01/05/2011 4:20PM

Swaps, HG pp's


Let's all cram into the time machine, and head back to 1956.

*Elvis Presley cracks the music charts for the very first time with Heartbreak Hotel.
*Don Larsen of the New York Yankees pitches a perfect game in the World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers.
*The Summer Olympics begin in Melbourne, Australia
*Dwight Eisenhower is re-elected to a second term as President of the United States by defeating Adlai Stevenson. 
*Marilyn Monroe marries Arthur Miller.

In the racing world, a California-bred son of Khaled named Swaps wins Horse of the Year honors.  Let's relive Swaps' campaign through the words of Charles Hatton in his "Review of 1956 Races" article published in the 1957 American Racing Manual.

"Swaps, a bronze, clipper-rigged colt from California, enlivened the season frolicking about among the world time records, rewriting them in profusion.  He was awarded the Horse of the Year honors in Daily Racing Form's annual poll, and in all the other voting conducted as an appraisal of the season's entertainers.  Incidentally it reflected the rapid development of the bloodstock industry, for not only was Swaps the first equine "Native Son" to attain Horse of the Year honors, but New Jersey produced the champion handicap mare, Blue Sparkler, and the three-year-old leader, Needles, was foaled and reared in Florida..."

"Swaps' 1956 campaign was a tour de force of the Argonaut, Inglewood, American, Sunset and Washington Park handicaps.  He won eight of 10 starts, always at odds-on, and he carried 130 pounds six times during the season, one in which it was felt, in some quarters of the turf, he had earned a good deal more weight.  His incursions on the world's time standards included a mile in an electrifying 1:33 1/5, mile and 70 yards in 1:39 3/5, mile and a sixteenth in 1:39 and mile and five furlongs in 2:38 1/5.  Moreover, he equaled the world mark of 1:46 4/5 for a mile and an eighth."

"There were times when it seemed patent that, given a glib racing surface, and the occasion for such histrionics, he might have eclipsed even some of these marks.  Suffice it to say that not since Man o' War's day, 36 years earlier, had any thoroughbred made a caprice of setting so many marks.  It was quite natural that comparisons should be drawn between him and Man o' War, whose legion of admirers were at pains to point out, however, that "Big Red" carried heavier weights, over less fast racetracks. 

The 1955 Horse of the Year, Nashua, was the principal disputant of Swaps' claims to the title, and was denied the distinction a second season only marginally.  Swaps polled 25 per cent more votes.  Their rivalry, so intense and engrossing in actual competition as three-year-olds, was reduced to mere symposiums on the subject of their relative merits as four-year-olds.  Regrettably, their paths never crossed.  This disappointed their partisans, who included virtually every turf follower, and rather beggared the question of supremacy in many minds, leaving the matter largely to conjecture, speculation and projection, except for some meager and quite inconclusive evidence presented when they met the same horses - at different times and places, however.
Racing's hopes that they would renew their feud under colors were dashed in midsummer when divergent objectives and itineraries were announced for them.  Whatever impelled their connections to chart the courses they did, it was prudent from an investor's point of view.  That was the inference in many quarters, whether or not it discolored the motive."

"It is interesting that six times during the season Swaps won under an impost of 130 pounds.  Realistically, he handled this weight with such ease there can be no question that the 1956 handicap champion might have carried somewhat more, although the depths of his capacity will always remain idle guesswork.  Just as the tantalizing question of what would have occurred had he and Nashua met again as four-year-olds is unanswerable, except for supposition, hypothesis and theory.  Nashua twice during the year shouldered 130 pounds, in the Carter and the Metropolitan Handicap, and was beaten in each instance, although he won the mile and a quarter Monmouth Handicap under 129 pounds with such a flourish that jockey Eddie Arcaro said, "This was his easiest race."  Thus, the California colt's friends and parochial proselytes might point out, accurately, that their champion had not only recorded flashier times but actually won under more weight than did his eastern rival for the title.
Nashua's protagonists countered with a premise that, while Swaps at times appeared almost to achieve levitation over "pasteboard" surfaces, the track variant between these courses and Belmont Park's was such that the Combs colt's times in the Suburban and Jockey Club Gold Cup were fully as praiseworthy.  In the Suburban, he carried 128 pounds a mile and a quarter in 2:00 4/5, and in the Cup the scale of 124 pounds two miles to a new American record of 3:20 2/5."

"Thus the discussion went throughout the season.  Except that in the instances of these two superior individuals difference of opinion did not make a horse race.
The weights which Swaps and Nashua were assigned at various times during the season precipitated bitter controversy in racing circles.  The lines were drawn between the purists and pragmatists, the old guard and the new, concerning "limited handicaps."  Competition for the box office attractions, in the midst of many $100,000 stakes, was extended to the conditioning of the races.  The situation became so vexing that directors of the TRA met to consider its position in the matter.  They appeared glad to leave an opportunistic policy to the discretion of individual racing departments.
It is with horses as with wine, and 1956 might be said to have been graced with a vintage crop of handicap performers, so that the dominion of Swaps in the West and Nashua in the East was not maintained at the expense of inferior opposition, though their campaigns overshadowed all else during the season.  In this regard, it may be noted that, when they escaped the orbits of these two scintillant stars, such as Midafternoon, Wise Margin, Sailor, Dedicate, Summer Tan, Mister Gus, Bobby Brocato and Porterhouse where quite capable of approximating time records.  Mister Gus and Honeys Alibi must have bettered records in prompting Swaps at "Hollypark" in races in which he beat them..."

"...It had been expected in some circles that Swaps would enhance the Santa Anita <Handicap> with his presence, but the sorry track conditions confined him to his quarters in the stable area..."

"...Earlier, during the Gulfstream Handicap Day program, the crowd had been treated to a sight of Nashua's rival, Swaps, in action when he breezed between races, for a race over the track on April 14.  The racing-like son of Khaled had signaled his return to colors on the other coast when he romped a mile and a sixteenth in 1:43 under 127 pounds, while humbling Bobby Brocato and Arrogate a month earlier.  In his one and only appearance on the Atlantic seaboard, Swaps carried 130 pounds to a new world record of 1:39 3/5 for a mile and 70 yards.  He was pricking his ears, almost three lengths before the presumptuous Galdar at the time."

"...The next "big one" among the handicaps was presented by the enterprising Hollywood Park management at Los Angeles.  This was the $109,800 Californian, under allowance conditions, for three-year-olds and upward on May 26.  It came at a time when the mature performers east of the majestic Rockies were pointing for the time-honored handicaps at Belmont Park and elsewhere along the Atlantic Seaboard.  But if its significance was localized, it had the box office that Swaps' every personal appearance vested in West Coast events for which he was started. 
The field marshaled postward, in salubrious weather, for this mile and a sixteenth numbered six.  Swaps and Bobby Brocato shared topweight of 127 pounds under the conditions, Poona II., carried 121, Porterhouse and his stable companion, Mister Gus, 118 each, and Honeys Alibi 115.  Swaps was considered as certain as "death and taxes" and was joyously backed into odds-on favoritism.  The result was shocking to his loyal legions, however, for, after wearing down Bobby Brocato with a first six furlongs in 1:09 2/5, he sallied to the front and opened up three lengths at the end of a mile in 1:34 2/5.  Then Porterhouse beat him a stubborn head in 1:40 4/5 for the distance."

"Willie Shoemaker rather magnanimously assumed all blame for this reversal, saying that Ismael Valenzuela on Porterhouse had stolen a march on him with his vigorous effort through the stretch.  One reflects, however, that this was not the only time Swaps had looked something less than sensational when forced from a pull to a drive.  It was no disgrace, certainly, for him to have been beaten by the erstwhile Belmont Futurity winner and two-year-old champion at a weight disadvantage of nine pounds.  Although little Porterhouse could not reproduce this form the remainder of the year, trainer Charles Whittingham put him down in superb fettle for the Californian and he gave one of the finest performances of his career.  Nothing more was seen of Swaps for more than a month..."

"The Fourth of July is a festive occasion in the nation's thoroughbred sport, tracks which are allocated this coveted date annually put their best foot forward to beguile the public on holiday.  In most instances, the entertainment is of sufficient appeal to persuade the celebrants to forego the ball games, beaches and other diversions to the tune of record turnstile counts.  Hollywood Park programmed the 17th running of the $103,250 American Handicap at a mile and a furlong.  The lure was Swaps, carrying 130 pounds and required to concede 15 to Bobby Brocato, 19 to Mister Gus and 22 each to Blue Volt and Limelight.  Parenthetically, it must be said that if Swaps' burdens did not exceed 130, he was at various times asked to give capable rivals considerable concessions.  Despite the task not set for him in the American, however, the same magic he weaved at the box office lined him with an aura of invincibility to the form students and he was 20 cents to the dollar, the club offering win betting only."

"The day was heavenly and the track lightning fast, the elements cooperating with the management to provide a good show.  As an exhibition of the thoroughbred virtues lavished on Swaps the American was a resounding success, but as a contest rather pointless.  Racing very wide under Shoemaker's confident handling in the early stages, while Bobby Brocato and Mister Gus were indulged in alternating as the pacemakers, Swaps moved grandly to the front without need of urging entering the stretch and equaled the world record of 1:46 4/5.  Finishing second, a length and three-quarters back, Mister Gus himself ran in 1:47 1/5.  The first mile was traversed in 1:34, which made for a final eighth in :12 4/5, so the finish was a parade, Swaps sauntering home at his leisure.
Swaps' legions were properly impressed and by now not only expected the Ellsworth horse to win, but to break time records in the process.  Who can say that Swaps and Hollywood Park, where a rainy day is a phenomenon, did not bring together the right horse on the right track?  While the western half of the nation's turf devotees were hailing the son of Khaled in dithyrambic terms, easterners assuaged themselves with allusions to the fast going..."

"...Though he squandered his American rivals with such apparent facility, Swaps had the same 130 pounds to carry in the mile and a quarter of the $162,100 Hollywood Gold Cup on July 14, the same afternoon Nashua entertained at Monmouth.  The weights had been released on May 29.  Two of his Gold Cup rivals, Mister Gus and Bobby Brocato actually picked up weight though beaten by him in the American.  There was a shift of six pounds against Mister Gus with 117 and eight against Bobby Brocato with 123.  The purse distribution was persuasive, however, and these, along with four others, Portherhouse, Honeys Alibi, Beau Busher and Blue Volt, dared to oppose Swaps.  Win betting only was offered and Swaps was a prohibitive 15 cents to the dollar.
Again the going was light as a feather.  Again Swaps supplanted Mister Gus in front at his leisure on the home turn, winning by two consummate lengths to spare.  And again he made an incursion on the record, going the distance in 1:58 3/5 and carving a full second from Rejected's challenging mark.  The first mile was reeled off in an unbelievable 1:33 1/5.
By this time, some of the less dedicated easterners were forced to concede that Swaps was endowed with a spectacular order of speed, it did not matter if Hollywood Park was "downhill all the way."  The hue and cry for a return engagement between Nashua and the Californian echoed and reverberated to every nook and cranny of the American turf.  Swaps' debunkers were less articulate.  In the sure knowledge that another match would have irresistible appeal, one which might be converted into a substantial profit, several of the more enterprising clubs offered sums ranging from $100,000 upward for such a "natural."  Not long thereafter, the connections of the two colts announced their itineraries, differing in every particular, and it was interpolated that they could restrain their enthusiasm for a special race which would break the tie of the Derby and the match of the previous season."

"If this was disappointing, it relieved a tension that had mounted to almost frenetic pitch..."

"We return now to Swaps, whose campaign, like that of his rival Nashua, ran like a golden thread through the warp and woof of the season's sport.  The Ellsworth colt had one more lucrative engagement at luxuriant Hollywood Park, in the mile and five furlongs of the $110,500 Sunset Handicap.  He had long since become the idol of the Native Sons and the club understandably endeavored to show him often as possible, their vital statistics reacted so sharply and favorably whenever he was on view.  Swaps was not only a performer of marvelous speed, he was in the capital of world histrionics, where his exhibitions evoked the maximum of audience appreciation, and he had the further virtue of being a product of California.
Fortified as they were with moviedom's giant, double-flowering superlatives, there were times when it seemed the coast men-of-letters were in some imminence of exhausting their supply completely.  Something of their fervor may be gleaned from a little incident which occurred at Atlantic City, later in the season, when Swaps was withdrawn quite suddenly and unexpectedly from the United Nations.
When the announcement was made to the stunned crowd, a visiting journalist from the Golden State leaped up from his typewriter, brought both fists crashing down on his desk and declared:  "That proves it!  Now we have the Horse of the Year!"  One can imagine the gnawing fear which prompted this ejaculation.  A reporter from New York, down for the day, made a quiet rejoinder:  " 'Methinks you doth protest too much'."  This tableau should afford at least a vague idea of the intensity of feeling among the camp followers.
The Sunset Handicap's 15th running was illuminating, in more ways than one.  First of all, it dissipated any notion that Swaps lacked stamina.  He enjoyed a virtual walk-over, for all the compensation his eight rather Quixotic "rivals" could provide, making his own pace and winning in new world record time of 2:38 1/5.  This was two and two-fifth seconds faster than Social Outcast's track record.  Later on, Swaps' people were to say that it was not interesting for them to start him in the two miles of the Jockey Club Gold Cup, which, incidentally, was one of Nashua's objectives, feeling it was immaterial to his appeal at stud."

"Caustic critics found time to wonder at this explanation.  But no matter, the son of Khaled had clicked off 13 furlongs at the rate of :23, :46 3/5, 1:11, 1:36 1/5, the mile and a quarter in 2:00 3/5, a mile and a half in 2:25 4/5 and the distance in 2:38 1/5 while carrying 130 pounds.  Nor did any of his competitors prompt him.  At the end, he was four and one-quarter lengths before Honeys Alibi, who finished another length in front of Blue Volt, who was third.
Apart from throwing Swaps' optimum speed - that pace he could maintain long distances without undue distress - into bas relief, the Sunset proved again that light weight in a handicap will not compensate for lack of genuine quality and enable an inferior horse to rival one of higher class.  Since time immemorial it has been recognized among turfmen that the handicapper can only afford a mediocre performer an equal chance of winning by increasing the weight on the superior entrants.  That is a truism.  It was never practically demonstrated in more conclusive and unblinking fashion than in this Sunset.  None of Swaps' opponents was weighted above 110 pounds.  Indeed all eight carried overweight, ranging from one to five pounds.  And yet it was farcical as a contest. 
Again the club decided against having place and show wagering, though there were nine acceptances, providing as many different wagering units.  As one might guess, this aspect of the race was given much notoriety in injured "Vox Pop" quarters of the press..."

"...Meanwhile, Swaps had set out on what was purported to be a grand tour east of the Rockies, for engagements at Chicago and in New Jersey.  A new Washington Park stakes, named the Arch Ward Memorial for a paragrapher who enjoyed a local popularity, was selected for his first appearance in the gusty midwest metropolis since he had been pulverized in his match with Nashua a year earlier.  This event was at a mile and three-sixteenths on the turf course for a purse of $50,000 added.  He was set to carry 130 pounds and give his seven rivals from 14 to 25.  Moreover, these included several grass specialists, such as the French Mahan, the Irish Blue Choir, the Australian Derby winner, Prince Morvi, and Sir Tribal."

"The magic of Swaps' name at the box office for this event, decided on Saturday, August 25, attracted a crowd of 25,388 in typical weather.  They made the Coast sensation 30 cents to the dollar.  There was no show pool.  The story of the running is soon told.  Howdy Baby, Sir Tribal and finally the successful Mahan went at the invader in relays, never permitting him to gain the lead, though he was second, in "a good lie," turning for home.  In the astonishing end he tired perceptibly and drifted rearward, finishing last but one as Mahan won a deserved half-length decision over Sir Tribal.  Prince Morvi came from far back for third.  The weights on the first three were 114, 116 and 113 pounds, respectively.
Swaps' fans were incredulous.  The more charitable of them wanted to throw the race out, declaring it was too bad to be true.  Casting about for extenuating circumstances, there were vague references to the turf course and its condition.  But then, Swaps had won the American Derby in record time of 1:54 3/5 for the Ward distance of a mile and three-sixteenths on the same surface the preceding summer.  And the "firm" condition of the going for this debacle was attested by the fractions of :23 1/5, :47, 1:10 3/5, 1:36 2/5, and 1:55.
Perhaps Nashua's friends might also have wished to draw a merciful veil of silence over his reversals in the Gulfstream, Metropolitan and Carter.  But, of course, there can be no such erasures in the records.  Both just plain "got beat," in the detached, sophisticated view of realistic observers.  One reflects that only Italy's Ribot established an unblemished record, one which shines in unmitigated perfection, in the last several years, winning all 16 of his starts in three campaigns.  He was, by common consent, the "Horse of the World" in 1956."

"Swaps' redemption came a week later, at a flat mile on the speed-conducive Washington Park main course, when he was one of six parading for the $142,700 Washington Park Handicap.  He got no weight off, again carrying 130, while spotting Summer Tan 15, Sir Tribal 14, and Sea O Erin, Hasseyampa and Dogoon 18 pounds each.  In the light of what Summer Tan had achieved, making him a concession of 15 pounds was no easy assignment.
Though the "idee fixe," so carefully cultivated in many quarters, that the brilliant Ellsworth colt was invincible had been an illusion, there was much in the running of the Washington Park Handicap to delight those who admired him so extravagantly and steadfastly.  As in his west coast sorties, he converted what was supposed to be a race into a dramatization of speed.  The stoical Shoemaker indulged Arcaro and Summer Tan in the lead to the last turn, where he initiated a relentless challenge the New Yorker could not deny, then sailed grandly away, Swaps winning with his ears pricked in a startling 1:33 2/5.  At the finish, he was two lengths clear of the beaten but still struggling Summer Tan, who was an equal margin before Sea O Erin.  Except for a brief bid by Dogoon early, after which he was glad to retire, that was the "race."  The final time constituted a challenging new track mark, two-fifths of a second faster than the old standard set by Bernwood.  The fractions were electric:  :22 1/5, :44 1/5, and six furlongs in 1:07 4/5.
Swaps brought a new verve into what had been considered a rather stilted medium out Chicago way, where much use is made of the eight-furlong course.  He left his field without any excuses, nor was any proffered by their few backers.  As it turned out, it was on this high note of exceptional speed that Swaps closed his career under colors, though he moved on to Atlantic City for New Jersey engagements which were not consummated.

In the course of the delightful August season at Saratoga, trainer Syl Veitch reproduced C. V. Whitney's three-year-old Career Boy, who had been in enforced idleness at his sporting owner's Westbury L. I., estate after injuring a hoof in the Belmont Stakes, and announced an intention of training him to meet older horses in the $100,000 United Nations Handicap.  This mile and three-sixteenths on the turf also was on Swaps' schedule.  Other invitees pointed for it were Find, Mister Gus, Dedicate, Lofty Peak, Fisherman, Prince Morvi, Mahan and Jabneh.
Weights for this race, run on September 15, had been announced on August 13, with the note that the maximum would be 130 pounds.  This, then, was Swaps' weight.  He was asked to give Mahan 10 pounds, Mister Gus 11, Prince Morvi 12, Find 13, Fisherman 11 and Career Boy 14 in actual weight, or seven by the scale.
As you might imagine, the prospect of seeing Swaps for the first time in competition on the Atlantic Seaboard stirred keen interest among the turf fraternity, who had read reams of advance notices of his phenomenal mobility.  He appeared to train satisfactorily for the friendly Mesh Tenney, and the many visitors to his stall found the horse equally sociable, returning their interest like the kind stallion he is.  Much has been written of the Californian's beautiful manners, ingratiating disposition and integrated "personality," all of it perfectly true.  This is an advantage to any horse in training, for it makes the humdrum of their routine less wearing, and usually is accompanied by a hearty appetite, which is also essential to weathering a busy campaign.
Swaps' generosity was documented in his races, for he never to the writer's knowledge showed the slightest tendency to sulk, nor to come down with a fit of nerves, always giving cheerfully of his best, winning or losing.  He must indeed be a pleasure to his handlers.  Tenney, a sort of displaced cowboy, often slept in the stall with him."

"Unfortunately for the hope of the public and Swaps' owners, who now included John W. Galbreath, he having bought an interest in the horse, the bronze son of Khaled never got to the post for the United Nations.  The plate on his off fore hoof  had been changed several days before the running and on the morning of the race he was noticeably lame.  It was cruel luck for the association to have to announce his withdrawal to the thousands who had congregated, despite a threat of rain, for the occasion of his eastern debut..."

"...High hopes had been entertained, raised by Rex C. Ellsworth, that Swaps would make the short hop from New Jersey to Long Island for the Gold Cup.  A western turfman had assured Ellsworth, he was quoted as saying, that Belmont's surface "was not exactly a plowed field."  Then grim fate intervened with the shocking news that poor Swaps, on the morning of October 9 at Garden State Park, had broken a bone in his left hind leg while at exercise.  The entire turf world was shaken, down to the most blase, hard-bitten horseman, and for several days Swaps' people were besieged with telephone calls to inquire, with heartfelt concern and sympathy, for the latest word on his condition.
Wild rumors had it that he might be destroyed.  But Mr. Fitz offered a sling, a staff of vets ministered the colt and made him as comfortable as possible, and trainer Tenney rarely left his stall, day or night.  Thanks to this solicitude and the colt's wonderful disposition, he pulled through, rescued for the stud.  His departure from the scene he had graced with his presence for three years was as touching as his rival's had been heroic.

An obscure two-year-old, Swaps found himself at three, when he won eight of nine starts and $418,550.  He fared almost as well as a handicapper, winning eight of 10 races and $409,400..."

In the year-end voting, Swaps received 129 votes for Best Handicap Horse to 101 for Nashua, 21 for Bardstown, 3 for Bobby Brocato, 3 for Summer Tan, 3 for Dedicate, 2 for Sailor, 1 for Find, and 1 for Midafternoon.

Hatton also described Swaps in his "Profiles of Best Horses" column:

"Of first order in reviewing the champions of the 1956 turf in America comes "Horse of the Year" Swaps, surely one of the fastest thoroughbreds to appear during the two decades in which these polls have been conducted.  He won eight of 10 races during his meticulously arranged campaign and shattered time records with a verve and in such number the most blase sophisticates were volubly impressed.  Swaps established four world marks and equaled another.  If he did not shine in unmitigated perfection by comparison with the great weight carriers among handicap champions of the past, Rex C. Ellsworth's and John W. Galbreath's California-bred four-year-old proved to have a phenomenal degree of speed, the quality which from time immemorial has been held the first requisite of the race horse.
The writer approaches this delineation of Swaps without trepidation, but well aware that some of the readers will consider that we are guilty of treating the subject with a panegyric, others that "we damn him with faint praise."  People feel strongly about Swaps.  For two years, the turf world has been divided between the brilliant chestnut's partisans and those of the East's accomplished Nashua, who was voted the Horse of the Year in 1955.  Unfortunately, for racing, they did not meet in 1956.  The honors were even in their only two encounters as three-year-old.  Swaps won the Kentucky Derby at Nashua's expense and subsequently was beaten by Nashua in a match race.  The impartial judge can only conclude that both colts are exceptional. 
It may be apropos here to present a sort of manifesto in introducing these sketches of the leaders of the various categories during the campaign.  These descriptions are a permanent record.  It is their sole purpose to present the subjects without favor or prejudice, incorporating all the pertinent facts available.  Our role is not to toss literary valentines to the season's favorites, painting word pictures of them like some commercial artist who ignores horses' malformations to suit the taste of the owner.  Rather, it is an attempt to give as complete and felicitous an account as possible..."

"...Some of the most famous performers - including Swaps, we might add - have had the class to overcome certain physical handicaps in asserting their superiority..."

"...Someone has said, "Every horse has 100 faults."  This is a gross and unforgivable exaggeration applied to many of the species, among them the 1956 Horse of the Year.  Thoroughbreds may be badly formed in one particular or another, but it becomes a fault only when it clearly interferes with their capacities on the course or in training..."

"...There are several structural types in the thoroughbred family.  Swaps' is that commonly called "the greyhound."  Some may fancy shorter-backed animals, more closely knit about the forelegs, the hocks set on lower, but that is a matter of taste, and Swaps is not "wrong" in his balance, nor in any way vulgar.  To the contrary, he has many of the physical attributes recalling his paternal grandsire, Hyperion, on a larger scale.
Swaps has the conformation and presence to catch the eye of the most casual paddock visitor, and to hold that of the connoisseur.  The tout ensemble is a pleasing model of a performer apart, unmistakably "something special."  First of all, his coat is chestnut, not golden, nor red...It is a hard, fixed color, tending less to fading out about the points than lighter chestnuts.  Swaps also is attractively marked, with a round star, a faint snip beside his right nostril, his near fore and off hind pasterns white..."

"...However, it is the hoof on Swaps' right leg, the whole colored one, that has caused so much mischief."

"Swaps' head is one of the finest this observer ever has seen in the thoroughbred species, truly an ornament to embellish the Pantheon of the Horses of the Years.  It has an exquisite, cameo quality, with the fine penciling of an Arab's, the sort of frontispiece with which Herring adorned his subjects, indulging himself in all the poetic license he could conceive.  The ear is delicately tapered and erect, playing almost constantly, like those of a horse given to thought, or the mental processes which pass for cerebration in equines.
The eyes are large, intelligent and kindly, the jowls flat and with high cheek bones, the muzzle small and delicately turned.  There is a slight bulge at the brain pan, between the eyes; below this a bloodlike convexity.  There is no tendency toward a "parrot mouth," and the lips are firm.  He might be a trifle wider between the eyes, but the space here is not noticeably narrow, as in the case of his grandsire, Hyperion, from whom he inherited this attractive head and, one suspects, his tranquil, sociable disposition and no little of his racing class  In competition, in training and in transit from track to track, he has the sober, dutiful personality which is the hallmark of his tribe.

The champion's neck is long, arched and not heavily crested, narrow at the throatlatch and flowing gracefully into thin, rather pronounced withers and into a deep withers of a width to suit the most fastidious.  The scapula has moderate length and is set on at an angle implementing his long extended action.  The shoulder and elbow are well, though not too heavily muscled.  The forearm is unusually well developed, as is the gaskin, while the muscular investiture of the stifle is abnormal, connoting tremendous driving power.  This last is, indeed, the cachet of his extraordinary speed.
The Californian's top line has a scope which contributes to his racing-like aspect; at the same time it is smooth both at the withers and over the loin, which has fair width.  There is no suggestion of weakness in the flanks.  He has excellent length of pelvis, so much so that in repose it seems to extend beyond the point of the hock, for his hind leg is reasonably straight and sets well under him."

"The angulation of Swaps' forelegs would be difficult to improve.  He is just a trifle over at the knee, as most experienced horsemen like, and his pasterns are of the desired length and at the correct angle.  There is nothing spool-like about them.  His bone is flat and of medium breadth.  It is from the knees down that Swaps' people might wish to change him.  The knees tend to be a trifle open, particularly the right one, which has a gummy appearance but is said not to have given any concern.
Swaps' ankles are enlarged and clearly show the effects of the " 'eavy, 'eavy 'ammer of the 'ard 'ighway," recalling those of the 1936 three-year-old champion Granville.  There is something Pyrrhic about his career.  One wonders if Swaps' underpinning is to be ascribed so much to a certain softness as to the pasteboard type of racecourse over which he has shown such breath-taking speed.  As we have stated, his legs conform to all the fastidious racing man's ideals as to angle, but even so Swaps has put so much stress on them it has marred them.

The theory is held that the fact the Khaled colt has trained and races most of his career "on the hard" caused these blemishes.  It also may explain his long, low and supremely confident manner of striding, for rarely has he had to accommodate his action to rough, uneven and yielding surfaces, such as many tracks east of the Rockies present.  Western horses often have "run down" on Atlantic Seaboard tracks, where collected action is a prerequisite for maximum speed.  The hoofs of horses plated to race in the East are trimmed to provide more toe than on thin, level racing surfaces."

"Now for the most famous heel since Achilles.  Swaps' right fore hoof was injured, so close on his engagement in the Santa Anita Derby it is conceivable he may have been a trifle short for that event, but which he nonetheless won.  The affected part was scraped, the pus removed and a pad provided as a protective agent, between the plate and horn.  Precisely how the injury was incurred has never been made quite clear.  Seemingly it is recurrent.
Swaps is an excellent "doer" and one imagines he will furnish out into a remarkably big stallion unless his diet is carefully supervised.  His people are good feeders, however, and it goes almost without saying he will be kept in vigorous condition.  He will mature at approximately 16.2 with a normal weight of 1,200 pounds.  Though turf enthusiasts may remember him as a horse slightly longer than tall, and he certainly is "well grown," his form will present a much more square appearance when he has completely let down.  His middle, naturally round with well-sprung ribs, and with superb depth through the heart, then will tend to foreshorten the overall picture he presents.  He will be something of an equine Adonis, a "picture horse."
It is just as well that he has so much "horse sense" and aplomb, for, of course, this stood him in good stead when he was placed in a sling to mend his fractured hind leg.  A fretful individual would have been in more grievous trouble, and indeed, horses have been known to die in a sling.

Swaps, who was a March 1 foal at Ellsworth's 80-acres Ontario, Calif., ranch, is of impeccable English breeding in three of the first four strips of his pedigree.  His sire, Khaled, purchased from the Aga Khan, who had acquired him as an unraced colt, is by Hyperion from Eclair, the next dam the noted producer Black Ray.  Khaled was a fairly successful racehorse and in his instance the pedigree proved stronger than the individual.  Swaps is out of Iron Reward, a daughter of the Son-In-Law horse Beau Pere, who descended from the celebrated Sceptre. 
The second dam, Iron Maiden, is by our American Triple Crown winner War Admiral, out of the mare Betty Derr, a good stakes winner in Kentucky in the writer's youth.  Betty Derr was by Sir Gallahad III., out of Uncle's Lassie.  This is an old American family and the immediate family of the Kentucky Derby winner Clyde Van Dusen, named for Betty Derr's trainer.  The Star Shoot horse Uncle, sire of Uncle's Lassie, was a successful if well-nigh forgotten progenitor, sending up the Kentucky Derby winner Old Rosebud in his first crop of foals.  Thus Swaps presents the now familiar formula of intermingling domestic and imported blood..."

Swaps' lifetime past performances are available at the bottom of this blog posting.

Here's a link to a youtube video featuring Swaps:


Here's a youtube video recapping Swaps' win in the Kentucky Derby:



Congrats to Ray for finishing first in last week's HandiGambling exercise.  He selects Friday's eighth race at Gulfstream Park. 


Remember that you have a mythical $100 with which to wager on the race, and the entrant with the highest money total will receive a "Monthly Enhanced 60-Card Past Performance Plan." Anyone going over the $100 limit will be disqualified. Please post your plays and analysis to the blog. In the event of a tie, the earliest post gets first preference. One entry per person please. I reserve the right to approve or deny any entries.

I know that there is a time issue for some of you, but let's remember why we began the HandiGambling races in the first place. The goal was to share ideas on why we like these horses, and why we're betting them the way we are. I'm not asking for a novel, but if you could spare a sentence or two outlining your handicapping angles, and thought processes about wagering, it would be appreciated.

Best of luck to all.

Swaps.pdf67.07 KB
HG217.pdf143.98 KB