Melvin Calvert, who trains a small stable of racehorses for Mrs. Frances A. Genter, is 4 feet 11 inches of ex-jockey hidden behind a permanent smile. Long ago he acquired the nickname of "Sunshine," and as a trainer he's had good reason to smile. He developed Rough'n Tumble, who won a Santa Anita Derby, and in 1959 Rough'n Tumble's daughter, My Dear Girl, won the Gardenia on her way to the 2-year-old filly championship.
But, above all, Sunshine Calvert is a realist, which makes him a rare specimen among horsemen. Last season, even after Mrs. Genter's In Reality—a Florida-bred by Intentionally out of My Dear Girl—won four out of seven races, including a victory over Successor in the Pimlico Futurity, Sunshine was not given to wild optimism. "We're not thinking about the classics yet," he said. "His breeding might suggest that a mile is his best distance, but we'll run him in the Florida stakes and see what happens."
The seven-furlong Hibiscus at Hialeah is the first of these tests for 3-year-olds aiming for the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes. Last week, when In Reality won it easily by two lengths over 13 mud-splattered rivals, it proved that the strong and blocky bay has lost none of the form that made him one of the half dozen best juveniles a year ago. It proved, too, that Sunshine Calvert is better than a green hand at handling winners: In Reality was the only runner in the field equipped with mud caulks to combat the slippery going.
This victory, at seven furlongs in the mud in January and in the fair time of 1:23 4/5, does not mean that everyone should immediately race to get down a winter book bet on In Reality for the Derby on May 6. What it does mean is that the colt will be a strong factor at Hialeah, at least until he tries going a mile and an eighth.
In the 32nd Hibiscus, In Reality simply bolted out of the gate, took the lead away from Flying Tackle almost immediately and then ran away from his field. Patrice Jacobs' Reason to Hail, who did nothing outstanding last year, came from way out of it to be second over Native Guile, with the Canadian-bred Cool Reception a respectable fourth." The biggest disappointment of all was George Widener's Bold Hour, who beat Successor in The Futurity last September and outran three other Phipps colts—Great Power, Top Bid and Disciplinarian—in the Hopeful at Saratoga. After running fourth into the far turn and taking a lot of mud in the face, Bold Hour chucked it and finally finished eighth. Another disappointment was Calumet Farm's Balouf—from the last crop of Bull Lea—who was fifth.
There is a likelihood that, with the possible exception of Bold Hour and one or two others, no classic winners came out in the rain on Hibiscus day. Dr. Fager, beaten only once last year (by Successor in the Champagne), had missed a couple of work days because of a minor blood infection and skipped the race. And the Phipps empire, trained by Eddie Neloy, sent out only a token entry in Great White Way. It was a real token: Great White Way finished 13th. Neloy has Successor on the grounds, but he is only at Hialeah to train and won't start until Aqueduct in the spring. Great Power will get his first start soon, while Bold Monarch lost his first race of the year on Hialeah's opening day to Calumet's Balouf and then barely beat an ordinary field at seven furlongs in an allowance race on the Hibiscus card.
The most impressive race during Hialeah's opening week was turned in by John Galbreath's first-time starter, Cup Race. A son of Sailor and Flower Bowl—which makes him a half brother to Graustark—Cup Race romped home by seven lengths. His next outing will probably be against In Reality and Dr. Fager in the Bahamas on Feb. 1, and then more will be known about all of them. Until then the smiles still belong to Sunshine.