And this is the best time of the year.

THE INSIDE RAIL | by Sean Clancy

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For years, I said it.

“Whenever you’re ready.”

For years, he laughed.

“Not yet.”

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In the fading light, in the last race, on the final day of the 2013 steeplechase season, Paddy Young secured his fourth championship, becoming the first steeplechase jockey to win four titles since John Cushman in the 80s. Another long year had come to an end for Young, for all jump jockeys. Tack dangling between his left elbow and hip, blood-stained from an earlier fall and running his tongue across his teeth to make sure they were all there, the then 37-year-old veteran admitted he was near the end.

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Jay Hovdey walked into the Mt. Washington Tavern two days before the Preakness, ordered a Guinness and tossed me his book, Long Rein, Tales from the World of Horse Racing.

I’ve been reading it ever since. Never more than three pages at a time, drone strikes into the last 15 years of Thoroughbred racing. 

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I’m asked all the time, why don’t you train horses? My dad trained horses, my friends train horses, most of the jockeys I rode against are training horses. It makes sense. Ride races, then train horses. Allen Jerkens, Barclay Tagg, Leo O’Brien, to name a few, rode jumpers and made it big training flat horses.

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There comes a time.

Valerie Buck, who had a set list of Wait A While, Fleet Indian, Rags To Riches and Octave one morning at Saratoga, broke her neck when a filly slipped and fell on the road near the Oklahoma training track in October, 2009. Buck came back. Had another surgery. Came back. Broke her ankle.

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