Here & There – February 16

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Another three-day holiday weekend (for some) has come and gone, this time a doubled up version with Valentine’s Day and President’s Day falling back-to-back. It’s been fairly busy at ST Publishing’s Eastern outposts and we’ll roll out a new feature or two later this week. In the meantime we’ve dug through notes and emptied voice recorders for the weekly mishmash from the world of racing.

Worth Repeating

“You really never know, it’s livestock.” – Hurstland Farm’s Alfred Nuckols Jr. discussing the things that can happen to horses

“I’ll keep my fingers crossed.”- Retired jockey Ramon Dominguez when told there were plenty of people in racing pulling for his election into the Hall of Fame

“You know what I really want you to do? Write something.” – Outgoing Saratoga Stryders Vice President Peter Finley to recent presidential nominee and TIHR’s Tom Law

“I came over to stay. Back then, there were very few people who had come here.” – Trainer Jimmy Day, who came from Ireland in 1983

“We’ve got a good crew down there now, they’re good, honest, hard-working workers. That goes a long way.” – Day, about his Daybreak Stable team  

“(Kirk) Griggs is upside me at the first, I said, ‘you don’t want to mess with this guy.’ He said my guy is good. I said, ‘he’s not that good.’ ” – Day about riding front-running Turtle Head in the Colonial Cup

“I guess when something good happens you get euphoric. You learn to accept the bad things and when the good things do happen you really celebrate.” – Nuckols on balancing the highs and lows of racing

“Buddy Raines showed me records from his diaries when stables would run almost everything they had, they used to have 12, 14 races in the afternoon. Everything would run, then he showed me, a week later, ‘this horse was culled, this horse was turned out, this horse was given to a farmer down the road…’ It was a big thing, they ran and they figured out where they were going. I wish I had those diaries. He would reminisce and talk about those days.” – Aiken Training Center’s Brad Stauffer, about the Aiken Trials

“Each one takes you somewhere higher and higher. It’s funny, you ride a horse and think, ‘God, I’ll never see another like that.’ Then the next thing you know, here comes another one, you think, ‘God, there’ll never be another Azeri.’ Then here comes a Zenyatta, you think, ‘Oh, my God, they’ll never be another like her.’ And then here comes Songbird. It’s crazy when you really stop and think about it. The list keeps going and on and on.” – Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith

“We needed to see it in a Grade 1 scenario, two turns, I loved the way he finished, the way he galloped out. Does that mean he’s going to get a mile and a quarter against the best horses in the world, we don’t know, but it gives us room for optimism.” – Trainer Todd Pletcher, about Donn winner Mshawish

“You should ask for a refund at the doctor, I could have told you that for free.” – John Panagot, to TIHR’s Sean Clancy, after his orthopedic surgeon said he was an old beat-up jump jockey

“Sounds like a winner.” – Saratoga Special alumnus Gabby Gaudet, when told Gabster was running at Wolverhampton

“Paddy Young, 40. Three-time US champion jump jockey.” – The Racing Post in its Birthday section Friday (Better update it RP)

“You can’t teach that.” – Trainer Tim Keefe, after Great Soul dug in to win the Wide Country Stakes at Laurel Park Monday


By the Numbers

4: Hall of Fame trainers with starters in Monday’s Grade 3 Southwest Stakes – Bob Baffert (Collected), John Servis (Bird Of Trey), D. Wayne Lukas (Z Royal) and Jack Van Berg (Cutacorner). Suddenbreakingnews, trained by Donnie K. Von Hemel, won the $500,000 Kentucky Derby prep race.

480: Trainers with entries in Retired Racehorse Project’s 2016 Thoroughbred Makeover, including 83 returnees from last year’s event

$10,000: Amount raised last Saturday at Laurel Park during Fundraiser for Fray to benefit and raised awareness and funds for jockey Fray Martinez and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Maryland.


Book Club

Excerpt from “The Smallest Titan of Them All – Eddie Arcaro rode to win,” from the Top of his Game, the Best Sportswriting of W.C. Heinz. (Given to Sean, by Joe).

“Little guys,” he said once, “usually don’t have it their own way.”

“His mother was sixteen when he was born, and he weighed three pounds. She told me that for two months the doctor who had delivered him came to the house daily to bathe him in warm water with whiskey in it. She said she didn’t know why that was, and until he was four months old her own mother used to wrap him in cotton flannel strips, and they called him “the shoe-box baby.”

“The only thing I ever hungered for as a kid,” he said, “was the size to play baseball. Those other kids didn’t want me. I was always the one left over.”

For the month of August of 1955 I was tailing him around Saratoga where, for those four weeks, New York thoroughbred racing moves each year as it has since 1863. Tailing is the right word, for I never took on as elusive a single subject as Eddie Arcaro when he was this country’s greatest jockey, or one who, when I could corner him and sit him down, was more of a delight with that quick mind, that frankness, his ability to paint word pictures, and his sophisticated knowledge of his calling.

“On the streets,” I asked him once, “did the other kids beat up on you?”

“Hell, no,” he said. “I was too small too fight.”

“What about that temper of yours?” I said.

“That’s an odd thing,” he said. “I’ve asked my mother about that, and she says I was kind of a nice, mild-mannered kid. The temper was what racing did to me.”


Book Club II

Excerpt of an excerpt from The Perfect Mile, Three Athletes, One Goal, And Less Than Four Minutes To Achieve It, by Neal Bascomb (yes, Tom is still reading it). Quoting a report in The Daily Mirror after Roger Bannister finished fourth in the 1952 Olympic Games:

“He ran like a ‘green’ three-year-old thoroughbred having its first race in a classic-running all over the track, on the inside, then the outside, accelerating and slowing up before making his final effort, to finish fourth. We heard wonderful stories in Helsinki that Bannister would win because he had done a world-shattering time in a secret trial before leaving. MAYBE HE DID. ANYONE CAN RUN QUICKLY PAST TREES!”