Sept. 20, 1980 – Bid Wins in a Walkover in the Woodward
Spectacular Bid missed the Marlboro Cup when trainer Bud Delp balked at the high weights put on the horse. Up next on Bid’s agenda was the Woodward Stakes, the race he had missed the previous year because of a virus.
The challengers were dwindling, since they were probably only racing for second and third-place money. Talk started of a walkover, a one-horse race in which there were no challengers.
What a Walkover Would Mean for Spectacular Bid
“[A walkover] would symbolize in the most tangible form they know of that Spectacular Bid is truly the greatest horse of modern times,” wrote Barry Irwin of the Thoroughbred Record. Since it was not a handicap, Bid would be carrying only 126 pounds. That scared away a lot of the competition. Winter’s Tale was scratched after X-rays revealed a chip in the bone above his knee.
Only two other horses were entered—Temperance Hill, winner of the 1980 Belmont Stakes and Travers Stakes, and sprinter Dr. Patches. Owners of both horses said they would run their horses if the New York Racing Association wanted them to, but curiously, they were not asked to run. After meeting with NYRA officials, the owners of Dr. Patches and Temperance Hill scratched their horses.
This meant that Bid would run the Woodward by himself. It would be the first walkover since 1949, when Coaltown had gone to the starting gate alone at the Havre de Grace Racetrack. According to Brian Landman of the Tampa Bay Times, it was racing’s greatest gesture of respect.
No Horses = Small Purse
In hearing about the Woodward walkover, the Meyerhoffs also got a surprise announcement: Since there were no other horses in the race, officials had the option of giving the winner only half the guaranteed purse, plus the nomination fees, but not the entry money.
Spectacular Bid would get $73,000 for winning the race, but that was all. He also had to make a real effort; he couldn’t just canter around the racetrack for a mile and a quarter. The Meyerhoffs were furious with the decision and talked of racing under protest or not racing him at all.
Delp was livid. He accused NYRA officials of chasing Dr. Patches and Temperence Hill away from the race to repay him for withdrawing from the Marlboro Cup. NYRA racing secretary Lenny Hale would not say whether that was true.
“We felt like the New Yorkers got together and they decided that they were going to do this to us,” Tom Meyerhoff said. There was still some bad blood between the two camps, dating from the feud between Ron Franklin and Angel Cordero, the safety pin incident at the Belmont, and the weight assignments for the Marlboro Cup.
The Walkover Begins
In the end, Bid showed up and walked onto the track alone, a post parade of one, with boos and catcalls still lingering over Delp’s decision to withdraw from the Marlboro. “Everybody else was at the Marlboro, where were you?” one person asked. Bid was not used to the boos; he had not heard any since the Belmont Stakes. It was unfair, but New York fans have little sympathy for anyone, much less a horse.
Bid was loaded into the starting gate—alone—and when the bell clanged, he took off by himself. He needed no challengers to run a good race; all he needed was his love of running, and he ran like an animal uncaged. Jockey Bill Shoemaker had to hold him back to prevent him from wasting too much energy. He galloped the one and a quarter miles under strong restraint in an impressive 2:02 2/5—the same time in which he had finished the Kentucky Derby.
Bid earned his $73,000—half of what he would have earned if just one other horse had run. His winning streak was at 10. He remained unbeaten during 1980. Despite the bitter feelings associated with the race, Delp had always dreamed of seeing Bid in a walkover, and it finally came true.