by Dean Hoffman
It was supposed to be a match race between favored Die Laughing and the challenger Artsplace. And it was virtually a match race for the first half-mile. But for the last half-mile it was no race at all.
It was no race at all past the half-mile marker because when Die Laughing began to raise the white flag of surrender, Artsplace was still strong.
He was strong all the way to the wire and the timer flashed 1:51.1.
It was the fastest mile ever by a 2-year-old and it came on a 5/8-mile track with Artsplace doing all of his own work on the front end. It was a performance that shocked spectators and still evokes chills from those lucky enough to have seen it personally.
As the field eased in behind the gate, Die Laughing was the 4/5 favorite while Artsplace was sent off a 8/5 odds. John Campbell let Artsplace go right up to the gate in post five while Richie Silverman brought Die Laughing slowly into his position on the right of Artsplace about an eighth-mile before the start.
They were side-by-side for the duel. No excuses. No holding back.
When the wings of the gate folded. It was a cavalry charge and Campbell went to work on Artsplace to make sure he got to the front first. Campbell energized Artsplace and the colt responded with withering speed. He crossed over to the rail with Die Laughing ranging on the outside of him.
The opening panel was in a stunning :26.2. Campbell showed no sign of wanting to let Die Laughing go. The son of No Nukes was hung out to dry with Tooter Scooter tucked behind Artsplace. There was a large gap behind Tooter Scooter, but Silverman stayed outside and rode shotgun, forcing the pace and putting pressure on Artsplace. Which one would capitulate first?
The pace was brutal and relentless. The half-mile time flashed at :53.2. It was shortly after the half when it became obvious that Die Laughing was going nowhere. A quarter-mile later he understandably became just a roadblock for the rear guard as they futilely attempted to catch Artsplace. The three-quarter time was 1:23.
Artsplace had every reason to curl up and come back into Campbell’s lap but he drove straight to the wire.
“Artsplace is a bull in the stretch,” said the announcer.
The margin at the finish was eight lengths but it really didn’t matter. Stormin Jesse, sent off at odds of 102-1, got up for second over Tooter Scooter.
Die Laughing finished dead last. Driver Richie Silverman had given his colt every chance, but Silverman admitted, “No one could have beaten Artsplace tonight.”
The time of 1:51.1 broke the all-age track record at Pompano set earlier that fall by Beach Towel.