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Triple Crown moment

By BRANT JAMES, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 7, 2002

Whirlaway was, in a word, nuts. But he also was a winner. So fractious was the 1941 Triple Crown champ that trainer Ben Jones had to fashion a special hood with a one-eyed blinker to curb the colt's penchant for bearing far to the outside.

Changing jockeys to the steady Eddie Arcaro also helped curtail some of his more annoying habits, but Whirlaway still was an adventure throughout his Triple Crown run.

Arcaro later recalled, "It was never any picnic to ride Whirlaway."

In the Kentucky Derby, Whirlaway lagged near the back but moved to fourth with a quarter-mile left. No one could match him in the stretch as he blazed to an 8-length win. Whirlaway's late burst so amazed the racing public that media-driven rumors circulated he had failed a mandatory saliva test at Hialeah that winter.

The accusation proved false.

An awful start left Whirlaway 9 lengths back in the Preakness, but his late charge produced a 51/2-length victory. He changed his ways in the Belmont, accelerating only a half-mile into the race for a 6-furlong lead. Whirlaway bore off by 21/2 lengths to win the fifth Triple Crown.

Whirlaway died on a Normandy stud farm in 1953, 10 minutes after being bred to a mare.

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