THE INSIDE RAIL | by Sean Clancy

“What are you working on?”

It is asked often. Mostly, because people don’t really know what I do. Which is fair, because there are plenty of days when I don’t know what I do.

I laughed at the question.

There must be a moment before a man gets struck by lightning when he says, “Man, I shouldn’t be out here…”

Standing on the turf course, looking toward the Pimlico grandstand Saturday afternoon, I was thinking that thought. Lightning had already appeared beyond the backstretch, it seemed like a long way away, but now, looking over the grandstand, there was no doubt, it was coming. My radio cohorts, safe and secure (well, as safe and secure as you can feel in a wooden hut on a roof) described the weather, “…under battleship gray skies…sprinkling…we could be in for a storm.”

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Counting down. The Preakness looms in hours. The toll both, American Pharoah needs to pay the toll. Best horse, short field, inside post, all eyes, all arrows on him. Feels like we’ve been here before.

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A friend asked me about my old friends, the band of brothers who went to work when others went to party every weekend. The jocks’ room. I arrived in 1988, as the Hendriks/Teter/Lawrence era was closing and stayed 12 years, creating our own era. It was the last gasp of American-born jump jockeys, the one before the Bentley/Massey era that changed the game. We had fun, we were young and free, riding at long-forgotten places like St. James, Marengo and Brookhill, balancing euphoria and disaster, risk and reward, trying desperately to get on the likes of Victorian Hill, Rowdy Irishman, Flat Top, Saluter or any horse who would change your life. 

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Home from another Derby voyage. Deep breath. Regroup. Unpack. Iroquois Steeplechase on the horizon. Better get to the cleaners for a quick turnaround. I came home with four programs, three hit the trash and one hit the mementos pile. Spring time in racing, no rest.