Jockeys rarely need special incentive to try to win a major stakes race. Owners and trainers don't have to resort to specially prepared pep talks. The money awaiting the winning rider is phenomenal; in the instance of today's Flamingo its $10,432.50, or roughly $100 to be earned per second.
Eddie Maple does admit, however, to "a certain amount of extra satisfaction" to be gained if he can again defeat Alydar with Believe It in Hialeah's closing-day feature.
"It wasn't so much the fact I was taken off Alydar, but some of the statements that were made in the papers in New York got me upset," Maple acknowledged yesterday. "If they's have said they took me off Alydar just to try someone else, I'd have understood. That's part of the business. I've picked up horses that way myself. Every jockey has.
"But what was written got to me, about my ability. I got hot. That's what made Believe It's beating Alydar in the Remsen at Aqueduct late last year so satisfying. I hated to lose Alydar. I had put in a lot of extra time with him in the mornings, helping him to learn the little things he had to learn. I'd galloped and exercised him.
"Then we lost those two close fishes to Affirmed (in the Hopeful and in the Belmont Futurity) and I was taken off him."
"Those defeats were made to look all the worse when, in Alydar's next start, his first under Jorge Velasquez, Alyder gunned past Affirmed in mid stretch to win the Champagne Stakes, by a length and a quarter.
"But you'll notice, when those two horses met again in the Futurity at Laurel, when the finish was close again, Affirmed beat Alydar again," Maple said. "The only times Alydar beat Affirmed were the two times he was able to zip right past him, not when it was close."
Racing history is full of examples of one horse consistently displaying the ability to outgain a certain rival by narrow margins. That may be the case with Affirmed and Alydar, the top 2-year-olds of 1977. But Maple now may be the regular rider of the nation's best 3-year-old of 1978, Believe It.
"That's possible," the jockey said." "Woody is very high, and so am I."
"Woody" is Woodford C. Stephens, a Kenturky country boy who just happens to be one ot the finest trainers of thorobreds this country has produced. Trey say Stephens has developed at least one stakes winner a year since 1954. He said the 3-year old he now coditions for Mr. and Mrs. James P. Mills of Middleburg, Va., just might be the best he's ever had.
"The only one who might have been better was Never Bend," Stephens said yesterday morning, and "I'm not too sure, before he's through this season, that Believe It won't turn out to be better than he was. Believe It was a very nice colt last year and if I know anything at all it's that he has improved greatly this winter."
Believe It is by In Reality out of a Buckpasser mare. The chestnut colt has brilliant speed. Stephens has spent much of this winter training him to relax and to race better, and he is confident he has succeeded.
"He went a mile and a quarter, breezing, in 2:06 3/5 Monday," the trainer advised. "He finished well, going the last quarter in .25 after the first three quarters in 1:16 3/5 and the mile in 1:41."
Alydar worked a mile in 1.37 2/5 Monday, moving handily. The Calumet colt and Believe It both have run once and won here this winter in identical 1:22 1/5 clockings for seven furlongs. Most local observers rate them that close for the Flamingo, although today's crowd undoubtedly will accord Alydar a slight edge in the wagering."
When Believe It beat Alydar in the Remsen (by two lengths) the going was sloppy, and it was the only time my horse didn't really take to the track, but that's not an excuse," Calumet trainer John Veitch said.
"Believe It is a good horse and his kind of speed is dangerous.You can believe it. You get a truly good speed horse with some class and, if he gets in front, he's very difficult to run down sometimes."
Veitch is confident he has the jockey who can do the job, if Alydar cooperates.
"If you can get Velasquez, you get him. Eddy Maple is a very, very good jockey, but to me, particularly going a distance. Velasquez is the best jockey there is in America. He times his run from behind perfectly. Our Mims and Iron Constitution were prime examples last year. And I think Alydar's best races are going to be coming from behind, from off the pace. Those were his best raceslast year, and I think that's the way to win most of the events for 3-year-olds any year."
Slap Jack, Double Al, Noon Time Spender, Junction, Dr. Valeri, Pipe Major and Hugable Tom complete the Flamingo field. Hugable Tom is a stablemate to Alydar and will assure a realistic pace although Junction, Slap Jack, and Noon Time Spender all have good early foot, along with Believe It.
All Starters carry scale weight of 122 pounds over the mile and an eighth. It rained here yesterday afternoon, with forecasts calling for a 50 percent chance of more rain last night and a 30 percent chance of rain today.
The race will be televised at half-time of the ACC championship basketball game on WJLA-TV-7, WJZ-TV-13.