Reflections: Belmont Stakes Survival of Fittest Test; Ranks With Greatest Races of All Countries; Triple Crown More Grueling Than Englands Colin Almost Lost to Fair Play by Mistake, Daily Racing Form, 1951-06-16


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REFLECTIONS *y NELS0N unstan NEW YORK, N. Y., June 15.— Last January, John B. Campbell listed 117 juveniles of 1950 for the Experimental Free Handicap of 1951. In early May, the Kentucky Derby attracted 20 three-year-olds and two weeks later, eight went to the post in the Preakness. The poet tells us that the mills of the Gods grind slowly, grind slowly, and the Belmont Stakes tomorrow is a reminder that three-year-old competition is a grinding elimination process which, by June, has narrowed down to the survival of the fittest. Handicappers claim that 50 different things can happen. during the running to cause a horse to lose a race. If that is so, at least 150 things can have happened between the foaling of a colt in 1948 and Belmont Stakes Day, 1951. Everything from an injury in the paddocks as a yearling to the disclosure that a brilliant horse at a mile lacks the stamina for a one and one-half mile race run in 2:30 or thereabouts. No starter in the eighty-third Belmont has ever run a mile and a half in competition, so while the best of our three-year-oldsN now in training will answer the bugle tomorrow, this event asks more of them in speed and stamina than any other race for the division which preceded -it. The Belmont winner is not always the three-year-old champion, as was demonstrated last year when Middleground won and Hill Prince finished seventh. But since 1874, the winners roster included numerous three-year-olds who were the best of their particular years. AAA Some years ago, there was a lively discussion in English publications on the subject, "Which Are the Five Greatest Races in the World?" It was generally Agreed that the Ascot Gold Cup was number one, but from that Belmont Stakes Survival of Fittest Test Ranks With Greatest Races of All Countries Triple Crown More Grueling Than Englands Colin Almost Lost to Fair Play by Mistake point on the lists varied. To our surprise, "many maintained that the St. Leger was entitled to a ranking over the Epsom Derby. Even more surprising was that the Belmont Futurity was the only American race mentioned. Contests of this nature lead nowhere beyond personal opinion, but they are of interest. Ask any Englishman, and his answer would be, "The Ascot Gold Cup, of course." The horse-loving Irish would insist that the Irish Derby be listed among the first five. This writer would hesitate a long time if asked what he believed were the five most important races in this country. But we certainly would not designate the Belmont Futurity our number one event. We would not vote a two-year-old, no matter how good, the "Horse of the Year," for we believe that distinction should be reserved for an older horse who has withstood severer .tests. We believe that an event like the Suburban Handicap has far greater meaning in the scheme of racing than any two-year-old race. Tradition is not the determining factor. During the past 25 years many important races have been placed on our calendar. How, for instance, would the Pimlico Special, which was inaugurated in 1937, be ranked as compared with the Suburban, first run in 1884? AAA What makes a race great? Many factors enter the reckoning, but the Belmont Shakes undoubtedly is one of the most important events anywhere in the world. By any comparison, it measures up. It is the oldest of our "Triple Crown" events, haying had its inaugural running in 1867. The fact that our Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont compose the "Triple Crown" certainly classifies them among the most important sophomore stakes on our annual schedules. The Belmont is rich in tradition for its origin is imbedded deeply in the foundation breeding of our forefathers. It asks more of our three-year-old than classics in any other country. In England, the Epsom Derby, second of her Triple Crown races, is staged in June, but after that a candidate for crown honors is given a long letup as the third leg, the St. Leger at Doncaster is not run until the fall. Here, a three-year-old goes through the prep events to the first objective, the Kentucky Derby in early May. Two weeks later, the Preakness is run, and one month later the one and one-half miles of the Belmont races the top sophomores. It is a trying schedule and tests not only speed and stamina, but soundness as well. The Belmont is not the seasons last important race for three-year-olds, but it closes the spring phase of our racing, which is designed to point out the champion when the question is asked in October. AAA Following the Belmont Stakes are such races as the Shevlin, Dwyer, Leonard Richards, Arlington Classic, Choice Stakes, Sheridan Handicap, American Derby, Travers, Lawrence Realization and others which are important in determining the championship. Many experts claim that the importance of a race should be judged by the" quality of those on the winning roster. There are few three-year-old races run anywhere in the world whose beadroll is more impressive than that of the Continued on Page Fifty | REFLECTIONS By NELSON DUNSTAN Continued from Page Fifty-Two Belmont Stakes. To mention just a few of its winners — Hanover, Henry of Navarre, Colin, Sir Barton, Man o* War, Grey Lag, Crusader, Gallant Pox, Twenty Grand, War Admiral, Whirlaway, Count Fleet, Assault and Citation. Every horse on that list would be entitled to consideration in any discussion of the best horses to race in this country. Many top horses have been beaten in this third leg of the "Triple Crown," but that only emphasizes how good a horse must be to enter its winners circle. The Belmont honor roll also lists many horses who later became the leading American sires. Colin defeated Fair Play in 1908, but few sires of the present century were more brilliant than the daddy of Man o War. AAA In the long history of the Belmont Stakes, there have been many episodes which come under the heading of "unique happenings." In 1907, for instance, by some curious omission, the time of the race was not taken. That happened again in 1908, when, as we said, Colin defeated Fair Play. The 1908 renewal was run in such a f thick fog that it was impossible to time it accurately. The crowd was straining its v eyes when Colin came into sight and he was far in front. Joe Notter, one of the greatest jockeys of the century, was Tiding ? Colin to what looked like an easy victory, but, although he denies it today, he had • forgotten that the winning post was still 30 yards down the track and, thinking he had crossed the finish line, he eased his , mount. The crowd roared, "Go on, go on" as Pair Play closed in. Suddenly, Notter ,m realized his mistake and, with all the skill at his command, he rallied his mount to 1 win by a short neck. That was the nearest I the undefeated horse came to being de- 1 feated. It would take another column to tell of some of he other interesting episodes * in the Belmont. All these apart, it cannot be denied that it is one of the outstanding three-year-old events of the world.

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