Sir Barton was a maiden when he came up to the Kentucky Derby of 1919. He got over that quickly, and became the first horse to win the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes, a triple victory for which the English expression "triple crown" (Two Thousand Guineas, Derby, St. Leger) was rather inaccurately borrowed.
That it took so long for a "triple crown" winner to appear in America was not surprising, for it was only shortly before Sir Barton's victory that the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness had become races of such a calibre as to tempt the leading 3-year-olds from all sections. In subsequent years Gallant Fox, Omaha, and War Admiral duplicated Sir Barton's feat, and at Belmont Park on June 7 Calumet Farm's Whirlaway raised the number of members of this exclusive company to five, with a ridiculously easy, galloping victory in the 73rd Belmont Stakes ($25,000 added, 3-year-old colts and fillies, 1 1/2 miles).
In a manner of speaking, Whirlaway won the Belmont Stakes on successive Saturdays in May for his decisive triumphs in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes left owners of other contenders with little hope for the Belmont. When Whirlaway charged in the earlier races nothing had proved able to go with him, and in the stretch at Churchill Downs and Pimlico Race Course it was a clear case of "the farther it went, the worse it got."
So from the leading 3-year-olds, only J. F. Byers' Robert Morris came out for the Belmont Stakes and the other starters were C. V. Whitney's Yankee Chance and King Ranch's Itabo, the latter unbeaten in three previous starts all at short distances and against no such opposition as he met in the Belmont.
Itabo, a son of the Derby-Preakness winner Bold Venture and the high-class Snowflake, went to the front, but at a fairly slow pace and Robert Morris, Whirlaway, and Yankee Chance followed as named, all under restraint.
Possibly there was some faint hope that a slow enough pace might work to Whirlaway's disadvantage, but jockey Eddie Arcaro easily saw through this strategy. After a half-mile, he reported afterward, he turned to Jockey Robertson on Robert Morris and Jockey James on Yankee Chance, and said "The hell with this, fellas, I'm leaving." He left forthwith, giving the chestnut colt his head, and after the next quarter-mile Whirlaway was seven lengths in front. There Arcaro took him in hand again, rated him along steadily, while Robert Morris passed the failing Itabo and took up a discouraging chase.
On the last turn Whirlaway came out from the rail a little but was quickly straightened, and he finished with speed in reserve, 2 1/2 lengths ahead of Robert Morris, which closed gamely. Yankee Chance moved up slightly in the stretch and finished third, five lengths behind Robert Morris, five lengths ahead of Itabo, Each starter carried 126 pounds. Time, :25 2/5, :49 4/5, 1:13 4/5, 1:39 1/5, 2:05, 2:31, track fast. Stakes division, $39,770, $5,000, $2,500, $1,000.
The ease of Whirlaway's victory was perhaps reflected more clearly by the time than his margin of success. He was nearly three seconds away from the track record which *Sorteado set in 1939, a factor explained by the fact that he beat his field in the third quarter-mile and had little to do thereafter, He met the smallest field since Sun Meadow and Jamestown disputed the issue with Twenty Grand in 1931, and if his victory was not particularly impressive, it was obviously because his opposition could not extend him.
Whirlaway moved six places upward on the list of American money winners, and is now 17th, just behind Bimelech. He has started 26 times, won 13 races, finished second four times, third six times, and has earned $236,111. Challedon is the only horse now in training which has earned more.
Owner Warren Wright did not see Whirlaway complete his triple crown victory, being in Denver, Col., with Mrs. Wright to see their son, Warren Jr., graduated from Denver University. He listened to the broadcast of the race with considerable confidence, told Denver reporters that Ben Jones deserved the credit for making a great consistent racer out of a temperamental, willful 2-year-old.
Someone asked what system had been employed with Whirlaway, and Owner Wright answered: "One doesn't employ a system in raising an unusual child. One studies the child, watches nervous reactions, follows awakening interests, or, in other words, carefully bends the twig."
Meanwhile the twig faces a busy summer. He is engaged for the Dwyer and Shevlin Stakes at Aqueduct Racetrack, the Arlington Classic and American Derby, the Travers at Saratoga Race Course, the Lawrence Realization and Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park. Trainer Ben Jones apparently plans to accept as many of these engagements as the condition of the horse warrants, and should Whirlaway win these, approximately $140,000 in first monies would be added to his total, placing him in striking distance of Seabiscuit's money-winning record. He has also been nominated for the Hollywood Derby and Hollywood Gold Cup. No announcement has been made from the Calumet Stable, but it has been hazarded that Whirlaway may be sent after the Santa Anita Handicap next winter.
Meanwhile, whatever possibilities exist in the future, it was certain that Whirlaway is the outstanding 3-year-old of the season, that he was the fifth triple crown winner, that he is the second horse since Man o' War to lead his age division in earnings in both his 2- and 3-year-old seasons, and the first leading 2-year-old since Man o' War to have a better record at 3 than at 2.