Shortly before yesterday's Flamingo Stakes, John Veitch was asked to compare Calumet Farm's Alydar with the other great 3-year-olds produced by that stable.
"Eddie Arcaro tells me he hated Whirlaway," the young trainer replied. "He also says Citation was the best horse he ever got on. From what I've heard, and seen, Alydar's style probably is most like Tim Tam, with his one big run (in a race). Or at least I hope so, Tim Tam would have won the Triple Crown if he hadn't broken down in the Belmont Stakes."
An hour later, Veitch's comparison appeared brilliant, Alydar carried Calumet's storied devil's red and blue silks to an impressive 4 1/2-length victory in Hialeah's closing-day feature. Noon Time Spender finished second, a length before Dr. Valeri, with Believe It, the strong second choice, fading to fourth, a neck out of the money.
Alydar, a handsome chestnut-coated son of Raise A Native, completed the 1 1/8 miles in a sparkling 1:47, a fifth of a second off the stakes mark set by Honest Pleasure in 1976. Alydar paid $3.80 straight as the odds on favorite.
The Flamingo is traditionally one of the first major stakes leading to the Kentucky Derby, to be run May 6 at Churchill Downs. Alydar passed this first test beautiful, under a perfect ride from Jorge Velasquez, who had a total of five winners for the day, a Hialeah record.
Velasquez had Alydar in perfect position every step of the way. Slap Jack set the pace, pressed slightly by Hugable Tom, Alydar's stablemate. The front-runner led through frac-responded.
lieve It make a move and his colt which point Eddie Maple asked Betions of: 22 3/5. :45 3/5 and 1:09 4/5, at
Alydar was right alongside, how horse is a natural athlete. Jorge told ever. The top two choices spend around the stretch turn as a team, taking command, but by early stretch it was apparent the Calumet horse was going to earn $103,350 of the $159,000 purse.
"It was an excellent effort," Veitch said in the postrace interview. "This me he moved with him a little earlier than the game plan called for. He wanted to stay in touch. Jorge hit Alydar with the whip three times at the quarter pole, once at the eighth pole - to keep his mind on his business (when he was already two lengths in front) - then wrapped up on him at the 16th pole."
Believe It's performance was as disappointing as Alydar's was promising. The In Reality colt was washy during the post parade and appeared a trifle rank before getting into the starting gate.
"Still, you can't knock the winner," Believe It's trainer, Woody Stephens, declared. "We'll see what happens. We got to try again."
That try will take place April 1 at Gulfstream Park in the Florida Derby.
"My plans call for keeping Alydar in Florida until then, then take him to Kentucky gfor the Blue Grass Stakes and the Derby," Veitch volunteered. "We have to feel encouraged, naturally, by what we saw out there today."
Believe It defeated Alydar when they last met, in November, in the Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct. The only other 2-year-old to defeat Alydar is Affirmed, the divisional champion, which gained four victories in six meetings. Affirmed is at Santa Anita, preparing for his first start of the season. He will not face Alydar until the Derby.
Calumet has had a record eight winners of the Churchill Downs classic. Only two of those captured the Flamingo, however. They were Citation, in 1948, and Tim Tam, in 1958. Faultless, the other Calumet winner here, failed in Louisville, running third to Jet Pilot and Phalanx in 1947.
So, at least thus far, Veitch's mentioning of Alydar and Tim Tam in the same sentence is right on track.
"I don't know if Alydar is as good as Tim Tam was," Veitch reiterated. "Tim Tam was mighty good. I can only hope Alydar continues to progress along the same lines."