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If it was a mile-and-a-quarter race I'd say he should be even money against this field.
"He's so relaxed I wonder if he's flirting with a French filly while my men are out drinking champagne at night.
"He won the Monmouth Handicap on Bastille Day but lost the Suburban on the Fourth of July, so we figured he might like France better than America."
The speaker, of course, is portly, forthright Jack Price who is in France training his plucky brown colt Carry Back—or le crock Carry Back, as the French press calls him—for Sunday's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. This mile-and-a-half turf classic at Longchamp has earned the reputation over 40 years for being one of the most demanding among many great European races.
Jack and Katherine Price, Carry Back and his handlers Matt Reddy and Mike Flynn are already racing celebrities in France—a country where an owner with a good horse usually refuses to talk about it except to his close friends. French racing officials, being sportsmen of the old school, greeted the Price invasion with typical courtesy, though Price has occasionally felt that he might be getting a bum steer here and there and naturally spoke up and said so. "At first," says Katherine, "it wasn't that the French were giving us misinformation; it's just that they were giving us no information at all. They respect us and our horse, but they just don't want us to win."
A Frenchman who is not eager to see Carry Back win his country's most distinguished race seems natural enough. Despite this, the French racing press has covered the U.S. invaders as never before. Most racing writers in France never get to talk to an owner at all, and rarely do they bother to question a trainer, knowing perfectly well that it is usually a waste of time. However, they have discovered in the last fortnight that questioning Jack Price is anything but a waste of time. It is, as one of them put it, "Quelle expérience!"
Journeying out to the beautiful training-center village of Chantilly, where Carry Back spent his first 10 days as the guest of Trainer Alec Head, reporters were amazed at what they saw and heard. While Price was attempting to digest the financial page one morning last week, Carry Back was walking under a bright blue Gulfstream Park cooler, and photographers were poking their lenses in every direction.
"Are you nervous about this race?" asked one reporter.
"Why should I be, when I run for $100,000 every 10 days at home?" said Price. Officials got equally frank answers. When asked by the director of the training center whether his room at Chantilly's Hotel du Pare was comfortable, Price fired off something he*d been saving up all week. "The hotel was so cold that first night that I slept with my clothes on," he said. "Things were so bad the second night that Katherine and I had to bundle to keep warm."
All the talk, however, was not light-hearted and funny. As Price put the finishing touches on Carry Back's training, everyone in French racing gave serious study to the American's chances. Most trainers weren't telling Price anything and he was just as glad. "Good trainers don't give you advice anyway," he noted. "It's the self-appointed experts who try to louse you up by telling you a mess of different things to do."