Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Plus ça change . . .

I spend more time trolling the New Yorker archive than I spend reading the magazine that arrives in my mailbox each week. I like to think that I've read all of Audax Minor's (Minor was the pen name of George F. T. Ryall) columns at least once, and many of them multiple times. His assessment of the three-year-old crop will sound familiar to us all, and enjoy his mention of Seabiscuit v War Admiral, too.

I offer you, then, without further comment, Ryall's column (post Travers, at the time) from August 21, 1937.

"Occasionally you can have a pretty satisfactory race with unsatisfactory horses. Shandon Farm’s Burning Star, who isn’t one of the Class A three-year-olds, put up such a good show in winning the Travers Stakes at Saratoga last weekend that almost everyone, particularly everyone who bet on him, was enthusiastic enough to place him at the top of the list. It takes so little to lose a race, and Burning Star really overcame so much to win. He was crowded soon after the start, blocked during the run down the backstretch, and finally had to barge his way home on the rails on the turn for home. It was a gallant feat. I can’t imagine, even with my crystal ball and ouija board, what detained him when he was beaten so cleverly by Rex Flag in the Kenner Stakes four days before.

After the Travers was over, War Admiral was brought out, grown sleeker with easy living during his temporary retirement. He evidently believed he was going to the races again, for he wouldn’t stand still to be saddled, but lunged and plunged as though eager to join his old playmates, the assistant starters. Although he has recovered from his mishap in the Belmont Stakes, War Admiral is still in cotton wool so far as training goes. He won’t be ready to run for the Saratoga Cup, and his appearance even in the Lawrence Realization Stakes is doubtful, although he could win that race on crutches. 

These brittle thoroughbreds! Looking through the rats’ nest I call my past performance book, the other day I found a rating of the three-year-olds of 1937, compiled about January 1st by the official leading handicappers. Reading from left to right, War Admiral and Pompoon are resting; Brooklyn, Reaping Reward, Case Ace, Bottle Cap, and Maedic are out of training, and so are Fairy Hill, Clodion, No Sir, and Moonton. Of Matey and Airflame, the less said the better. Privileged may improve. At twenty-fifth on the list, I found Flying Scot, who did so well before he spread a foot. Clingendaal, who picked up so many purses here and there in New England, was thirtieth, and Burning Star wasn’t even considered important enough to have a rating at all. 

While we’re still on the subject of first-class horses, here’s a tip that race cource managements with meetings late in the autumn can take for what it’s worth: The Howards, who own Seabiscuit, wouldn’t mind running their horse in a match race against War Admiral. The only difficulty about that--outside the purse--is that they would peg the distance at one mile and a quarter, although they’d really prefer a match at one mile and a furlong. I don’t know what Sam Riddle thinks about such a race, but I’m sure that if he thinks about it at all, he’d insist on the distance being set at one mile and a half."

On the next page, toward the end of Minor/Ryall’s comments on harness racing, he concludes with a kind of Seen At column:

And at Saratoga: Mrs. Sam Riddle leaning over the rails to pat War Admiral. . . Bob Smith admiring the Man o’ War Gold Cup . . . The autograph hunters following the cinema stars . . . The Milky Way Farm’s grooms parading in new orange, white, and black jumpers . . . Jock Whitney trying to get through the crowd that blocked the clubhouse stairs . . . George Bull counting the biggest crowd at the Saratoga track . . . Colonel Martingale is getting tired of steeplechases for unsound and uncertain horses. He’s thinking of starting a Stop-Running-Steeplechases Week. --Audax Minor

If you're a New Yorker subscriber, you too can browse all of Ryall's work via their archive. This particular column runs pages 52-54 in August 21, 1937 issue.

1 comment:

Sid fernando said...

Big fan of minor