Jan. 29, 2011
I know that Broadway shows have an opening and closing. Closure seems to be a fact of life that people prefer. That being the case, we had closure on a long-developing record at Oaklawn on Friday afternoon and, for the first time ever, it involved me.
I will admit that I didn't choose it, but I'm okay with it. The record for consecutive racecalls at a track is a somewhat obscure record and might make an interesting trivia question somewhere down the line. But I understand that no one is likely to even come close to it. Unlike the Bret Favres and Cal Ripkens of the world, my record does not at all signify the end of my career. Or at least I'm not anticipating that. I enjoyed another day of calling races on Saturday and expect to mostly call all the races at Oaklawn this year.
But I'll also tell you that it was a joy to spend that fifth race on Friday in the horsemens' section, surrounded by many longtime friends with whom I only get a few opportunities to pass time. They are here in Hot Springs for three months or a little more, then off to the next track. We don't get many chances to visit or appreciate one another. We are kindred spirits and I love to be in that community. I chose to join the racetrack and gave up a budding career as a school teacher almost four decades ago, so I've made a lot of good friends and acquaintances through my time at racetracks. On Friday I got to see many of those I wish I could see more during their short stays in Hot Springs.
Clearly an event like Friday's is accompanied by the talk of retirement. As much as I tried to tell people ahead of time that this event did not occur as an intro into my sayonara to racing. It did celebrate my lengthy commitment to this relationship and I am ever grateful to the many who wrote and called. They were interested in how I was "doing". And I'm doing great. I'm blessed with good genes and have a wonderful life here as track announcer and volunteer for community organizations. All the while I will never shed the title of "yankee" to my many southern-born friends. They love to tease me. But mostly the love me and that's one of the great things about being in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
Racing people have discovered that unbridled love for as long as they've been coming to Hot Springs. What made last April so special in Hot Springs was that a horse called Zenyatta seemed to respond to that love as a horse never has previously done. She bowed for the 44,000-plus in attendance when her name was called and for me, the guys who announced her name, it was one of those fabulous moments that rarely occur. It was nice to call Steve Cauthen's maiden win at River Downs years ago and my life has been full of wonderful racing moments. They are enough to make anyone's career.
So "the streak" is over. But life goes on. Horses will come to the post and I'll be there to announce them. This show hasn't closed just yet. We've got more to do and so far there is no reason to stop. I don't see Friday's event as any kind of professional closure. The last chapters of this story, the ending of the Broadway show, is still to be written.