April 1934: An interview with Mata Hari

Mata Hari - DRF 05.23.1934

Photo of Mata Hari as published in the Daily Racing Form, 05/23/1934

“LOUISVILLE, Ky., April 29. – Arriving in Louisville for our annual chats with Kentucky Derby candidates whom we ask to give their own reactions to the impending event for the benefit of Wake readers, we dropped our baggage at the hotel and taxied at once out to Churchill Downs, according to our usual routine.

Because trains from Chicago get in so early, devastating sleep, we felt somewhat seedy and in need of relaxation. Therefore, we chose for our first interview a lady, Mata Hari, favorite in the future book betting, risking her uncertain moods as shown in her 2 year old career.

Mata Hari had finished breakfast. She was seated before the Dixiana barn submitting to a manicure, covered by a kimono of solverino, buff and scarlet trimmings. This rather striking combination reflects the stable racing colors.

‘Good morning, Miss Hari,’ we ventured, wondering what was her mood on this particular day.

‘Why good morning, Mr. Wake, my old friend from Arlington Park. Only please don’t call me Miss Hari. Just call me Mata, because you’re going to get much better acquainted this season through my winnings. If you do,’ she said, arching her eyebrows, ‘perhaps I’ll call you Harvey.’

During this greeting Mata’s kimono had slipped slightly apart showing her shapely legs which in conformation, however, tend a bit more to the masculine than did those of Top Flight, a belle of two years ago. Blushing slightly but with pseudo-modesty, Mata gave the kimono a wide sweeping swish of the Sally Rand revealing type, back into place, remarking roguishly ‘Body by Fisher, you know.’

This playful reference to her ownership by Charles T. Fisher of the Detroit automobile family proved her in a good humor, so we launched at once on our mission.

‘Mata,’ we said cordially yet a bit paternally, befitting our years, ‘you’re a dear, sweet girlie, but you gals just don’t win Derbies. How about it?’

‘Now Harvey, don’t be an old fogey,’ she replied, again adjusting the kimono. ‘I’m part of the New Deal, you know. Of course, I try to be ladylike, but I’m a tomboy at heart. I’ve always played with boys on the farm. And I like them too,’ she added frankly.

‘Take a look at my 2 year old record, 8 starts with 5 brackets and earnings of $55,364 – largest of my sex, second only to Singing Wood of my age, and fourth largest of all ages for the year – and three times unplaced, of which more later. You saw me In that 2 year old race before the Derby last year. Wasn’t I winging? And you saw me towrope my field in the Arlington Lassie stakes worth $21,670, with my stablemate, Far Star, two lengths back, and the rest nowhere. Well, I won my first three races just about as I pleased and they called me a wampum, not Wampas, baby, because I brought home the money.’

At this point we looked up expectantly. Mata Hari caught it at once, and said: “Now, Harvey, if we’re to be friends, don’t bring up those next three races where I ran outside the money. I don’t like to talk about it but sometimes I’ll let you read my diary. Fact is my governess didn’t approval of some of my boy friends and was unduly severe about it. So I sulked. Foolish, of course, but I was just a young girl. As a punishment, they wouldn’t let me start in the Belmont Futurity which Singing Wood won.’

‘So I decided boys weren’t worth all those heartaches anyway, and promised not to think anything more about them. And how I did finish the season, winning the Breeders Futurity and Kentucky Jocky [sic] club stakes. In the former, Discovery, Hadagal, Time Supply, and Prince Pompey were behind me. I attach more importance to the Jocky [sic] stakes, however, because it is at a mile. I won by more than two lengths eased up in 1:39 4-5, with Discovery, pretty highly thought of for Saturday, in second position. Now brush up your memory and recall the great horses which have won this race: Wise Counsellor, Master Charlie, Valorous; also Reigh County, Clyde Van Dusen, Twenty Grand, three Derby winners in the last six years.’

‘Naturally I’m terribly anxious to win. I’m promised a new party gown if I make good, but that’s not it. In the first place, there’s my sex and even your friendless quib that gals don’t win Derbies hurts. Then there’s my Man o’ War blood on my mother’s side of the house. Here’s one gal, Harvey, who is going to win the Derby.’

‘I noticed most of the boy colts with whom you talk promise to throw a party out at Charlie’s in Chicago if they win. I don’t suppose it would be proper for me to invite you anywhere, but I’ll let you and French Lane take me to dinner at Charlie’s, then afterwards to the Edgewater Beach to dance. Now, Harvey if you happen to think you ought to go, it’s all right, for in a few minutes I have my hair washed and take a finger wave.’”
(“In the Wake of the News” with Harvey T. Woodruff / Chicago Daily Tribune, 04/30/1934)

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