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I . . ♦ • — . Fletcher, Owner of Nullify, Hits Proposed Tax Measure e i Z f " s " * | - " - : r * - - [ * j 1 ■ * ; - ■■ Without Deductible Losses Yearling Prices Would Drop To Sad Figures of 7 94 7 or 42 By EVAN SHIPMAN Staff Correspondent NEW YORK, N. Y., May 19.— Nullify, horsemen, agree, was cut out to be one of our best three-year-olds this season, and the little dark brown colt was going to face the starter in one of his major engage-1 ments— the Swift Stakes at Belmont Park — the day Phantom Farms owner, Walter Fletcher, finally fitted a talk with your cor- respondent into his busy schedule as one of New Yorks leading lawyers. • "Play hookey this afternoon, and come out to Belmont and see the colt run," we suggested. "Nullify won his last at Jamaica. Hes rounding to his best form now, and it would be a shame for you to miss watching him tangle with the good ones." We were sitting in Fletchers Broad I Street office, with its rolled top desk, old fashioned iron safe in the corner and rac-[ ing and hunting prints on the walls which seemed to be an unconscious, protest against the sterile, impersonal business world of today. It reflected the "up-state" character of the small town professional man, who has no wish to forget his roots and early training in Ogdensburg, even though Fletchers legal career has now made him a national rather a local figure, and the varied interests that he represents ; cover as wide a field as this countrys in- dustry. Always a Horseman "No," Fletcher answered. "You tempt me, but Im not going to allow myself to be persuaded. But, busy as I am these days, it is not the press of work that keeps me from going with you to Belmont. For a lawyer, I am going to give you a reply that has nothing to do with reason— supposed to be our strong point— but one that any horseman will appreciate. And I flatter myself " he said, "That I have always been a horseman, as well as a lawyer. "The fact is that I am not going out to watch Nullify in the Swift because the little fellow has never yet won a race when I have been in the stands, and I do not want to jinx him or Johnny Lawrence, his trainer. I want, them both to have every break in this stake, and when Im on hand, I seem to bring the combination bad luck." As a postscript to the expectations entertained by us both, it must be admitted that Nullify was soundly trounced a couple of hours later in the Swift, finishing fourth to Hal Price Headleys mammoth Jumbo and last seasons champion juvenile, Battlefield, fought it out in a race that threatened Coaltowns brilliant time record for the stake. "Much as I like to see my horses run in the afternoon," Fletcher said, "My chief pleasure is at -Belmont Park in the early mornings. I go out and watch Lawrence work the stable, and that is the high point of my day. When I. was a boy in Ogdensburg, I was always tinkering with the trotters and pacers. Everybody with a drop of sporting blood in their veins had a little speed in their stable in those days, and that all comes back to me now when Lawrence and I watch my small string of thoroughbreds taking their workouts on the Island." Harrimans Attorney "I would race trotters today," Fletcher continued, "if there was a chance to balance the books with a stable at the end of the year. Unfortunately, however, an owner cannot make ends meet racing for the • purses they offer on the harness turf. I am Roland Harrimans attorney, and I am his ] assistant as president of the Red Cross. I -suppose Harriman has as fine a stable of trotters as any in the country, and yet it is ■ only something like three years in the last quarter century that his operations as breeder and owner have been out of the 1 red. "Harriman, of course, is a wealthy man, but we professional people must receive a fair return for what we put into the sport, J Otherwise, we would not be able to race ] horses at all. I am much worried about the ] new interpretation of the income tax laws, . where racing is concerned, and I hear that n people in my own category may soon be n unable to purchase yearlings or continue 1 our modest breeding operations. Very j shortly, we may be faced with a situation « where everybody connected with the sport, *" with the exception of the racing associa- n ■ tions, will be forced to operate under a loss 1 that cannot be shouldered. "If we small owners are not allowed to make , deductions from our income tax for j ] losing years, the average price for yearlings ] may drop to the sad figures of 1941 F Continued on Page Thirty WALTER FLETCHER - Fletcher, Owner of Nullify, Hits Proposed Tax Measure Continued from Page Three or 42. We small owners, professional men, like myself, may be forced out of the game. And that at a time when racing associations everywhere are more successful than ever before. Frankly, I am. seriously worried about the future. "The point is," Fletcher told us, "that a great many professional men, and men of affairs, conduct their racing and breeding operations as a business. Naturally, racing is not the sole business of these men, but for them to continue in the sport, their activities mut be recognized as a legitimate sideline, enjoying the same privileges that any other secondary business, in which they might be concerned, would receive. "When I was a boy, everybody in northern New York was in the horse business, more or less. I grew up with the trotters and pacers, and when I made a little address before The Jockey Club last summer at Saratoga Springs, Mr. William Woodward remarked that my early association with that kind of horse was a taint that should be discreetly overlooked. With all respect to Mr. Woodward, however, I think otherwise, and here is the story I told them at The Jockey Club dinner: Drove Trotters on Ice "We had a Fair Grounds track at Og-densburg, but during the long winters up there, we used to hold matinees, amateur races on the ice, a straight mile stretch on the Oswegatchie River. Now the priest in our town, Father Neil, loved a good stepper, and he always had some speed in his barn. I exercised his horses, and at this time he had a trotter named Old Ned who could show more brush than any horse in the county. "I was about 14 — just the age when everything seems possible, and you begin to have big ambitions. I was all the time pestering Father Neil to let me race Old Ned, but he knew what some people would say. Old Ned did not show his speed in "public. "So one Friday afternoon — the matinees on the ice were held every Saturday in Ogdensburg — Father Neil said to me, Wal-ter, Im going to be but of town this weekend. Now, I want you to remember carefully what Ive told you. With me gone, you must not yield to temptation, and think of starting Old Ned in any race. I know he can probably lick any trotter in Ogdensburg, but we must leave it at that. "I forbid you to race Old Ned. Of course, if you should be such a bad boy as to race him, I know that at least you would have sense enough to give him a good hot mash afterwards, and cool him out properly. But you are not to race him, Walter. I strictly forbid you to do anything more than jog Old Ned while I am gone. "I firmly intended to do just what Father Neil told me to do," Fletcher said with a smile. "But, somehow, once I had Old Ned hitched on Saturday morning, he seemeci to be headed for the Oswegatchie River, and I know I did not mean to enter him for the 2:30 trot that afternoon, but he seemed to be there when the starter called the field to the post, and I was up behind him. "Well, Old Ned and I won the first heat, won pretty handily. Then in the second heat, after leading all the way, I got nipped, right on the wire. That race was not going to be as easy as I had thought! Well, in the third and deciding heat, I was hiking Old Ned through the final furlong, when suddenly the unstairs window of the grist mill beside the course flew open, and there was Father Neil leaning out over the sill. Give him a touch of the whip, Walter, he cried, give him a touch of the whip, and youll have the heat won. I gave Old Ned a crack with the whip, and we won the race. Ive forgotten what certain of the townspeople had to say about it. "The closer you get to horses, the more you get out of them," Fletcher concluded. "And thats why I used to love the trotters, and why my mornings at Belmont Park are so dear to me. But even if I win the Belmont Stakes with Nullify, it wont give me any more of a thrill than I had on the river with Old Ned."