- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
THE DANCER'S TROUBLE, in the simplest sense, was a bruise deep in his right forefoot—something like stone bruises suffered by humans. When he pulled up lame after a workout at Belmont Park last May, his people were torn almost equally between fear and hope. X rays showed he had suffered no broken bones. But it seemed quite possible that the big gray's plunging, bruising power was simply too much for his delicate thoroughbred underpinning and that the deep-chested, heavythewed mechanism of his amazing body—some of the very qualities of his greatness—might be proving his undoing. He had already suffered (and recovered from) a similar injury to his left forefoot.
But few horses ever foaled had Native Dancer's will to run and win, and few ever had a personality so communicable to humans. The fact that Alfred Vanderbilt and Trainer Bill Winfrey eventually began to feel that the big horse would return to the track was due in no small part to the Dancer himself. His period of treatment was necessarily slow and long, but the Dancer showed every sign of enjoying the whole process immensely.
He ate hay luxuriously while taking a hot morning foot bath and seemed much more confident of recovery than did the hundreds of anxious humans who sent him "get well" cards. He never boggled-at standing for hours every day with his foot bound up in the clumsy poultice. His sleeping habits remained unchanged—he consented to lie down for only about five hours out of 24, although he took lazy cat naps while standing up.
When he began training again at Belmont on July 1 he seemed a little reluctant to abandon his life of ease, but he prospered nevertheless. He began galloping after two weeks of easy trotting and did so with the same eyecatching, nerve-tingling air of power and command which had made millions of people regard him with an odd mixture of admiration, and (though he was only a horse) envy. When he won the Oneonta Stakes by nine lengths, Owner Vanderbilt began plans to send him to France to conquer new worlds.
Last week, as he trained at Saratoga, the Dancer seemed to be bursting with energy and a lust for excitement. Even after long workouts he bucked and sidled, and had to be gentled before consenting to go to the stables. Then, over the weekend he ran a mile and three-eighths under an exercise rider and pulled up lame—undone, again by his own magnificent strength. It was announced at once that the track would see him no more. "There appears to be no other choice," said Vanderbilt. "He will not race again and will enter stud at Sagamore Farm in Maryland next spring." The Dancer's day of glory was done—but he would now reap his reward—ease, shade and plenty of oats.
Trouble in paradise
THE RUSSIANS, putting more and more emphasis on sport as a medium of propaganda, are running into difficulties which Western fans will recognize, and one other which is peculiar to the Soviet culture.
Item: Ticket scalpers. Soviet Sport, a Moscow contemporary, complains speculators have been making 600% on big sporting events with almost no interference from police.
Item: Drunks. The Ministry of Trade has closed down vodka stands at some stadiums in an effort to control a problem which has reached staggering proportions.