Gene Euster had a plan. The veteran trainer was nursing My Juliet back to health after breaking her cannon bone and needing two screws to patch it together. The daughter of Gallant Romeo hadn’t run since winning the Vagrancy at Belmont Park in May 1976. That was her 15th win, spanning the circuits from Hawthorne to Keeneland, Aksarben to Saratoga, spanning the stakes gamut from the Pocahontas to the Black-Eyed Susan, the Test to the Cotillion. The next one would be the toughest.
Euster, with a cigarette in his mouth, another one in his hand and another one about to be lit, called for his stable jockey, Tony Black.
“Listen, Tony, I want you to get on this filly. We’re going to see if we can get her back to the races. Just work with me.”
“No problem Gene.”
“Now, listen, you won’t get a chance to ride her but your opinion is good. I know you’ll do the right thing, I know you’ll follow instructions.”
“No problem, Gene. No problem. I ride everything in the barn, one horse I don’t ride, that’s fine.”
Black worked with Euster, worked with My Juliet, a push-button Cadillac. The dark bay filly came around. Euster called Jorge Velasquez’s agent about coming to ride her in an allowance race at Keystone Oct. 1. The purse was $9,500. It was a sloppy track. And Velasquez stayed in New York.
“Guess what, Tony, you’re going to get a chance to ride this filly. One time only.”
“Man, that’s great, Gene. That’s great.
Nicknamed the Bionic Filly around the barn, partly because of her ability and partly because of the hardware in her cannon bone, My Juliet cruised to a half-length win over Foxy J.G. Black was thrilled to feel one moment of brilliance from a filly he was simply babysitting for a future Hall of Famer.
“I loved working her, beautiful horse, one of the fastest horses I’d ever been on and the nicest horse I had ever been on,” Black said. “To ride her in a race, oh, it was a thrill. All I had to do was break, sit on her, never move my hands, just sit from gate to wire, she beat Foxy J G without me moving on her. Totally fun. I never moved on her. That was the instructions. Don’t move.”
He didn’t need to move.
Ten days later, Euster picked out the Ta Wee at Monmouth Park. Again, he called Velasquez’s agent. And again, he was denied.
“Guess what, Tony, you’re going get another chance to ride her, in a stake race.”
“Wow, this is really great, I’m getting a chance to ride her again…”
“Yeah, you won’t ride her any more. Jorge will be here next time.”
Black sat motionless again. My Juliet won the $28,000 stakes with ease.
“Twenty-five, fifty, that was big money back then,” Black said.
Euster wheeled her back in 12 days and you guessed it, gets brushed off again. Black and My Juliet win the Doylestown. Three joy rides, three bonuses, Black can’t believe his luck. In the winner’s circle, owner George Weasel Jr. makes a call that would change Black’s life.
“You know what, if Jorge don’t think enough of my horse today, he don’t have to come no more. You’ll be on her.”
Black cackles at the memory, 43 years later.
“What? What a reward. Now I’m on her. The story unfolds from there.”
And, oh what a story.
My Juliet took her game on the road beating Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes winner Bold Forbes in the Vosburgh, jaunted to Santa Anita to win the Las Flores on New Year’s Day before losing twice in California. Back east and freshened for the spring, she won an allowance race at Belmont Park, the Neshaminy at Keystone, the Endine at Delaware Park, the Michigan Mile and One Eighth. Yeah, she stretched her speed to 9 furlongs, by accident.
A day after winning the 6-furlong Endine, Weasel had a plan.
“We’re going to run her in the Michigan Mile, if she can go 6 1/2, 7, then she can go a flat mile.”
Black and Euster were flummoxed.
“George, you failed to read the small print. It’s the Michigan Mile and One Eighth.”
“She’s running because I supplemented her.”
She won easily.
Today, My Juliet gets inducted into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame. She’s the first horse based at Keystone, et al, to be enshrined there. Black will accept the trophy. He only has one regret.
“Barbara Livingston took a picture of her for her book, Old Friends. She looked like the grand old matriarch. I said, ‘I’m going to go see her.’ I never went to see her,” Black said. “I regret that. It taught me a lesson, tell the people who had a positive influence on you when they’re here, tell them thanks, thank you for helping me, tell them you love them, don’t wait until they’re gone and say, ‘I should have told you.’ I would have put my hands in her mane, rubbed them down her neck, back to her withers and said, ‘Julie, thank you.’ ”