Tompion (winner of the Santa Anita Derby) the logical choice among the colts heading directly to Keeneland, the Florida-based 3-year-olds get their final major test in this week's $100,000-added Florida Derby (a mile and an eighth) at Gulfstream. In last week's Fountain of Youth, Llangollen Farm's Eagle Admiral, a new arrival from California, wore down Bally Ache in the stretch and beat him a length. The last horse to beat Bally Ache in a prep race was E. P. Taylor's Victoria Park, before the Flamingo. We'll see if Bally Ache can turn the tables again.
Right now it appears that victory for the son of Ballydam in the Florida Derby might be considerably tougher to pull off than it was in the Flamingo, where his opposition all took back and let him romp away with the big pot.
The field will include Victoria Park and—another one to watch—Venetian Way. If Hillsborough goes for Calumet this son of Ponder should not be taken lightly.