Time Flies

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Oh if we only had the time. The brains. The thought processes. Imagine what we could do. 

Late Thursday night, I was hammering away at a 48-page newspaper – writing headlines, a column, two stories, finding Names of the Day, grabbing photos, doing cutlines, juggling the myriad tasks of pretty much everyone on The Special’s staff when it hit me.

I never wrote the Mrs. Ogden Phipps steeplechase stakes story. Never typed up my interview, never wrote a few hundred words, never hunted for some details about the family of winner Take Her Tothe Top. 

I didn’t write anything about the success of owners Andre and Nancy Brewster, the powerhouse barn of Jack Fisher, the game filly who came into the race as a maiden. Damn. We ran a big photograph instead. I still have that interview with jockey Xavier Aizpuru in my recorder. When it makes it out, you’ll be the first to know. He chatted about his career, his filly, his connection to Fisher, the importance of Saratoga to the jump crowd, the reach of this 150-year-old racetrack – even in his homeland of England. It’s great stuff. Look for it next week.

Friday’s paper – our 10th in a string of 12 without a day off – was one of the best we’ve done all meet, save the mistakes made in haste and exhaustion. Don’t think of the typos, think of all the words we spelled correctly. How’s that for glass half-full logic?

I loved the Calvin Borel cover photo. It’s vintage, classic, perfect Borel. He’s the archetype jockey. Small, energized, focused, a little gaunt and weathered but also ready, calm, poised. I never know what to choose for the Hall of Fame cover. If we had an art department and time, we’d do a collage of all the inductees on one single sheet. Instead we normally do what we did yesterday, find a big image and go with it. Last year, it was John Velazquez. This year, Borel. Two years ago, Jerry Hollendorfer. 

Tom Law’s article about Borel and his agent Jerry Hissam really let readers in on what it’s been like working together for so long. Law also hit a homer with his Housebuster feature – catching up with three old friends connected to the horse. One, Annie Allman, was an early advertiser with The Special when she worked at Showboat Casino.

Sean wrote about Lure and Mike Smith and the Hall of Fame jockey filled a page with background on what it was like to ride the now Hall of Fame horse. Imagine riding Lure around a place like Atlantic City’s turf course. Electric is all I could think.

I wrote articles about steeplechase inductees McDynamo and Tuscalee. The former you’ve heard of, most likely. He was the Cigar of the steeplechase world, consistently excellent for years. He earned $1.3 million without ever collecting more than $180,000 from a single victory. 

Tuscalee, you’ve probably never heard of – before Friday anyway. He was a star of the late 1960s who set the record for American jump wins with 37. He ran 89 times and, they say, never fell. Mary Ryan gave a shout-out to the Clancy Brothers for helping get the old boy in the Hall of Fame. We didn’t do much other than keep saying his name and help the Hall of Fame make a slight rules change that (like the flat voting) allows for more than one horse to enter the Hall in a given year. Tuscalee was not the best horse of his generation or an international star, but he has more than stood the test of time. It was fun to play a part.

We’ve been doing The Special so long now that horses we’ve covered are going into the Hall of Fame. Invasor made the cover in 2006 when he won the Whitney for Shadwell, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin (see, we can spell his name right) and jockey Fernando Jara. 

Friday’s Hall of Fame ceremony was typically magic. Year to year, they’re never the same, but they’re always good. I still love that the past stars return for a salute – hello, Manny Ycaza. The video highlights always produce goosebumps, as do the words of the humbled, honored owners, trainers and jockeys. They try to speak for their horses, and do so admirably – through the tears, the stammers, the smiles, the memories.

Because of the 56-page monster in your hands, I nearly didn’t attend the Hall of Fame ceremony. I could have worked to get ahead, maybe engineered an extra hour of sleep for myself last night. Instead, I skipped out on organization and went to the ceremony. I watched pretty much everyone hug Calvin Borel. I listened to Shadwell’s Rick Nichols spin a great tale about Invasor and how he came to be. I heard Marilyn Ketts tell a Tuscalee story, watched Sanna Hendriks try to put McDynamo into words, laughed along with Bob Levy and his Housebuster memories, admired the class of Lure once again. 

Mostly, I’m glad I found the time.