The stable's colors grab your attention immediately: Devil's red and blue, an eye-catching combination that has trimmed the trappings of Barn AA at the top of the Hialeah backstretch for lo these many years.
This winter, the luster is back.
Calumet, the most famous name in the modern history of American racing, is going for its ninth Kentucky Derby victory. The colt is Alydar. He will take his first important step in the direction of Churchill downs (May 6) here Saturday against Believe It and seven other 3-year-olds in the $160,500 Flamingo Stakes.
"It's amazing, the interest the name Calumet generates," John Veitch said yesterday on an overcast Miami morning. "There's a tremendous tradition. It's something. The people you will meet, older people in particular, in their 50s or 60s. They have not been fans of racing for years. But they remember all the derbys, all the good horses when the Jones Boys had them."
The Joneses, Ben and Jimmy, darn near owned thoroughbred racind in the '40s and '50s. Whirlaway, Pensive, Citation, Ponder, Hill Gail, Iron Leige and Tim Tam all won the Derby's under their training from 1941 through 1958.
Only once since then have the Calumet silks been successful in the opening event of the Triple Crown Series. That was in 1968 when Henry forest saddled Forward Pass, which ran second. It took four years for Forward Pass, to win that Derby, but the stable finally received the first money and the trophy on the long-delayed disqualification of Dancer's Image.
Calumet's colors appeared in the 1971 Derby on Eastern Fleet and Bold And Brave. But racing's glory days for Mrs. Gene Markey (Formerly Mrs. Warren Wright) appeared to be over. There were winters here when the trainer's small garden plotted immediately outside Barn AA, created more interest than the horses.
The Veitch took over. He is balding young man in his 30s, the son of a great trainer, Syl Veitch. John turned Calumet around from talk of yesterdays to tomorrows. He developed Our Mims, the nation's champion 3-year-old filly last season and he just missed the 2-year-old title with Our Mims' half-brother, Alydar.
"If I had hindsight, I wouldn't have run after the Champagne, and Alydar might have been cochampion with Affirmed, after he beat him in that race," Veitch said. "At Laurel, when Affirmed won the divisional championship by taking the Futurity, I probably should have gunned Alydar, as though it were a matched race.
"If Laurel hadn't hustled another couple of horses for the race at the last minute, and it had been a real match, I'd have been forced to send him. I was hoping one or the other would hang on long enough, until they got to about the mile pole to keep Affirmed occupied. They didn't, and we never were able to get to the outside where the going was better."
Affirmed and Alydar met six times as 2-year-olds, Affirmed gaining four narrow decisions in what was perhaps the most thrilling series of races ever run by two young horses in this country. They are coasts apart this winter, Affirmed preparing for a return to competition soon at Santa Anita Park in California.