Secretariat, at full throttle, would need two days to circle the horse trainer John Campo, who calls himself The Fat Man and for whom a herd of cows died to make a belt.
As for Eddie Arcaro, the Hall of Fame jockey is taller than two Racing Forms stood end on end, but skinnier than a cop's wallet. What these distinguished gentlemen of the turf have in anatomical common are vocal cords that, given free rein, would level forests for miles around.
Yakkity-yak-yakyakyak, if this week has the third Saturday in May, it must be Preakness Week at Pimlico. And, yakkityyak, if John Campo is in town, the eternally brash New Yorker is yakking up his Derby winner, Pleasant COLONY. and the little guy yakking back must be Eddie Arcaro, who works for ABC Sports as its expert racing commentator, a job heavy in its obligation to run your mouth.
Arcaro gives ABC a day's work for a day's pay. Fact is, he gives ABC a night's work for a day's pay. At a Preakness dinner for horsemen and press two nights ago, Arcaro and Campo found themselves locked in mouth-to-mouth combat. According to a witness who furnished the following dialogue, these distinguished gentlemen of the turf traded ethnic and medical insults loudly. They nearly fell to fisticuffs. As far as is known, neither held his breath until he turned blue.
"You're a bad horse trainer," Arcaro said to Campo.
"You're a has-been," Campo said back. Then they really got mad.
Campo said, "You insulted my horse."
Arcaro said, "Buddy Hirsch was a better trainer than you by far."
As a distinguished gentlemen of the turf always does over a difference of opinion, Gampo said he wanted to make a bet.
"Ten thousand dollars I won more stakes than Buddy Hirsch," Campo said, naming the old New York trainer.
Soon enough, our witness reports, the bet was up to $100,000.
In the full glare of yesterday morning, breaking so soon after the night before, Campo wouldn't say yes or no to the size of the bet.
"If Arcaro won't put up," he said, "then shut up."
Arcaro said of the late-night debate, "No, you couldn't get Campo to bet with me in a year."
These distinguished gentlemen attended the Alibi Breakfast today, a Pimlico affair at which owners, trainers, jockeys and the press get together for such discussion of the Preakness as won't get in the way of the truth. Most everybody wore a coat and tie, save for the women in their pastel finery and John Campo in his golf shirt and ball cap.
"I can tell you right now who's going to finish 1-2-3-4," Campo said into a microphone, and he picked up a race program. "Partez will win, Paristo second, Bold Ego will be third and Highland Blade could be second but probably will be fourth."
Somebody caught on. "Those are the computer picks out of the newspaper, right?"
"That's right," said Campo. "Only kidding."
Campo loves Pleasant Colony, whose Derby victory was the trainer's first in 21 Triple Crown races. Against Secretariat, Spectacular Bid and Seattle Slew, Campo would love Pleasant Colony. One lonesome midnight of Derby Week, Campo took a newspaperman to his horse's stall at Churchill Downs and said to watch this.
Campo flopped onto the straw next to his big horse, who, raising its head, then rested its nose on Campo's wonderful pillow of a stomach.
Given a perfect ride in the 21-horse Derby by Jorge Velasquez, Pleasant Colony came from behind to win by three-quarters of a length. The early speed horses, Bold Ego and Top Avenger, were burned out at the top of the stretch, leaving the last-quarter running to Campo's sweetheart, fast-closing Woodchopper and Partez, who finished third after a long, strong run.
Someone asked Arcaro to say into the microphone his predictions for the Preakness.
"I get into trouble every time I give my opinion," Arcaro said, and then he picked Partez to win with Woodchopper second and Pleasant Colony third.
My, my such disrespect for the Derby winner. Arcaro's myopia my be incurable, in fact, for the first symptoms appeared in mid-April and it is only getting worse. Back in April, right before the Wood Memorial, someone came to Campo to say, "Arcaro says Cure the Blues has the look of a Derby winner."
Time flies in horsedom. Cure the Blues now has the blues, beaten convincingly in both the Wood and the Derby. So now we know Arcaro was wrong, but Campo knew it on the spot.
"Arcaro? What's he know?" Campo said then. "Looked like a Derby winner, eh? Looked like a rat to me."
Campo often refers to horses, sometimes those in his keep, as cows, goats, garbage and rats. The romance of the sport of kings seldom turns him blind against the faults of his hayburners. The affection he feels for Pleasant Colony is based less on the colt's midnight nuzzlings that on its Derby daylight spring at 40 to 1 in the winter book. Campo is said to have put down $1,000 at that price and another $2,000 when the odds fell to 10 to 1.
So when The Fat Man -- sometimes known as The Mound of Sound -- says he believes in Pleasant Colony, it may be time to turn down Arcaro and get down $2 of our own.
At what odds, Round Mound?
"I'm a real good handicapper," Campo said, "and I make my horse 8-5. Don't be surprised if he wins. He's a nice horse, nice."
Arcaro picked Pleasant Colony third.
"Arcaro wouldn't know a horse if one was put in front of him," Campo said.