Any question in your mind about Native Dancer is easy to answer; he's as good as you thought.
Also, any doubts about his ability to win at more than a mile were scattered to the wind at Jamaica last week. Having been one of the first to wave a small flag for Native Dancer—and flag-waving is not one of my customary diversions—I was especially gratified.
Nevertheless, I must say that the mile-and-a-sixteenth Gotham Stakes couldn't have been made easier for him if it had been made to order. Of course, whenever a race is split, there is always an easy half (the one your horse didn't get in), but I've seldom seen such a collection of pushovers in one section. For that reason, a few curmudgeons insist that Native Dancer's performance wasn't much. For my part, I think it will do handsomely till his next start, the Wood Memorial Stakes.
At saddling time Native Dancer looked even better than he did when I saw him last at Belmont Park several weeks ago; he had fined down a bit, and sharpened up. Also, he was quieter and better behaved.
Incidentally, I saw his front ankles without bandages for the first time since last autumn. Now, it had always been my impression that it was the right one that bothered him last season, but to these unpracticed old eyes, the left one looked quite as big. Also, it seemed that he had a peculiar way of putting down his front feet when he walked--one almost directly in front of the other—but I daresay this was just a habit I hadn't noticed before.
In the race, I thought, he was always master of the situation. Till he rounded the far turn he was under the stoutest restraint. Eric Guerin handled him well, as he does all his mounts, but watching him I somehow had the impression that the boy was just a mite over-anxious. After all, it must get on one's nerves to ride an important unbeaten horse, and the strain parlays every time the animal runs.
I wouldn't be at all surprised if Magic Lamp, which finished second to Native Dancer, developed into something better than average. He's a smooth, well-turned brown colt by Alibhai—Milcave, from the Rokeby Stable, and hasn't much form, but he ran only three times last season, and twice this year prior to the Gotham Stakes, and that is all to the good.
Before the second half of the Gotham, Invigorator looked ever so much better, and more at ease than he did in the Experimental Free Handicap, but Laffango beat him just the same.
Contrary to expectations, Native Dancer's presence in the fixed-weight Gotham Stakes at Jamaica did not cut the number of entries to a skimpy field. Eighteen 3-year-olds went to the post, and the race was run in two divisions. Native Dancer went in what was thought to be the easier section, and got under his belt the preparatory race he had been unable to find earlier in the season. It had been six months since the son of Polynesian had won the East View Stakes over the same track, at the same distance (1 1/16 miles), and in the same time (1:44 1/5.)
Jockey Eric Guerin took Native Dancer in hand after the gray colt broke well from an outer post position, and kept him on the outside away from trouble, allowing others to race ahead as they pleased. On the stretch turn, Guerin let the gray colt out a few notches, waved a whip at him, and calmly hand-rode Native Dancer to the tenth victory of his unbeaten career. Magic Lamp, which had taken the lead on the backstretch, was two lengths behind at the wire and three lengths in front of the third-place Sickle's Sound.
A large part of the more than a quarter-million dollars now in Native Dancer's bank account comes from the seven stakes he won as a 2-year-old of 1952—the Futurity, Hopeful, East View, Saratoga Special, Grand Union Hotel, Youthful, and Flash Stakes—but he stands a good chance of quickly dwarfing that earnings figure. He is expected to start in the $100,000 Wood Memorial prior to the Triple Crown events.
Geisha foaled a chestnut sister to Native Dancer Feb. 15 at Dan W. Scott's Farm, Lexington, where Native Dancer was foaled March 27, 1950. That farm is located just across the Russell Cave Pike from Ira Drymon's Gallaher Farm, where Polynesian stands. Polynesian's other stakes winner so far this year is the 2-year-old Banquet Bell. Geisha is booked to Polynesian again this season.