Horse Nominating System Would Aid Political Parties

Damon Runyon

Reading Times/December 20, 1935

It is to be regretted that political parties cannot use the same system of nominating their candidates as the race horse owners.

Some weeks before a big stake race, the owner of a horse that he thinks well of at the moment is permitted to nominate this steed for the race by the simple expedient of sending in the name of the horse and, say, twenty-five bucks. It may be more, it may be less.

The mere nomination of a horse does not mean the horse will have to start in the race. The owner can wait and see how the horse turns out. If it turns out to be a goat, the owner forfeits his nominating fee, and lets it go at that.

However, if the horse happens to show real merit, the owner is apt to let it go to the post in the race for the big stake, for which privilege he pays perhaps $500. That is the starting fee in the Florida Derby and the Kentucky Derby.

For the Futurity, it is $1,000. But for that race, you nominate the potential mother of a horse. That is to say, you nominate a mare before the birth of her offspring. We are inclined to doubt that this system could be applied to politics.

But it would be a wonderful thing if a political party could nominate candidates with the privilege of first seeing how they turned out before sending them to the post. As it is now, when a party nominates a candidate, it has to let the nominee face the barrier, and only too often this is a grave error.

For stake races like the $20,000 Florida Derby, and the $100,000 Santa Anita Handicap, the leading turf features of the Winter that stretches before us, the owners have named a large number of candidates. We have forgotten the number of names sent in for the Handicap, but the list for the Derby totals 93, with more in prospect.

Now it is doubtful if more than fifteen horses will go to the post in either race—well, make it twenty as an outside figure. You see, by post-time most of the owners will have discovered that their nominees are strictly phflugs, and have no chance to win, except through an absolute miracle. And horse owners know that miracles are becoming somewhat rare.

Even some of the horses that overoptimistic owners send to meet the starter really have no chance, and their presence can be explained only by the hope that springs eternal in the human breast. The same hope that causes so many of us to buy sweepstakes tickets, and to look for justice in high places.

But 80 per cent of the nominating owners have long since discovered through experience that their nominees aren’t worth the powder to blow ’em out of their bridles, so they keep them in the barns on the day of the big race. Their experience has included actual trials, under all conditions, of their nominees.

It would be a great advantage to a political party if it could make its nominations first, and then have ample time to test the quality of its nominees for some weeks. It might wind up without any candidate at all, to be sure, but that would be better for the party than going to the expense of sending to the barrier some entry that can’t run fast enough to get up a mild perspiration.

The race track has its well-nigh infallible method of sifting out merit in horses. It consists of letting them run against each other. Eventually this method classifies all the horses—puts them where they belong. The stake horses go into the stakes, and the platers to the claiming races. They are pretty definitely placed by the time they are three-year-olds. (We are now speaking of horses, understand.)

Once in awhile a steed that has been dropped down among the platers and has mingled in that company for a time, suddenly emerges to real class. In the main, however, once they are pegged, they remain i that hole.

Oddly enough, a lot of platers know they are platers, too, in which they differ materially from the human political plater. An equine plater quickly realises when he is up against class, and is apt to stop trying to keep step, though when you put him with his own kind he never quits.

The Florida Derby, which has been increased to $20,000 added by Mr. Joseph E. Widener, the head of Hialeah Park in Florida, has drawn a very high-toned list of nominations, including Marshall Field’s Tintagel, winner of the Futurity, and Mr. Widener’s own Brevity, the probable Kentucky Derby winner.

Tintagel seems bred to go a route. He is the son of Sir Gallahad, III, sire of the great Gallant Fox, and grandpa of Omaha. Tintagel’s mother is a mare called Heloise.

Colonel E. R. Bradley, Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney, the rich Belair, and the Wheatley and Brookmeade stables have named Derby candidates, also the Greentree. M. L. Schwartz, and Warren Wright, master of the Calumet barn.

Until comparatively recent years, the big owners rarely sent their youthful stars to the winter tracks, preferring to hold them off until along toward Kentucky Derby time, but $20,000 added isn’t to be sneezed at. Moreover, winter racing has become fashionable.

Last year the Florida Derby produced a real Kentucky Derby contender in Roman Soldier, who ran second to the mighty Omaha, though the Soldier finished out of the money in the Florida Derby, which was won by Colonel Bradley’s Black Helen. The Florida Derby is a mile and a furlong, as against the Kentucky route of a mile and a quarter.

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