April 24, 2006

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 victories?

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 entrants.

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 home.

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.

Bob Marks



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