So who says winning isn't everything?
The Flamingo Stakes had been over for less than two hours Saturday when a visitor decided to check the Calumet horses in the Hiahleah back stretch. What he overheard served as a perfect recap of the day's event.
"Make that cold feed for Hugable Tom . . ." a groom shouted from one end of the barn to another groom some 20 stalls away. Then, after a short pause. " . . . and make it hot feed for Alydar."
"What's discrimination. Discrimination of the cruelest kind, that goes right to the stomach," the visitor chided.
The stable hands were quick to point out that Hugable Tom was not, in any way, being punished or mistreated.
"He prefers the bran and oats with all the additives, electrolytes and vitamins," the foreman informed. "That is what he wants. And Alydar wants his hot mash. He came back from the race today looking for his sugar.Now look at him over there. You wouldn't think he ran today."
Alydar was extremely active in his stall, occasionally peering out over the door, anxiously awaiting his dinner. Hugable Tom, by comparison, appeared to be pooped.
The fatigue factor should have been reversed. Calumet's entry finished at both ends of the Flamingo field. alydar won by 4 1/2 lengths, with Hugable Tom eighth. 37 lengths behind his stable mate after having prompted Slap Jack's early pace. Alydar completed the mile and an eighth in a thoroughly professional 1:47. Hugable Tom took seven additional seconds.
"Alydar fools many people who see him," trainer John Veitch had said during the postrace interviews. "They don't realize he is as big as he is. I haven't measured him for height or weighed him on a scale, but he's only a shade under 16.2 (hands) and I'm certain he has grown at least an inch since September.
"He is so well-muscled and so well-put together that his size is deceptive."
His size may be, but certainly his stature isn't. Alydar is now the big horse for the Kentucky Derby, at least until Affirmed or some other 3-year-old comes up with an equally impressive performance.
The word from Santa Anita Park in California, is that Affirmed's training has been impeded by inclement weather. Last season's champion 2-year-old is to make his first start of 1978 this week in a sprint, which means he is not nearly as far advanced as trainer Laz Barrera would like him to be nine weeks before the Derby.
Affirmed defeated Alydar in four of their six races last year. three of the six finishers were extremely close, and Affirmed outgained Alydar each time. These are two excellent colts. They will not oppose each other again until Churchill Downs.
Barrero plans to take Affirmed to Louisville by way of the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct in New York on April 22. Veitch intends to ship alydar to Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky for the Blue Grass Stakes on April 27, after he runs in the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park on April 1.
Believe It's fourth-place finish in the Flamingo was too disappointing to be true. "He got beat too far and I can't give him any excuse," Eddie Maple said upon dismounting. Believe It deserves another chance, however, in the Florida Derby.
There is a colt named Balzac at Santa Anita about which the publicists out there are prepared to write a book. He is trained by Charles Whittingham. Woody Stephens has Quadractic back in training in Florida, following two stakes successes. Who knows, Quadratic might turn out to be better than Believe It.
But for the moment, alydar is No. 1. "I know he's the champ," jockey Jorge Velasquez chirped after contributing a perfectly judged ride in the Flamingo. "That's what I think of him."
That is what I think of him, too, in terms of the Kentucky Derby. I said so last October even though I picked Affirmed to beat him in the Laurel Futurity. If alydar isn't a Derby colt I never saw one. He has the style, the scope and the sophistication required to win America's most popular horse race on the first Saturday in the May.
And he likes hot mash.