The year was 1962. Our country was at the height of the cold war with the Soviet Union. Ninety miles from Miami, Russian nuclear warheads were aimed at American soil. Fortunately, the sporting world brought some very magical moments that would help to ease the tension that the American public was feeling that year.
NBA Basketball saw Red Auerbach and his Boston Celtic’s team win its Fourth of an unprecedented eight straight Championships. Yet it will be remembered forever as the season that Wilt Chamberlin, the Philadelphia Warriors Center hit the unbelievable mark of one hundred points in a single NBA game, a mind-boggling achievement that stands out in the history of sport.
Major League Baseball also gave the sporting public a World Series to remember. The New York Yankees and the San Francisco Giants played a seven-game series that saw no less than eight Hall of Famers showcase their talent. The Giants down to their last out in the deciding game seven had their chance. Down one nothing with men on second and third, the great Willie McCovey came to bat. He smoked a line drive as hard as anyone could hit a baseball. For a split second the Giants’ dugout tasted champagne. As fate would have it, Yankees second baseman Bobby Richardson was in perfect position to catch it. The Yankees were again champions. The Giants would have to wait forty-eight more years to see their dream come true.
Golf too saw plenty of excitement that year. A twenty-two-year-old named Jack Nicklaus made his mark in the U.S. Open at storied Oakmont Country Club near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After seventy-two holes, he and the beloved Arnold Palmer had fought to a draw. They headed for an eighteen-hole playoff the next day. The Golden Bear bested Arnie by three strokes. Golf had seen the beginning of a new era in the sport, the era of the greatest golfer of all time, Jack Nicklaus.
That all being said, we are here to tell the story of a horse race, In particular, the 1962 Travers Stakes. On August 23 of that year, two three-year-old colts would shake the horse racing world to its core in the ninety third rendition of The Mid-Summer Derby, here at the fabled Spa. The event itself would not decide Horse of the Year honors. The immortal champion Kelso easily took home his third of an unprecedented five in a row. That being a subject for another day, it did however have ramifications. It was to decide the three-year-old champion. Two superb race horses would vie for the title. Fairly well-known names at the time, they soon were to become legendary.
Let’s look at them. Jaipur owned by George D Widener, a scion of the sport was seeking his fifth Travers. He was named after Jaipur, the opulent capital city of a province in northern India. His bloodlines were impeccable. He was sired by the famous stallion Nasrullah, whose offspring included the all-time greats Bold Ruler and Nashua. Jaipur had won the Belmont Stakes, the third jewel of the Triple Crown, and was prepped for the Travers with an easy victory in the Choice Stakes on the Jersey shore at scenic Monmouth Park.
Six opponents faced Jaipur in the Travers. Only one of them is of consequence here. His name was Ridan. He was owned by a partnership including Mrs. Moody Jolley. He was trained by her then young son and later to be a Hall of Fame inductee Leroy. Ridan too had the blood of Nasrullah running through his veins. His career began like a comet. He was unbeaten in his seven starts as a two-year-old and continued with his winning ways at three. He was made favorite for the Kentucky Derby, finishing a hard fought third in a race that was won by Decidedly. Ridan came back two weeks later to be bested by a nose in the closest Preakness Stakes in history, losing to lightly regarded Greek Money. He had recently won Chicagoland’s main event, the Arlington Classic and was ready for his trip to Saratoga.
1962 was the year that the incomparable Eddie Arcaro hung up his tack and headed for a well-deserved retirement. The heir apparent to his throne was Willie Shoemaker. Diminutive in stature, a giant in talent, he would be aboard Jaipur. Ridan was to have the services of Panama’s favorite son, a hot tempered, cowboy style rider named Manuel Ycaza.
Two finely tuned thoroughbreds going the classic distance of a mile and a quarter, ridden by two all-time greats and the voice of New York racing, Mr. Fred Capossela...We have set the stage. Now it’s time for the race. “And they’re off” shouted “Cappy.” Shoemaker and Ycaza disposed of all pre-race strategy. They flew out of the gate as one. The call of the race is as historic as the event itself. Capossela along with the 26,000 in attendance could not separate the two. Matter of factly, he repeated the same words. It’s Jaipur and Ridan, and then in his next breath, it’s Ridan and Jaipur. The rest of the field was there for third money. The show was on the front end. Who would crack first. Easy enough answer. Neither one gave an inch. Down the backstretch and into the far turn they refused to separate. Capossela continued with the same rhetoric that he had started with. Shoemaker and Ycaza were on their bellies. All the way down the seemingly endless stretch they mirrored each other. They hit the finish line as one. The crowd had to wait for the stewards to review the photo finish. Finally, the tote board lit up. Jaipur had won the race by a nose. He had sizzled the racing surface in a new record of accomplishment of 2:01.3 for the ten furlongs. In fact, he had just bettered the mark set by the immortal Man O’ War in the 1920 running of the Travers. The crowd had just witnessed one of the greatest duels in horse racing history.
Both three-year olds had reached their zenith. Jaipur was named three-year-old champion, even though this would be his last trip to the winner’s circle. Ridan did get revenge on his nemesis as a four-year-old, when he beat both Jaipur and none other than Kelso in a Stakes Race at Hialeah Park.
Later that year they both were pensioned off to stud duty and the good life in the bluegrass country of northern Kentucky.
It has now been fifty-five years since the most thrilling of Travers Stakes was contested. Except for Leroy Jolley and Manuel Ycaza, the participants have all departed. It is the legend that lives on.
So ends another tale of the turf from this “Mecca of Racing,” fabulous Saratoga.
Link to video of the 1962 Travers: https//youtu.be/kvny8QwMuaw