While Perret was riding to glory in Louisville, McGaughey was struggling through the worst period of his career as trainer for the Ogden Phipps family. First, all of the Phippses' top 3-year-olds suffered setbacks that kept them out of the Triple Crown. Then an injury forced Easy Goer to be retired to stud.
Even so, McGaughey never gave up on Rhythm. After the colt's breathing difficulties were corrected in March, Rhythm finished fifth in the Gotham at Aqueduct, then won two races in a row. But just when McGaughey thought he was on the right track with the colt, Rhythm finished second in the Dwyer Stakes at Belmont, after bearing out at the top of the stretch. McGaughey then decided to put blinkers on the colt for the Haskell at Monmouth, only to have him finish third after hustling into contention at the top of the stretch.
"After the Haskell, I figured that Rhythm was a galloping type of horse," said McGaughey. "The races we had won this year were ones in which he had seemed hopelessly beaten. So I decided that I wouldn't mind seeing him eight or 10 lengths out of it, then getting into contention himself instead of letting the jock do it for him."
When the horses broke from the gate on Saturday, Perret followed the plan and took Rhythm far off the pace. And when he turned him loose, the colt began a sustained drive that carried him inexorably to the lead. "He pretty much drove those horses into the ground, instead of making a sensational move," said McGaughey. Go and Go finished seventh, some nine lengths behind the winner and a nose ahead of Thirty Six Red.
After the races were over, Perret refused to compare Rhythm, Housebuster and Unbridled. He made it clear, however, that he had gotten a ton of satisfaction from Rhythm's performance. "It wasn't a question of whether he had the talent or not," Perret said. "We knew it was there. Today he just finally put it together."