So the governor of Maryland stood alongside the patrician owners not far from the silver trophy at the presentation stand, all dazzling in the sunlight of a memorable Preakness day. A painter's last brush stroke turned the weathervane's jockey silks the blue and white of Buckland Farm in perpetuation of happy custom.
An elegant moment -- all wasted on the Fat Man, whose 5 o'clock shadow was nearing midnight.
As the governor spoke governorese to the 84,113 patrons of the turf, here was the Fat Man about six feet away, sitting on a railing of the stand and chomping off words to his jockey.
The Fat Man felt very good. The Fat Man didn't pay the governor any attention. It was bad enough for him, an old groom, to be bundled up in a three-piece suit. Where's it say you have to listen to a governor?
So Johnny Campo ripped words out of the air and threw them at his jockey, Jorge Velasquez, who rode Pleasant Colony to an impressive Preakness victory that, with the Derby victory, leaves only the Belmont three weeks hence to complete the Triple Crown.
"Just playin' with 'em," said the trainer to the jockey.
After sending out losers in his first 20 Triple Crown races, Campo has won two straight. Almost boyishly delighted in Kentucky two weeks ago, the Fat Man today was devilishly cocky, wise-guy comical and bully-boy vindictive:
"Wait 'til the Belmont," he crowed as the governor spoke.
"Who's going to run against us there?" Velasquez said.
"Whoever, it'll look like we got a false start," Campo said, meaning his colt would leave the rest standing still. "Two down and one to go," he said.
Whatever fire in the belly has moved Campo from his days mucking stalls to days that make him a millionaire -- whatever mean streak keeps him alive in as competitive a game as exists -- whatever makes The Fat Man unique, we saw it all today as his horse, belittled for its looks and luck, ran a great circle route around slowpokes and then brought down a front-runner within sight of the wire.
Pleasant Colony is skinny. You can count his ribs from a furlong away. A bad fever knocked him out of training two months ago. A scar from a chemical burn makes his left hindquarters uglier than the right side, where he only has purple medicine painted over a series of skin-rash splotches. In a beauty contest, this nag is Miss Congeniality.
When Pleasant Colony won the Wood Memorial in mid-April, the victory was discounted as the result of a bad day for Cure the Blues, everyone's Derby favorite. Pleasant Colony came from the distant suburbs of a 21-horse Derby to win little more than grudging admiration for such stamina in such a bag of bones.
Today the poor little thing won $200,800, and first thing Campo walked up to Eddie Arcaro on the presentation stand. Arcaro is the Hall of Fame jockey who is ABC-TV's race commentator. At a dinner party this week, Arcaro and Campo fell to an ugly shouting match of professional and ethnic insults, most of them originating in Arcaro's belief that Pleasant Colony is just another horse.
"I undressed him," Campo said when someone asked what the Fat Man said to Arcaro. "Unnnn-dressed him."
Arcaro stood there for 10 minutes of postrace air time, a sick little smile pasted on his face. He did not say a word to Campo, who, after telling the national TV audience he had a great horse that would win the Belmont, made a triumphant stroll under the Pimlico grandstand and back to the stable area.
"Campo . . . Campo," came shouts from the customers, who know a star when they see one. The Fat Man nodded in appreciation, raising his chin defiantly.
"I tell ya," he was saying as he swaggered through the stable area, "this is a great horse. He can run with any of 'em, Secretariat or any of 'em."
His theme never changed. On TV and into the track's public address system from the presentation stand, Campo told everyone within earshot (covering most states east of the Mississippi) that Pleasant Colony was not a good horse but a great horse. Some wise guy had written that Secretariat pulling a wagon could outrun Campo's scarred waif. To that guy, Campo today said unprintables.
"A great horse!" he was saying. "I tell ya, don't nobody respect John Campo, don't nobody respect my horse."
The volume rose, waking nappers in Kansas.
"I'm a great horse trainer." Campo roared. "I can do anything I want with a horse. Up close, lay back. I do what I want. I win today going away. I toyed with 'em. It was like takin' candy from a baby. And I ain't let this horse run yet."
The words raced each other in escape from the Round Mound of Sound. This was his finest moment. When the partrician owners sent Pleasant Colony to Campo's care in March, they told the trainer not to race him until the Wood, giving him time to get over the fever that left him badly beaten in the Florida Derby.So Campo had 42 days to get a classic horse running classically.
Could he do it? A winner with mediocrities, the Fat Man never won a classic. He worried. Then one night at home, after twice watching his favorite movie, "Coal Miner's Daughter," Campo came up with an inspired training schedule that pumped up the once sickly kid.
In three weeks, he worked Pleasant Colony four times at a mile, twice over the soft Belmont training track, the last work in 1:38 2/5 a week before the Wood.
The 98-pound weakling with a fever was ready to kick sand in the bully's face.
Now Pleasant Colony has done it three straight times, and Johnny Campo has done it, too. Back at his car today, he said, "I just can't stay in these clothes." He replaced his suit coat with a wrinkled blue windbreaker and felt more scruffily at ease. "Okay, fellas," he said to reporters, "now let's have some fun."
He walked across the stable area, wanting to see his horse, and along the way there came a shout from four grooms inside a barn. "Campo, Campo," they said.
Lifting a fist toward them, Campo yelled back, "This is one groom that made it! They can talk about us now. One fat guy who got it!".