Sport: Drama at Flamingo Lake

It was so cold in Florida that the mink stoles and silver-fox jackets were not just for show. But while the weather was cold, the betting was hot. Eleven miles as the helicopter flies from Miami’s glossy, crowded ocean-front hotels stands spacious Hialeah, overrun by footsore fugitives from crammed Northern tracks. Last week Hialeah presented one of the biggest, CinemaScopiest spectacles to be found on any U.S. race track.

Backdrop for Stars. Hialeah was built by a man who has long served Florida’s spiritual needs rather than its sporting habits. Church Architect Lester W. Geisler (he designed the million-dollar First Presbyterian Church on Miami’s Brickell Avenue and the 18-acre, cruciform drive-in Pasadena Community Church at St. Petersburg). At Hialeah, a dignified formal park stretches to the $2.5 million clubhouse. Not until he rides in an escalator into a profusion of bars, restaurants and pari-mutuel windows does the visitor get a glimpse of the track itself, which is framed by hedges of Australian pine and bougainvillaea. Dominating the infield with its lush landscaped gardens, the shallow, double-kidney shape of the lake reflects the slow-circling pink flamingos, the tame black and white swans, and an occasional alligator from the neighboring Everglades Canal.

This week Hialeah’s landscape will be a backdrop for another drama: the second of the meeting’s two biggest races: $100,000 Flamingo Stakes. The top stars: William Woodward’s noble bay colt, Nashua, and Boston Doge, a dark bay sprinter owned by Paul Andolino, a Boston livery-stable operator.

Prince & Pauper. Bred to the purple at Maryland’s rich Belair Stud (by Nasrullah out of Segula) and trained by 80-year-old Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons, dean of American trackmen, Nashua went to Hialeah boasting a fine record as a two-year-old—six victories in eight starts—and a promising contender for the Kentucky Derby. Mr. Fitz, already a winner of three Derbys (Gallant Fox, 1930; Omaha, 1935; Johnstown, 1939), has brought him along slowly. Petted and pampered, watched and worried over like a prince, Nashua may work the kinks out of his legs in one more race before the Flamingo, but the Flamingo is the big race on his schedule, and he is ready. “He’s a good-built horse,” says Mr. Fitz. “He’s made perfect.” If the old man has any worry at all, it is not that Nashua may not be fit, but that Boston Doge (by The Doge out of Boston Lady) may be faster. A cheeky contender from the wrong side of the tracks, the Beantown Bullet is as much of a surprise to his owner as he is to the public. A year ago, before Boston Doge had been raced, the Boston livery business was bad, and it was said that Owner Paul Andolino would gladly peddle his little colt for $7,500. This season Andolino has turned down offers of more than $150,000.

For all Boston Doge’s impressive record (eight victories in eight starts), Hialeah could not even find room for him in its fancy stables among the pink flamingos.

On race days he vans to the track from nearby Tropical Park, his mane still uncombed, straw in his tail, a ragged pauper among high-bred thoroughbreds. Only when he begins to run does the class show through. Then he moves like a winner.

Each horse has yet to run a race of more than a mile—and the Flamingo is a mile and an eighth. Most of the smart money has already decided that Nashua has the stamina, the Boston Doge is a front runner who will fade in the last long furlong. To most of the paddock prophets it looked like a lock. “But don’t forget,” one of them hedged, “once, they even beat Man o’ War.”

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