When I was 19 years aged and functioning for $20.00 a night in the press box at Miles Park, I saw my initial horse die on the racetrack. Ironically, the horse’s title was Nancy H, — I have a sister by the identical name. The filly broke her leg although jogging in a race and had to be “put down” or “destroyed” was the time period made use of back again then. As I viewed transfixed, no one particular else at the keep track of seemed particularly intrigued in the horse’s demise as a veterinarian prepared a lethal dose of whichever drug is utilized to euthanize horses. When the filly fell to the floor, I bitterly wrote “killed” upcoming to her title in the program.
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Quite a few happy reminiscences at the racetrack begun as a loved ones tradition.
What an dreadful nightmare and nevertheless, 53 decades afterwards, I can depend amid the happiest recollections of my lifetime expending quite a few a day at racetracks all around The united states with relatives and friends. My appreciate affair with horseracing started off with my maternal grandfather, Leo O’Donnell, who was a highly regarded racing formal and, just before that, a prosperous trainer and breeder. He trained a horse, a filly named Misweet, who ran in the memorable 1945 Kentucky Derby, the a person held in June for the reason that of the war.
In his second occupation as a steward (there are a few stewards at just about every racetrack who are tasked with implementing the regulations of racing), I inevitably turned element of grandfather O’Donnell’s employment package deal: if a monitor required him to operate there, they experienced to obtain a posture for me, far too. For that reason, I labored a good element of the 1970’s as either a mutuel clerk or racing formal building a lot of mates that I even now love seeing now.
In addition to becoming compensated for positions I completely beloved, racing appealed to my thoughts — at a racetrack in Maryland (Timonium), I was a patrol decide in a tower on the significantly turn wherever the only seem was the rhythmic sample of the horses pounding their way towards me increasing louder as they approached punctuated by the occasional shout of a jockey angling for placement. The exertions of these athletes, equine and human, were being mesmerizing at such shut assortment.
In the 1990’s, at an auction at Keeneland, my mother acquired a broodmare in foal and so commenced her modest steady of homebred horses that provided our loved ones so a lot of thrills. Mom’s proudest minute in racing was becoming handed a trophy by Penny Chenery— the proprietor of the mighty Secretariat — right after winning a race at Churchill Downs named for the well-known Triple Crown winner. The Mary Lou Heleringer horses, expertly qualified by Walter Bindner, Jr. and Merrill Scherer among the other individuals, won races all over the Midwest. There is just nothing in the planet of sporting activities as exhilarating as watching a horse whose rider is putting on your colors — black, white “O” [for O’Donnell], green and white striped sleeves with a cherry cap — appear traveling down the stretch to win a race.
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Horseracing has a tragic aspect
These unforgettable ordeals are nevertheless leavened by the fact that horseracing unquestionably has a tragic side. Even with a scintillating Kentucky Derby gain 3 weeks ago by Mage, that greatest accomplishment was diminished by the deaths of 7 horses all through Derby 7 days, some although racing, other folks in the course of coaching hrs. The equine fatalities triggered dual investigations by both of those Churchill Downs and Horseracing Integrity and Basic safety Authority, the new national agency that governs the activity in most factors. Absurdly, on Might 19 a 3rd connect with for a “comprehensive investigation” was demanded by no fewer than the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus of the U. S. Home of Reps. This is the similar U.S. Property that refuses to take into consideration any laws to address the serial mass murders in this nation of college kids and other innocents by mentally ill people today wielding speedy-firing assault rifles that no 1, sane or insane, need to be authorized to own.
As an alleged writer, I simply cannot seem to be to obtain the suitable words and phrases to explain what horseracing signifies to me, intrinsically and in each individual other way. Lauren Hillenbrand, who superbly wrote the most effective-advertising e-book “Seabiscuit: An American Legend,” the moment mentioned: “I assume we come to the observe due to the fact the act of defying our fears and venturing anything, even if it is shed, is liberating. . . the racetrack is, for me, the most optimistic area on earth.”
In that vein, I will proceed to embrace the activity and have eagerly started out the process of passing on the traditions to our grandchildren by taking them to the races, training them how to examine the Daily Racing Form and praying fervently that they never see a Nancy H. or any other gallant horse “put down.” I hope they will be as thrilled as I am by a game horse achieving for anything it has in deep stretch to earn on the wire and to sense the anticipation in their souls when the cry is heard “And They’re Off!”
Bob Heleringer is an lawyer and former Kentucky point out Consultant. He can be reached at [email protected].