Temperence Hill, whose 53-to-1 victory in the Belmont Stakes had been widely dismissed as a fluke, proved himself conclusively today. He stormed from last place to win the 111th running of Saratoga's famed Travers Stakes.
His 1 1/2-length victory over First Albert and Amber Pass established him as the country's leading 3-year-old colt. But the Travers also underscored the weakness of this whole equine generation.
The winner got every possible bit of good fortune, but still covered the 1 1/4 miles in a mediocre 2:02 4/5. The race also stripped away the pretensions of Plugged Nickle and Superbity, who once had been considered highclass horses but clearly showed their inability to go a classic distance.
A plodding stretch-runner all his life, Temperence Hill is the kind of horse who customarily benefits from a fast early pace. He got it today.
Amber Pass, a speedster, was breaking from the outside post position and jockey Donald MacBeth hustled him toward the rail. Jacinto Vasquez didn't want to yield Superbity's position on the inside and so he was forced to hustle his mount. That sprint to the first turn would affect the entire course of the race.
The leaders were in high gear and they battled head and head through a half-mile in 45 4/5 seconds and six furlongs in a blistering 1:10 1/5. This duel looked as if it were going to benefit Plugged Nickle, the 9-to-5 favorite, who was sitting in perfect position, stalking the leaders.
After three quarters of a mile, Superbity was the first to crack; he would drop back to seventh place. Plugged Nickle couldn't accelerate either. Amber Pass found that he had briefly inherited a three-length lead, but two stretch-runners now were making their moves.
First Albert made a powerful move, five horses wide, around the turn and quickly drew abreast of the leader.Meanwhile, jockey Eddie Maple was sneaking up the rail on Temperence Hill, taking the shortest path home.
Before the track anouncer even had a chance to call his name, Temperence Hill had moved alongside his two rivals. The colt was trying to bear out in the stretch run, crowding the other horses a bit, but Maple kept him straight enough to draw out to a comfortable victory.
Temperence Hill paid $9.60, $4.60 and $4.20. First Albert, who held on for second by a nose, returned $4.20 and $3.80, while Amber Pass paid $5.20 to show.
While Temperence Hill collected the winner's share of $100,980, Amber Pass emerged from the Travers with as much distinction as the winner. The colt has anihilated Superbity in a duel that should have wrecked both of them, but held on grittily throughout the stretch run. He probably will get a chance for revenge in the Jerome Handicap at Belmont next month.
Unfortunately for all the horses in the Travers field who may be bound for the Jerome, they are going to be running into a rejuvenated Jacklin Klugman, who won the seventh race on today's program.
The ill-bred gray colt had become an object of national attention because he is owned by actor Jack Klugman, and he lived up to some of his press notices by finishing third in the Kentucky Derby. But an injury sidelined him after the Preakness.
Jacklin Klugman was taken from his little-known trainer, Riley Cofer, and turned over the the capable LeRoy Jolley. Today he was like a new horse.
"On the way to the track," owner Klugman said, "I made a little rhyme: 'If we do one-twenty-one and four, I'm sure we won't need any more.'" In fact, Jacklin Klugman won the sevenfurlong sprint in 1:21 3-5, a time as impressive as Temperence Hill's was undistinguished, and left the good sprinter Colonel Moran far behind him.