On June 24, 1978, the chestnut horse Dare To Command ran last in a $10,000 allowance race at Pimlico.
Or did he?
The Washington Post has learned that Dare To Command spent the summer frolicking in the pastures of Barry Farm in Anthony, Fla.
Another chestnut horse ran under Dare To Comand's name. That horse is believed to be Large As Life, who resembles Dare To Command physically if not in ability. Where Dare To Command was a statkes-winning runner with $143,000 in earnings, Large As Life was an unspectacular, though steady, competitor in allowance and claiming races.
Both horses were owned by W. S. (Sandy) Sanders of Wilmington, Del., and trained by King T. Leatherbury of Annapolis, perennially one of the nation's winningest trainers.
"There is a mixup supposedly," Sanders sadi. "I don't know all the facts.I'm trying to unravel it and I hope to have it straightened out by Monday. My lawyer has told me not to say anything about it."
Leatherbury said, "As far as I'm concerned, I ran Dare To Command. The owner said he was sending me Dare To Command and that's who I ran. The track checks the lip tattoos (a means of identification) and it seems imposible to have any other horse under Dare To Command's name."
Until he sent blood samples to The Jockey Club to certify Large As Life as a working stallion on his farm, Jim Caple said, he was pleased with the stud that came to Barry Farm on Feb. 21, 1978. The horse performed well, impregnating 28 mares.
But 10 days ago The Jockey Club, according to Caple, told him that his little stallion was not Large As Life; it was Dare To Command.
Caple was not angry. Off his record, Dare To Command would seem to be the better stud, even though Large As Life is a son of the strong sire Graustark. The effect, then, was that Caple got a year's stud duty out of a better horse than he had contracted for.
But when The Jockey Club informed Caple that his stallion was really Dare To Command, that raised a question in Arkansas. At the McDowell Farm in Manning, Don McDowell had paid a reported $35,000 to Sanders for a chestnut horse named Dare To Command.
McDowell bought the horse late last summer, he said, and has not yet used it for breeding. He had placed an advertisement in a thorougbred industry magazine, offering the services of Dare To Command at a $1,000 studfee.
McDowell even ran a picture of Dare To Command.
Only, it was not that horse. It was Large As Life.
The Jockey Club, reported Caple, said so. By identification of markings (one horse has a white spot on his) nose, the other does not) and by blood samples, The Jockey Club had determined that Large As Life was hoofing it in Arkansas under Dare To Command's name.
So Caple in Florida got on the telephone to McDowell in Arkansas and they agreed to make a switch. McDowell sent Large As Life to Florida in a van that returned with Dare To Command.
All the right horses are sleeping in all the right stalls tonight.
Caple and McDowell, in separate interviews, said they see no wrongdoing in the affair. Both men suggested the switch may have happened as so many have in the breeding business: a careless groom led the wrong horse off a van at the wrong time. Because the horses in this case are so similar in color and in age (one is 6 years old, the other 7), the horsemen say such a mixup could easily happen.
The mixup could pass unnoticed for a year, as this one did, because a breeder is not required t report his stallions to The Jockey Club until they are servicing mares.
"Somebody at the farm mixed them up," said Caple. "I think it was just an honest, but stupid, mistake."
The mistake may have cost some Pimlico bettors money.
The bettors had every reason to believe that Dare To Commands, a son of the bold Ruler colt Bold Commander, was making a comeback of sorts last summer when "Dare To Command" showed up in the entries for a $10,000 allowance race May 27, he had been away from the races for 13 months.
The bettors remembered him well enough to start him at 7 to 2 odds. He was beaten 22 lengths. Next time out, onJune 24, "Dare To Command" went off at 29 to 1. He was beaten by 30 lengths.
That was "Dare To Command's" last race. Two months, later, McDowell bought a horse sold to him as "Dare To Command." That horse turned out to be Large As Life.