03/08/2012 12:44PM

From Tom Fool to Secretariat: Hatton on the legends of racing

Damascus usually put his rivals "on a treadmill in early stretch," according to Hatton.

A sampling of the late Charles Hatton's colorful takes on the icons of racing:

On Tom Fool, 1952
“At a glance, Tom Fool is a medium sized, full bodied dark bay colt with a white near hind pastern, and exceptional development across the hips and about the stifle and quarters. His coat is thin, and when seen in the summer sun it has the color and patina of fine old walnut.”

On Romanita's Monmouth Oaks, 1957
“The time? What does it matter? The prize? It is only money. Today, Romanita stands alone.”

On Bold Ruler, 1958
“There is something distinctively ‘old-fashioned’ like a daguerreotype about him, as if he stepped from a Currier & Ives print into the vibrant present.”

On Round Table, 1958
“His emotional claquers, many of them the same parochial ‘Native Sons’ who had sponsored Swaps, exhausted all the superlatives in the language in his behalf. They seemed never to allow a sun to set before delivering themselves of some panegyric. Eastern sophisticates, the sport’s conservatives, were much entertained by this journalistic sideshow.”

On Carry Back's Champagne Stakes, 1960 
“He came into the paddock led by two men, handling him as gingerly a mahouts leading an elephant. This did not suggest he is exactly of the seraphim, an impression heightened when he proceeded to stand like a Missouri mule in his stall at the break.”

On Saratoga, 1968
“This carpetbagger has been coming to Saratoga since the days of the Grand Union with its community baths, rope fire escapes and tassled surreys out Union Avenue to the course. There is April in Paris and beantime in Boston but give us Saratoga in August.”

On Damascus, 1968
“He was the antitype of the throatlatcher who is reluctant to leave his opposition. Usually he had put all rivals on a treadmill in the early stretch, but when circumstances conspired to place him on his mettle he was courage itself.”

On Secretariat, 1973
“The mile Gotham Saturday will have plenty of drama and suspense, even if nobody shows up to meet Secretariat and [racing secretary] Ken Noe Jr. has to run him against an old film clip of Man o’ War.”