In some high-toned racing circles, the Kentucky Derby is viewed with condescension. The carnival atmosphere at Churchill Downs and the media circus that accompanies the race are seen as being a trifle vulgar.
But never has a man carried this antipathy to the Derby to such bizarre and extreme lengths as Henry Clark, the 77-year-old trainer of the brilliant 3-year-old Linkage. Having seen his colt win the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland by 5 1/2 lengths and establish himself as the probable Derby favorite, Clark announced this morning that Linkage won't run in America's most famous race. He will be put on a van Saturday and shipped to Pimlico, his home base in Maryland.
Linkage's preparation for the race he won't see had been perfect. After he had displayed considerable ability in Louisiana this winter, Clark enlisted the legendary Bill Shoemaker, a three-time Derby winner, as his jockey. He came to Kentucky early to get acclimated. He won an allowance race here last week and then won the prep race that has produced seven Derby winners in the last l8 years.
And after all this, he's going home?
"We're always interested in what's best for the horse," Clark, of Glyndon, in Baltimore County, had said before the Blue Grass. "If he were to run in the Kentucky Derby, it would be three races in a bit more than two weeks' time, and that is too much. It wouldn't be fair to the horse to ask him to do that."
Clark talks as if the Derby had been suddenly rescheduled for the first Saturday in May, and he didn't have the chance to prepare for it. In fact, he had months to map out an optimal schedule; if three races in 17 days were too much for his horse, he could have gone from the Louisiana Derby on April 3 to the Blue Grass to the Kentucky Derby.
That would have made perfect sense, but, instead, Linkage will bypass Churchill Downs and go to Pimlico to await the Preakness. This is the race Clark cares about. On the wall of his home is a portrait of a horse named Dunboyne, who won the Preakness in 1887; the trainer, William Jennings Sr., was Clark's grandfather. "That's all I ever heard my grandmother and my mother talk about," Clark said.
But even if winning the Preakness is his principal goal, skipping the Derby is not necessarily the way to accomplish it. History shows that the Derby is the optimal prep race for the Preakness; horses who miss it have a significant disadvantage in conditioning.
David Whiteley, who shares Clark's lack of enthusiasm for the Derby, had Highland Blade in peak condition for the race last year, but skipped it so he would have a "fresh" horse for the Preakness. Highland Blade, who had lost by three lengths to Pleasant Colony in their previous meeting, lost to him by 11 lengths this time.
Whatever his real rationale for passing up the Derby may be, Clark offered no public explanations today. Training for Jane duPont Lunger, he has the luxury (rare in his profession) of doing whatever he wants.
He can afford to campaign his stable of regally bred horses as patiently and as sparingly as he sees fit.
He can afford to spend the summer running for relatively small purses at Delaware Park, the track the duPonts founded. He and Lunger can afford not to care about the millions of dollars by which a Derby victory would enhance their horse's value. They can afford to show the world that they are above caring about the Kentucky Derby.
Most other men and women in the horse business dream all their lives about winning this race. The trainer and owners of Timely Writer will regret for the rest of their lives that their colt got sick one week before the race and had to miss it. All of them can appreciate the sad irony of having a colt capable of winning the Derby fall into the hands of patricians who do not choose to run. McIvor Denied Jockey's License By Clem Florio Washington Post Staff Writer
BALTIMORE, April 23--The Maryland Racing Commission denied Edward McIvor a jockey's license today, invoking a rule forbidding the association of licensed race track personnel with known touts or bookmakers.
McIvor, 51, was denied the license by a vote of 4-0, with Commissioner Neil McCardell abstaining.
J. Fred Colwill, head steward representing the state, had seen McIvor dining with a known bookmaker. McIvor, who is currently employed as an exercise rider, testified he did not know the man was a bookmaker.
In other commission business, the list of placing and patrol judges approved for the Laurel meeting included the names of Robert M. Flournoy, the first black official in Maryland in the last 10 years; Janice Retler, the first woman patrol judge in Maryland history, and Kevin Callahan, the son of Racing Commission Secretary James Callahan.