On Travers morning, the gates at Saratoga open at 7 am, several hours earlier than usual, in order to allow the expected crowd to jam in, secure picnic tables, and while away the time until first post.
NYRA entertains us by showing, on the TV screens throughout the track, the runnings of the Travers that are available on tape; every year, thrilling us again and again, are, among others, Jaipur and Ridan in 1962.
This Saturday’s feature at Belmont is the Jaipur, in honor of the champion three-year-old who had made a name for himself and a reputation as a horse for the course at Saratoga at two, winning the Flash and the Hopeful, and finishing second in the Saratoga Special. At a time when the winner’s circle was actually a chalk circle on the racetrack, Jaipur’s victory in the Hopeful over a sloppy track inspired a colorful bit of reportage from Joe Nichols in the Times. (subscription required to access Times articles)
Mrs. Isabel Dodge Sloan made the trophy presentation to [Jaipur’s owner George
D.] Widener. The ceremony was planned for a spot near the rail, but Mrs.
Sloane, the owner of the Brookemeade Stable, demurred.
“Put the table in the winner’s circle,” she said. “I’ve got boots on and when a man wins the Hopeful he should get the trophy in the winner’s circle.”
When told that Widener did not have boots on, Mrs. Sloane said “I know very well he won’t mind getting his shoes muddy after winning a Hopeful. Put the table in the winner’s circle.” And that’s where it was put. (“Sir Gaylord“)
Mr. Widener’s opinion on the matter was not reported.
At three, Jaipur fulfilled the promise he’d shown the previous year, winning the Gotham and the Withers before passing on the Derby, finishing up the track in the Preakness and wearing the prize Widener had most coveted in his racing career: the white carnations of the Belmont victor, which Jaipur earned by nosing out Admiral’s Voyage. (Query: in 1962, did the winner of the Belmont get white carnations?)
Heading back to the Spa, hopes must have been high for this bay colt, based on racing historian Ed Hotaling’s description of the anticipation of the Travers:
It was August 18, 1962. Presidents JFK and Nikita S. Krushchev were in a
race of their own, to the moon. But the two manned craft about to go into
orbit were Jaipur and Ridan.
Ridan had won the Florida Derby, the Blue Grass, and the Arlington Classic in addition to a number of two-year-old stakes, and he had finished second in the Preakness and third in the Kentucky Derby, in which he’d gone off the favorite. It was widely thought that he was unable to get the classic distance of a mile and a quarter. As Hotaling writes, “[Ridan] had forgotten to read the papers, however, and with Manual Ycaza aboard, he fired his own reserve rockets in the stretch.”
Ridan and Jaipur separated themselves from the rest of the field heading into the first turn; virtually from the start, these two raced neck and neck, lengths ahead of the five contenders, including the magnificent filly Cicada, behind them. Coming around the final turn, they appeared to be coming back to the field, but neither horse would submit as they ding-donged down the stretch. Hotaling: “Everybody began to realize something incredible was going on…” Nichols: “…the crowd of 26,183 fans had the privilege of witnessing one of the most exciting races imaginable.”
Jaipur and Ridan were helped by the game of bumper cars that the tiring horses behind them were playing in deep stretch; they were chasing Man o’ War’s Travers record, and each time it seemed that the field would challenge them, they dug in. Ridan staged a “most courageous rally” (“Saratoga Choice”) in the stretch, and when they crossed the wire, whoever had won had broken that record by a fifth of a second and tied the track record.
Much too close to call, the race was determined by the camera, which showed that Jaipur had beaten his rival by a nose. The victory was Jaipur’s sixth stakes wins in seven races that year, and as Nichols put it in an example of classic understatement: “[Jaipur] is partial to Saratoga.”
And speaking of classic, this YouTube clip of that 1962 Travers is from the Harvey Pack-hosted Inside Racing; it includes an interview with Ridan’s trainer LeRoy Jolley and is narrated by Fred Capossela, who also calls the race. Thank you, Bryan3229, for sharing it with us.
Hotaling, Edward. They’re Off! Horse Racing at Saratoga. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1995
Nichols, Joseph C. “Saratoga Choice Is First By a Nose.” New York Times. 19 Aug 1962. 16 July 2009.
Nichols, Joseph C. “SIR GAYLORD IS 3D; Jaipur 6-Length Victor on Spa’s Last Day.” New York Times. 17 Aug 1961. 16 July 2009.