The Outside Rail

Contributions from TIHR co-founder, editor and writer Joe Clancy.

A Thousand Miles

“Joe, why do you run so much?”

My joke answer to that question from a neighbor, friend or family member typically goes something like, “So I don’t become an ax murderer,” and gets met with an odd pause before I laugh and say that I’m not really sure why. I didn’t run as a younger person, not regularly anyway, but I’m a regular now and managed to cross off the 1,000-Mile Challenge presented by iRun Local this week. The challenge idea took root in January when Tom Law and my brother Sean brought it up during our annual winter summit.


Flip, Red Sail, Charlie Brown, Whitey, Peanut Butter, Paul Brown, John Warner, Yahtzee . . . it took what seemed like hundreds of horses to teach me how to ride one. That batch there included some ponies of various shapes, sizes and dispositions, a couple of lesson horses at Mary Warner’s Derbydown Farm in Pennsylvania and a racetrack lead pony.

Jumper Jim Key tries to live up to namesake

Let’s get this out of the way first – Jim Key, trainer Kathy Neilson’s entrant in Saturday’s second race at Shawan Downs – can’t spell, count, tell time or recognize flags of different countries. And doesn’t know who the president is.


Fifty years ago, Jonathan Sheppard bought four yearlings at the Fasig-Tipton yearling sales at Saratoga. And changed racing. Then in his early days as a trainer, he had never really purchased a yearling – let alone traded bids among racing’s big names.

Nine? Snap Decision streaks toward record in Iroquois


That’s eight firsts in a row for steeplechase horse Snap Decision. He goes for nine in Saturday’s Grade 1 Calvin Houghland Iroquois in Nashville. A ninth win would tie Thrice Worthy’s modern-day record for consecutive wins by an American steeplechase horse dating to 1981-82. Though it doesn’t quite measure up to Cigar’s 16 in a row, or the undefeated 13-start career of Snap Decision’s grandmother Personal Ensign, the feat matters given all the variables.

Steve Dance: One of a Kind

Paget Bennett walked up the steps to my office Tuesday with sad news. I knew it already, but it still hurt. Steve Dance died. The Fasig-Tipton auctioneer, bid-spotter, unofficial historian, fairly official legend collapsed at home on his front porch while having coffee with his wife Nancy.

How to talk to your friends about racing

My friends want to know things, so they call, text, email or otherwise follow some sort of unofficial “Ask Joe” guidebook.

The story of Tracery

In May, you go to Saratoga because . . . well, I don’t know exactly. Sam and I needed a new location to take all these virtual meetings, it couldn’t hurt The Saratoga Special planning to make an appearance and it had generally been awhile. Oh yeah, a friend’s house was empty.


Stephen Panus, president of The Jockey Club’s media ventures and America’s Best Racing, endured every parent’s nightmare when his 16-year-old son Jake was killed in a car accident on Block Island in Rhode Island last summer.

Talking Business with Chris

My friend Chris Burkhard – who owns the Placers, a workforce/staffing/consutling company in Delaware – talks to me about business, frequently. He’s got ideas, opinions, thoughts (really good thoughts) and perspective. I listen, sometimes follow his suggestions and always soak in everything even if some little voice tries to tell me that none of it applies to me. Of course, I’m wrong there. Advice from someone like Chris always applies, even to someone like me. 

Anyway, he talked me into being a guest on his business podcast, which typically features a serial entrepreneur, somebody who scaled their company, hired a bunch of employees, became a mentor, and all those other things I haven't done. I have to great insight or wisdom, but my did manage to start a company with my brother that has gone from a part-time lark in a basement – with a third-hand Gordon's (I think it was Gordon's) gin bottle lamp jammed into the ceiling for light – to a full-time small business now in its 28th year. 

He asked me how we got here, what it took, if I had any advice for people. It felt like all the other conversations we’ve had – two guys who lived (he moved away) in the same neighborhood and who sent their kids to the same school talking shop. I'm not sure if I said this on the podcast, but if there’s one certainty in business, it’s that nothing ever stays the same. Adapt, work hard, find something you like, do the best you can under whatever circumstances you’re dealing with, create something people enjoy and you’ll be served well – no matter the field.

Listen to the podcast on Chris’ company website.  or on Google Podcasts.

You can also sign up for his email newsletter because he really does know what he's talking about.

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