It’s 1965 and a gallant old gelding is going what
has been billed as his farewell mile under the lights and
under the stars of a jam packed Roosevelt Raceway as somebody
mentions “be nice to see the old boy go out a winner”
“How’s that going to happen? He can’t
beat the likes of young superstar anymore unless that one
breaks and scatters the field”.
Young superstar was going off at about 3-5 which in the
days of routine weekend crowds of 30,000 plus meant he was
attracting a ton of money.
As luck would have it, he failed to make his customary
“leave” electing instead to race somewhat off
what turned out to be a leisurely pace for the free-for-all
class which permitted old gallant the luxury of stealing
away just enough daylight to gallantly hang on in the stretch.
Young superstar was a very fast closing though non threatening
second causing many to grumble “Why didn’t he
move that horse sooner?”
Some nights thereafter a budding stallion was making his
farewell appearance prior to embarking upon what would be
a highly productive stud career. Interestingly enough “budding
stallion” was in the same barn as young superstar
though one was a trotter and one was a pacer.
In the field was a seasoned veteran who happened to be
a stable mate of the recently retired gallant old gelding
but unlike his barn mate, this veteran was in prime form
and clearly the one to beat. Budding stallion while a contender
had previously proven no match for our seasoned veteran
who would go off in the vicinity of 1-2.
“Tain’t no way they’re getting this farewell
boy home unless”
Unless our seasoned vet somehow gets boxed in or sits last
which he conveniently did under a visible stranglehold and
somehow failed to overtake our staggering stallion prospect
who conveniently was permitted to waltz through the fractions.
Would the faithful have been remiss in speculating that
perhaps a favor had been returned and two retirees did so
successfully even though they clearly did not earn their
Whether or not this was sanctioned or even realized by
management will never be known.
The fans knew. Many fans knew!
Fast forward a two decades to a glorious Hambletonian afternoon
in which a legitimate superstar would be attempting a record
in a special co-featured event comprised of a myriad of
One of those entrants was pure closer who figured to go
off at high odds but given his stretch heroics was usable
in the exacta. Not on top but given the proper early pace
and he could have been second.
Unless the absolutely inexplicable happened and our pure
closer would shockingly set sail for the front in pure mechanical
rabbit fashion to ensure a legitimate pace for what was
in effect a successful time trial for legitimate superstar.
Of course it surfaced thereafter that a connection of pure
closer had already committed to a share in legitimate superstar
though no one thought to protect the public by making them
an entry. That commitment was not exactly a secret as there
had been rumors to that effect beforehand.
The fans knew though not as many as would have known before
as attendance may not have been quite what it used to be.
Onward to another decade and a horse obliterated every existing
standard for age and sex and there was talk that insiders
did well at the windows. The horse won by open lengths and
may have even had another second in him for all we know.
Now any handicapper worth his salt is well aware that when
one barn member does exceedingly well others on the same
card are likely to follow suit.
There was one set to go several races later. Unfortunately
he would be somewhat of a long shot having the misfortune
to have drawn in with a retiring superstar making what would
be his farewell appearance.
Given the price long shot was usable especially when you
considered that superstar had missed a couple of weeks and
might not be in optimum condition for the event. Given the
performance of the stable mate who knows what might occur.
What did occur is that the long shot almost upset the superstar
and would have but for some rather noticeable restraint
on the part of his driver and somehow the house horse staggered
Fortunately this did not occur at a pari-mutuel mecca,
thus the level spectator grumbling stayed at a comfortable
minimum. There was grumbling and we’re told some unhappy
simulcast players but the rug sweepers prevailed and all
was discreetly buried.
The handful of remaining fans eligible to properly decipher
what they saw KNEW.