A quick look—or even a careful study—of the form on the 12 horses entered in last week's mile-and-a-half Man o' War Stakes at Belmont showed nothing at all in favor of Beau Purple. This 5-year-old son of Beau Gar had just shipped in from Chicago, where he won the Hawthorne Gold Cup on a sloppy dirt track. He had never set foot on a grass track (over which the Man o' War is run) until two days before the race. He had never—on any sort of track—attempted to race 12 furlongs and, finally, the last time he had met up with the likes of Kelso and Carry Back he had been soundly trounced—by 13 lengths and 19 lengths, respectively.
All these items, plus the presence in the field of such proven turf performers as The Axe, Wise Ship, T.V. Lark and a pair of invading French runners, contributed to the fact that Beau Purple went off on this nippy afternoon at odds of 20 to 1. Everyone present (including me) had overlooked a few things. Among them: Beau Purple, who runs in the orange and blue silks of mutual investment fund wizard Jack Dreyfus Jr., is trained by still another young wizard, 32-year-old Allen Jerkens, and is ridden by Bill Boland. This combination already had pulled off some remarkable feats this season. Beau Purple beat both Kelso and Carry Back in the Suburban (SI, July 16) and then came back and whipped Carry Back again in the Brooklyn to account for two-thirds of New York's tough handicap triple-crown races. In those two events he carried 11 pounds less than Carry Back; in the Suburban, 17 less than Kelso. On Saturday all three carried 126 pounds. Only the 3-year-olds and Honey Dear had allowances.
When Trainer Jerkens, a conscientious and painfully shy young man, sent Beau Purple onto the Belmont grass for the first time last Thursday, he liked what he saw. "The horse acted natural on it," Jerkens said. "He moved well, and I had to give him a chance in the big race. I think, after all, that a horse either runs very well naturally on grass or he doesn't. No amount of training will 'make' a grass horse if he doesn't have the natural aptitude for it from the beginning." Possibly Jerkens, who has shown signs of becoming one of the top trainers of his generation, has now proved the theory.
On Saturday, Beau Purple made the Man o' War look like a romp through Central Park—and a fast romp at that. Breaking with dazzling speed, as he always does, he blazed away on the lead, and none of his 11 opponents was able to catch him at any stage of the race on the soft turf. He beat Kelso at the wire by two lengths, setting a track mark of 2:28[3/5].
It was a remarkably clean race, too. First Wise Ship and the American filly Honey Dear tried to stay up close, and then Kelso, The Axe and Carry Back all gave it a try. None of these runs at him bothered Beau Purple in the slightest. Boland whacked him a couple of times as insurance and, after he led Kelso by only a half length after a mile and a quarter, he drew away magnificently in the run to the wire.
Were there any excuses for the 11 losers? Not really. Kelso, who had looked so impressive in winning the two-mile Jockey Club Gold Cup only the previous week, isn't the same horse on turf. And Carry Back, who this time was sent off at the realistic odds of 9 to 1, just isn't going to be a factor at any distance above a mile and a quarter, as people have been telling his owner-trainer, Jack Price, for some time now. Carry Back wound up fifth, beaten nearly 12 lengths, or twice as much as he was beaten while finishing 10th in the recent Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Before the race Price was supremely confident. (Isn't he always?) "I still think Carry Back is a mile-and-a-half horse," he said. "Some people don't. Today we'll see. One thing I do know is that after all the yakking I did in Paris about losing the Arc because of Scobie Breasley's ride, I've either got to beat those two French horses today or send Breasley a telegram of apologies."
Trouble for the French
Price didn't have to send any telegrams, for the French 3-year-olds weren't much of a factor, either. Monade, the fine filly who had won the English Oaks in June and had finished second in Paris, beaten only a length by Soltikoff, was dead last. And Val de Loir, winner of the French Derby and third in the Arc, managed to beat only Nasomo and Monade. Val de Loir, a habitual come-from-behind horse, broke badly and never gave it much of a run at any time. The French were given a choice of starting from our mechanical gate or from outside the gate, and both camps chose the former. Monade actually had a perfect start and was right in the hunt for the first seven furlongs. But Jockey Maurice Larraun managed to get the filly into a little trouble, and once into it he couldn't get out. On the backstretch Monade ran up on Wise Ship's heels and was then quickly trapped on the inside. When Larraun tried to take her out he had to check at least twice. At that point, when he still failed to get loose, he just sat there, as foreign riders are apt to do when they see they have no chance at the purse. The filly simply gave up the fight.
The results of the Man o' War—which brought together probably the best handicap field of the year on any track—are important in evaluating our racing season for several reasons. The most obvious, of course, is that in Beau Purple we have a very substantial candidate to challenge Kelso for Horse of the Year honors. I'm afraid Carry Back, who had earned consideration also, ran himself out of the running on Saturday. He was only three lengths away from the lead after a mile and a quarter—but a Horse of the Year must be able to run on, at least another two furlongs.
Beau Purple won't win the title on Saturday's race alone. He surely will receive an invitation to the Washington D.C. International at Laurel on November 12, and if he beats Kelso again in that race, he automatically will become champion. Should it be Kelso, that will be the third time in three years for Mrs. Richard du Pont's brilliant gelding. Carry Back is going in this week's Trenton Handicap at Garden State. Then he, too, may be in the International.