The important draw for post positions for today's 26th running of the Washington, D.C. International has been made and an analysis of this 1 1/2-mile turf classic challenges even the most astute handicappers.
By post position, Crow-representing France, is the sleeper in the race. This chestnut 4-year-old is lightly raced this year with only four starts. However, his latest effort was a fifth-place finish to Alleged in I'Arc de Triomphe, a race in which he was beaten only four lengths for all the money. He had not raced for more then two months and may have been short of top effort.
In addition, he has good speed and can be placed anywhere by his jockey, the brilliant Yves St. Martin. In a race that features evenly matched top horses but none rating the title "brilliant," that post position and running style of this one make him a good upset possibility.
Vigors, the only gray in the field of nine, is a late runner. Trained by Larry Sterling. Vigors will represent the U.S. and will be ridden by Jerry Lambert. In his last start Vigors was nipped by the capable Crystal Water in the Oak Tree at Santa Anita, Crystal Water would be a serious contender had an invitation been accepted on his behalf for the International. The only knock against Vigors is that his late running style would be helped by faster horses up front than are participating.
Monseigneur, representing France, is another to be light in flesh. This 3-year-old hit his stride in his latest effort in his stride in his latest effort in his country, winning easily by three lenghts. He is a son of Graustark out of the matron Brown Berry, which gives him impeccable blood lines for classic turf racing.
Balmarino is a heavily raced campaign from New Zealand which has run on three continents. The 5-year-old has impressed with his smooth action in the morning and his record suggest he is a hard knocker. He was beaten only 1 1/2 lengths in the Arc this year and will again be ridden by the wily Ron Hutchinson.
State if representing Italy, had some problems shipping to the U.S. but appears fit in the mornings as he has done the most work to date since his arival. Stateff is one of those horses that always argues has his 12 in-the-money finishes in 13 races suggests. He was beaten a nose by Balmarino in his latest start despite being bumped. His best races have been run over a heavy track and his connections are hoping for rain. He will be ridden by Sandro Atzori, who has never been out of his native country.
Johnny D. is an American representative whose chief claim to fame is his frequent close losses to Majestic Light and other turf stars. Jimmy D. will be ridden by the amazing youngster, Steve Cauthen.
Exceller, owned by Nelson Bunker Hunt and trained by Maurice Zilber, is the probable favorite today. This son of Vaguely Noble out of the mare Too Bald is a one-run horse that has been pointed for this race. He appeared short losing to Majestic Light in the Man O' War after atwo-month rest. But he did manage to catch that one in a return match in Toronto at the [WORD ILLEGIBLE] mile distance. He will be ridden by the incomparable Angle Cordeto.
Majesty Light owned by Ogden Phipps and representing the U.S. is the probable second choice. This son of Kentucky Derby winner Majestic Prince had never been caught once he had the lead until Exceller ran him down in the Canadian Invitational. He will be ridden by Sandy Hawley, who is remembered for his superlative ride astride Nobiliary when she won the International in 1975.
Great Contractor, another U.S. representative, has beaten Forego on the dirt by 11 lenghts. However, his trainer decided to rest the then-sharp son of Selari and he has been slow in regaining top form. He will be ridden by Ron Turcotte.
We see the race this way:
Execeller seems to be the superior foreign horse. His race to The Minstrel in the King George and Queen Elizabeth Stakes appears to stamp him the one to beat Trainer Zilbert said Excellent could have been closer early in the Canadian Invitational when he did not cathc Majestic Light until inside the eight pole. Previously Majestic Light had whipped Execeller by more than four lengths. But Exceller did have traffic problems and appeared short for the race.
Majestic Light appears to be the major contender since he did whip Exceller in the Man O' War and did not get caught in the longer Canadian race until the late stretch.
It comes down to a battle of wits and riding ability between Cordero on Excellent and Hawley on Majestic Light.
We look for Majestic Light to move sooner than he did in Canada, much sooner, and for Hawley to hold his mount together when Exceller makes his explosive late move. Majestic Light figures to hang on for two resons: He can handle a firm track better than Exceller and he is more shifty early.
Crew should get the early lead along with Johnny D. but since there is no true speed horse in the field any jockey who really wants the lead can take it. Nalmarino and tateff will press for a mile, and then the real racing begins.
Majestic Lights should move nearing the stretch with Exceller right behinf. There will be traffice since there are no brilliant horses in this field. Hawley will have the jump on Cordero and hold it to the wire in a driving finish. The time of the race should bearound 2:32.