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"The richest race ever contested by Thoroughbreds, or any other animals, for that matter—worth a fantastic $357,250—was run off at Arlington Park last week, and it was hardly earth-shattering news, in this year of the foul claim, that the little men were at it once again. Nor was it much of a surprise that the little man in the middle of the postrace muddle was that celebrated organizer of mayhem, Manuel Ycaza, who has spent so much time on the ground that he might easily be mistaken for a member of the Panamanian walking team.
This time Manuel, who got off comparatively lightly for a frivolous claim of foul in the Preakness (SI, May 28), was hit with all the artillery the Illinois Racing Board could drag into the film patrol room: 60 days for another "frivolous claim" and his outright accusation that the three-horse Rex Ellsworth entry had ganged up to see that he and Never Bend would not be first to the wire and to the winner's share of $142,250. The suspension was stiff, but so was Ycaza's accusation.
Ellsworth's entry of Candy Spots, Space Skates and Big Kim was the second choice in the race to Captain Harry F. Guggenheim's Never Bend. Ellsworth and Trainer Mish Tenney knew that all three of them were good, but didn't know how good until they faced Never Bend, the Easterner with the best reputation to date. Space Skates and Big Kim had been nominated originally for the rich Arlington-Washington Futurity (at seven furlongs), but Candy Spots, a rough chestnut, developed slowly in California this year, and Ellsworth decided to leave the colt home on the ranch when he shipped east to Chicago. He changed his mind at the last minute, however, and, once at Arlington, decided to put Willie Shoemaker aboard the big long-quartered youngster. (He is by Nigromante out of the Khaled mare Candy Dish.) Shoe won two races with Candy Spots, and as Futurity time drew near Willie told Ellsworth, "If I had my choice of horses in the big race Ed take Candy Spots." On Shoemaker's opinion, Ellsworth wrote a check for $25,000 and made the chestnut a supplementary nomination.
"The strategy for the race wasn't really complicated at all," said Ellsworth after the Futurity. "Big Kim was to stay with the pace. Space Skates was to take back off the pace. As for Candy Spots, there was only one way to ride him. He's a slow starter, and if he runs at all he'll come from way out of it."
In the race, the Ellsworth team operated just about as they had planned. At the start Jet Traffic and Rash Prince sped to the front. Ycaza and Never Bend were right behind them. Big Kim quickly moved up with Never Bend—nicely locked on the outside of him, as a matter of fact. Space Skates was in the middle of the pack, and Candy Spots, who was last away from the gate, also suffered from being pinched back almost immediately. At this point Shoemaker had 12 horses in front of him.
Moving around the far turn, at just about the three-and-a-half-furlong pole, Ycaza and Never Bend were ready to make their serious challenge for the lead. But Henry Moreno, aboard Big Kim, came over and as they did so they made sure that Ycaza was kept on the rail. There he stayed for a few precious seconds, long enough, in Ycaza's opinion, to persuade him that he was being victimized. In a moment, sure enough, Big Kim fell back and Ycaza took to the outside and went to the front entering the stretch. But the precious lost seconds back there on the rail might have been critical, for now here came Candy Spots, on the outside of everything, eating up ground in magnificent long strides. They were even at the eighth pole and went together a 16th of a mile before Candy Spots gradually drew away to win by half a length.
Ycaza immediately claimed foul against Big Kim, on the grounds that he had no racing room on the turn. After hearing Manuel's complaint the board decided to give him one of racing's severest penalties. "He maintained," said Steward Ted Atkinson, "that the purpose of the entry was to hurt him at the three-and-a-half-furlong pole. Big Kim, he said, came over and hurt him."
"It's absolutely preposterous," said Rex Ellsworth.
Preposterous it may have been, but the penalty, in the light of what the patrol film showed, seems slightly unjustified to me. There is no question that Big Kim moved Never Bend to the rail and kept him there awhile—but was this intentional or was it racing luck, which often plays such an important part in any horse race? My own opinion is that Ycaza was right to claim foul, and if so he cannot be guilty of frivolous action. At the same time, I don't believe Big Kim's crowding cost Never Bend the race. Finally, I don't think Ycaza should have been grounded for 60 days, or one-fifth of a race-riding year.
The hullabaloo over the foul claim took some of the glitter away from the great show put on by track owner Marje Lindheimer Everett (SI, August 20). However, the unmistakable fact emerged that undefeated Candy Spots, who seems to get stronger as the distances increase, is at least one of the best 2-year-olds in the country, if not the best. His opposition at the moment looks spotty. At Atlantic City last week Rambunctious won the World's Playground Stakes, but the day before at Aqueduct the Hopeful winner. Outing Class, turned in a poor show in finishing next to last. There may be some exceptional 2-year-olds lurking in somebody's barn, but for the moment I'd say Candy Spots is the best of the bunch, with Never Bend second—by just about half a length.