The first winner of the Kentucky Derby went on to win the Withers Stakes, which in 1875 was in the second year of its history, but this is the exception rather than the rule, for only three others have accomplished the double and now Mrs. John D. Hertz's Count Fleet and Sir Barton (in 1919) are the only horses to take the Derby, Preakness, and Withers.
A part of this is because winners of the earlier races, up to 1 1/4 miles, often skip the Withers, as being more of a speed race. But to a horse which runs in front, distance makes little difference, so Count Fleet was a 1-20 favorite for the 68th Withers Stakes ($15,000 added, 3-year-olds, one mile) at Belmont Park May 22.
Count Fleet made the odds look liberal. The race had been expected with considerable interest because it was over the same course that he had set his amazing record of 1:34 4/5 as a 2-year-old last October, and there was always the chance that another record-breaking performance might result from his second attempt at the distance.
But a muddy track and a lack of formidable opposition dulled this prospect, though Count Fleet ran the mile (around one full turn) in 1:36, a mark that has been beaten only three times (Man o'War, Snob II, and Johnstown) in Withers history, and only by one-fifth of a second.
Count Fleet was off a little behind Belair Stud's Tip-Toe but took the lead almost immediately and galloped in front all the way. In the stretch Johnny Longden took him very wide to avoid soft going along the rail and he seemed to bear out a little. But he finished five lengths ahead of W. E. Boeing's Slide Rule and Tip-Toe, 12 lengths farther back, was the only other in the field of three.
Count Fleet has started 20 times, won 15 races, finished second four times, third once and has earned $214,960. The Withers moved him from 26th place among American money winners to 22nd. Next objective is the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes on June 5.
Count Fleet's record as a 3-year-old is five wins from five starts and $138,715 in earnings. His unbroken string of victories, beginning after the Futurity last year, now stands at nine.