Jan. 9, 2013
It has been a month since I have had the chance to write in this space and so much has happened and so much is about to happen that I have way more to write about than this blog has space.
Many of you are aware that I lost my life partner, Marty, on New Year’s Eve. We already knew that it was just a matter of time when she was admitted to the hospice unit of our local hospital on Christmas morning. But her family and I were committed to being by her side 24-7 until the end came. We finally got the chance to say our good-byes on Friday night and Saturday morning. She was a great partner and put up with all of the strange requirements of a partner to one like me, one who worked at the races for long hours and was as much married to the job as I figuratively was to her.
But, to Marty’s credit, although she was not a “racing fan”, she developed her favorites. She was never happier than the day she could put her hands on Zenyatta and be photographed with that great mare. The picture had a prominent spot in her living room from that time forward. We also made numerous trips to Europe and attended the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp in Paris on three occasions. One year she was the only one in our group to nail Bago as the winner of the race in 2004. Her handicapping trick was that the famous bean-bag game named Baggo was invented and is produced in Hot Springs. That is not scientific handicapping, but it worked.
Her first taste of champagne came when happened into the box of the Duke of Richmond at Goodwood in southern England on one of those trips. Of course she was only interested in the “good stuff”, but she did occasionally tip a bit of champagne from that point on.
Marty was Hot Springs born and bred, which was part of what I found so appealing. I fell in love with Hot Springs in the late 70s, but didn’t get to fall for her until the late 90s. Hot Springs holds a dear spot in my heart, all the moreso since my wonderful 14 years with Marty by my side.
Now Hot Springs is getting ready to host the annual live racing season at Oaklawn. I will be the first to admit that happenings of recent weeks have kept me from being as well prepared for this season as in past years.
I thought my life would be changed last year, when I left the announcer’s booth and took on other activities at the track. I like the fellow who took my place, Frank Mirahmadi, so that presented no problems for me. But life was going to change.
That’s nothing compared to this year. I am blessed that Oaklawn is keeping me on and allowing me to continue to work in the industry which has so marked my life. But now, at the end of the day, I’ll be paying more attention to the next day’s past performances since I don’t have Marty to keep my attention.
This does look like a very interesting season approaching. We have some talented runners getting ready to perform and we have added some new names and faces to the program, which should pique the curiosity of anyone who loves racing.
I’m looking forward to seeing three-year-olds like Officer Alex and Brown Almighty in competition, as well as the return of former jockey champion Robby Albarado, along with Calvin Borel (who gets win #5,000 as a jockey with his next score) and another who is long overdue to be competing here, Victor Lebron. There will be plenty of others whose names will become commonplace over the next few weeks and months. I’m anxious for all of them, as I have been since I was first brought to Oaklawn and Hot Springs in the spring of 1975. There is a regional pride in everything which develops at Oaklawn and that will exist right through the Racing Festival of the South, which gave me the wonderful opportunity to call many of the great race horses of the 20th and 21st centuries.
The times, they are a-changing, but at Oaklawn there will always be some things which remain the same. It’s called tradition. The tradition which is Oaklawn begins again on Friday. This time it gets to soothe this man’s broken heart. That has changed.