Cup of Coffee: Law Man

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For years, I said it.

“Whenever you’re ready.”

For years, he laughed.

“Not yet.”

Then one day, it was yet. Thoroughbred Times went bust and Tom Law was on the market. September 15, 2012, Derek Jeter wound up on the waiver wire. I called my brother Joe, it was a no brainer, if we could make it work. I called Law as soon as I hung up with Joe. Yes, I was ambulance chasing (how do you think I hustled all those winners over jumps?), I called Law before the car had stopped spinning, smoke billowing, sirens in the distance.

Thoroughbred Times must have owned his phone, it failed to ring. Not a good sign. I sent an email, called mutual friends, searched the Internet, yelled from my back porch. We finally talked. Shellshocked, he was. Law’s office was locked, his desk would be auctioned off, he was filing paperwork, hoping to collect what was owed to him. He sounded like he had some other offers, some ideas of his own. We talked some more. Law was thinking about moving back to Saratoga, his hometown. His job was long gone. Fourteen years of time, effort, energy –  poof. Not that he was alone, Thoroughbred Times’ closure shot a cannonball through the sport. 

By December, Law joined ST Publishing, parent company of The Saratoga Special. What a leap of faith, Law went from corporate America to gorilla America. Thoroughbred Times had 27 employees when it crashed, nearly 50 at its zenith. ST? Tom would make three. But, damn, this was Derek Jeter. For 20 years, every Yankees’ third baseman has looked left and every Yankees second baseman has looked right and felt at ease. Now, just watch the ball because you know you’re covered there and of course he’ll get a hit when it’s needed.

Since December, 2012, Law has been that cog in the ST wheel.

“I can do it,” Law says, every day, always smiling.

It could be anything. Can you write the Evan Shipman? Can you walk while I take the golf cart? Can you pick up Jack? Can you order me a sandwich? Can you clean up this preview? Can you find us an office? Can you teach these interns? Can you post those stories on the website?

“I can do it,” Law says, every day, always smiling.

Early in the meet, I thought of Law and our ability to give him a job, our ability to keep him in the sport. We’re small – a mote in the world of racing – but that was big for us. Big for the game too.

Over the years we’ve said goodbye to hard-working, dedicated, energetic, talented allies of Thoroughbred racing. They worked for other people, other entities, but they got out before it was too late, before they were lifers.

The sport loses when people like that leave. I think of Tim Molloy, Matt Groff, Graham Wolfram, Josh Cooper, Don Drew, Quint Kessenich and so many others. Every time the sport loses members, it slips another notch, the fabric has another hole. In this game, everybody is a recruiter, if you like the game, you can usually convince someone else to like the game. They loved the game but needed to make a better living.

The sport’s better with Tom Law in it.

Every morning, he’s at the picnic table at the Morning Line Kitchen, past performances flipping like cards in a deck, an intern waiting for an assignment. Every afternoon, he rolls into the office, right pant leg tapered with a tie to avoid his bike chain, stories written, stories still to write, ads to sell, interns to cajole.

He doesn’t stay long, turning on his heel, “I’m going to write the hell out of the Evan Shipman,” he says.

Friday, he’ll say, “I’m going to write the hell out of the Smirnoff Sorbet Caress.”

Saturday, he’ll say, “I’m going to write the hell out of the Lure, De La Rose and Test.”

Sunday, he’ll say, “I’m going to write the hell out of the Waya.”

By Monday, he’ll be onto the sales coverage, writing late into the night. It’s late as I type. Law sits in the office next door, keys clacking, he is indeed writing the hell out of the Evan Shipman.

He recites winners from the Skippy Shapoff stable, Forever Silver, Expensive Decision, Liver Stand…only Law would know winners of the Shapoff stable. A navy sport coat and a wrinkled suit hang from his door, a tie around the door knob, an air pump sits in the middle of the floor, a thesaurus and a dictionary within his reach, a cherry pie sits on a pile of newspapers, waiting for a candle.

Happy Birthday, Tom Law.