The death of Lorenzo Bandini (page 32) was an extremely painful reminder of auto racing's hazards and also testimony to the intense affection that people have for its heroes. Last Saturday 100,000 mourners attended Bandini's funeral in Milan, their grief the sharper because he had been the only Italian driver of the very highest rank. Even as those rites were observed, the Indianapolis 500 drivers, among them a few who had competed against Bandini in his final race at Monaco, began the risky business of qualifying. Each chanced the same end that was Bandini's, yet obviously none held back. This is racing's way and always has been—and will be as long as men choose to stake their lives on their skills and disciplined passions.
ISI DOES IT
The day before the Kentucky Derby The Cleveland Press ran this headline in 72-point type: PROUD CLARION TO WIN DERBY. Virtually unnoticed was the line above the head: ISI NEWBORN PICKS.
Isi Newborn has been picking the Derby for the Press since 1940 and, counting Proud Clarion, he has had 12 winners. Ever since 1953, when he came up with Dark Star, who paid $51.80, Cleveland's bookies have dreaded the day Isi's selection appeared in the Press. In 1954 he had Determine ($10.60), in 1958 Tim Tarn ($6.20), in 1960 Venetian Way ($14.60), in 1964 Northern Dancer ($8.80) and in 1966 Kauai King ($6.80). As one bookie moaned last week: "That little guy ruined the town real good."
Isi customarily narrows his choices to five horses following the Derby Trial. This year they were: Successor, Ruken, Diplomat Way, Damascus and Proud Clarion.
"Successor didn't seem to be himself," said Isi. "Ruken, I checked the breeding on both sides, and it didn't sound like Derby breeding. Diplomat Way had the breeding but was just a notch away from being topnotch. There was no question about Damascus. But I've calloused myself against a cinch favorite.
"The way Proud Clarion was coming up to the race reminded me of Chateau-gay. Both were bred as stayers and were lightly raced. Proud Clarion lost to Diplomat Way in the Blue Grass but who was behind him? Last year's 2-year-old champion [Successor] and a horse [Gentleman James] that won over $100,000. Another thing, Proud Clarion was second all the way and kept coming on. And it was his first race around two turns."
Nonetheless, Isi was embarrassed to reveal his choice. "When they asked me and I told them, they just laughed," he said. "Finally I would just answer, 'the Darby Dan horse,' thinking that had more prestige and maybe they wouldn't check the name."
Isi felt better on Derby Eve after he went to an early Derby betting window to make some wagers for friends. While in line, he spotted a dollar bill on the ground. "The same thing happened the year I picked Venetian Way," said Isi.
Later that day he remembered he had forgotten to telegraph his selection to a man in Tyler, Texas who sends him $2 to bet each year. "Pick Proud Clarion," Isi wired. "Let us pray." Said Isi after the Derby: "The guy probably thinks I have a pipeline to heaven."