The Preakness was run at Pimlico on Saturday the 21st
and this bought back old memories of my on-track playing days at the
is the famous Pimlico located just outside of
went through the first glass door and exited the tunnel and onto the grandstand
by the far turn. The gray wooden grandstand stretched all the way to the far
turn. That was my favorite part of the track, the far turn. There were wooden
benches spaced evenly in a straight line, about dozen in total. I habitually got the last bench near the
turn, with the one-story wooden grandstand behind me.
The turn is
where the real running starts and the bench was
located only a few feet from the bottom of Pimlico’s
really tight turns. This is where the horses fanned out for the stretch run and
the ¼ mile to the finish line. Pimlico had a notorious inside speed bias for
many years. I hit many exactas by just boxing the
The tall large flat windowed main part of the grandstand looms over the track with an apron that has really great seats because of the views over the racetrack. As I walked toward the finish line the grandstand apron started to narrow and at the finish line it narrows down to maybe 20 to 30 feet wide, with very little standing room for the rail birds who coalesced into a small area at the finish line. Because of that position, the noise generated by the players could get really loud, with the tall grandstand behind the finish line bouncing the sound off those large windows in a small space.
One time I
was on the back stretch and the race went off and the loud volume coming from
the finish line made me incredulous because I was so far away. Just beyond the
finish line is the winners' circle. The grandstand itself was built as another
oddity. When you walked inside from track side to place your bets the floor had
a short level area that had overhead TVs. The floor then slants down at a fairly
steep angle pushing your feet to the front of your shoes. That angle made the
grand stand seem larger because of the added height. Another bank of overhead
TV’s were positioned in the middle of that decline so handicappers could stand
in line to purchase mutuel tickets and look over their shoulder to find out the
current odds on their horse. There were always lines of handicappers 25 to 30
deep impatiently waiting to place their bets with the mutuel clerks who
were both old and slow.
stood in line and called out my ticket and I looked at the numbers on my ticket
and they were wrong. I said, "you punched
in the wrong numbers" and the white haired clerk became irritated and
crankily said, "well call out the right ones Buddy". I did,
and then I gave him a hard thanks and he replied in a friendly manor:
"Hey buddy do you shave your arms?" I had to admit I laughed.
never figure out why Pimlico was built this way. What I did know is when you
went to the men’s room the attendant always had the Oriole’s game on the radio.
I would associate summertime with the baseball games at Pimlico as a
grandstand and the clubhouse is the paddock, which is inside the building with
virtually no room to stand and view the paddock and walking ring. Another short
tunnel leads to the clubhouse, where you would see the main floor covered
with what looked like imitation linoleum floors. There are iron
seats on the track side past the finish line to the turn and beyond, with all
the good seats located in the grandstand.
What makes Pimlico unique is the horses and the people.One of my favorite trainers in
a much underrated rider, was Andrea Seefeldt . Dickie had instructed
Andrea not to carry her whip when she rode Star Minister and asked Andrea not
to move or shake the rains at her and to just steer her, to let her run on her
own. He said whatever you do make sure you do not move on Star Minister
and remain absolutely frozen on her. Andrea suffered serious criticism for that
riding style and what she referred to as "Star Minister headaches".
Dickie Small told the Washington Post that Andrea was
following his instructions to the T. Star Minister had 21 starts, 10 wins, 3
seconds and 1 third. She had a 48% win rate and was in the exacta 61% of her
races. Star Minister never knew that Andrea carried a whip for all other horses
except for her. Andrea once said: "I hit Star Minister with the whip once
in a race and she turned her head around and looked at me as if to say 'Don’t
ever hit me with that whip again'!"
Small is a pretty large guy with rounded shoulders and his typical hat. I
never saw him in a baseball cap. Instead he wore one of those hounds tooth
colored hats. He employed unknown jocks or jocks that needed a pay check. He
never rode a big name jock on his horses. He is like Allen Jerkens
Small is a former Green Beret and fought in
I am from a
military family and my father spent 26 years in the Air force. I have an
uncle who spent 30 years in the Air Force and I spent 4 years 3 months and 18
days in the Marine Corps. My brother spent 4 years in the Army and my son spent
6 years in the Army. I always brag that in my family I am the only one that
never received a good conduct medal. Dickie Small
felt the same things about our country that my family does.
the horses is what racing is all about. One time Susan and I were at Pimlico
and we were by the finish line waiting for the race to go off. There
were two really intense guys over by the rail. The taller guy turned
to the shorter guy and pointed to his temple and said "concentrate, 5-7,
concentrate, 5-7”. Then he put his fingers to his friends temple and intensely
said, "concentrate, 5-7, concentrate, 5-7”.
The shorter guy looked up and put his fingers to his own temple and kept repeating "concentrate, 5-7 concentrate, 5-7” over and over. The gates opened and the 5-7 broke in front of the field and held the lead the entire race. The two guys yelled at the top of their lungs 5-7, 5-7, for 1 minute and 12 seconds. They were deliriously high and mighty that they had won. My horse in that race was never in contention so Susan and I started rooting for the 5-7, 5-7 and we were happy they won and cashed.
and I need to get a hit, we will point to our temple and say "concentrate
5-7, concentrate 5-7".
is one of my favorite horses. I never saw him live, just on TV. He was the
fastest horse I had ever seen. He would get to the lead and control the pace
and wait for another runner to pull up to him. His jockey Mike Smith would not
move when all of a sudden you could see the turn over in Holy Bull’s legs and
he would pull in front again. He quickly became my favorite horse.
At Saratoga Holy Bull went up against Dehere who the
last race was at Gulftream when he went up against
the great Cigar trained by Bill Mott. He was pulled up during the race with a
leg injury and then retired. I had $200 win on Holy Bull. Jimmy Croll raced in
purchased a lithograph of Holy Bull for me. When I see one of his offspring I
look to see if he is tall and gray and maybe I will see one of his sons run
with that push button speed of his dad. Holy Bull has produced some really good
runners; however, none have displayed the “I can play with you” with my kind of
Susan and I
now live in