Thanks, Pop

I received a beautifully written column recently from a Facebook acquaintance and horse enthusiast Erika Parry, which is being printed below as a guest blog. Erika’s stirring words inspired me not only to publish her story about her relationship with her father, but to briefly acknowledge something I should have acknowledged a long time ago.

As a novice, but passionate racing fan, I was at a major crossroads in my life at the age of 22 – return to the hectic, stressful, and, to me, miserable world of Wall Street or flounder at home until some miracle portal opened, leading me to my chosen path in life.

I chose the latter, and after nine months of floundering aimlessly, I was on a path to nowhere. Then one night, my father came in my room and asked me bluntly, “What is it you want to do with your life? What is it that makes you happy?”

I replied, “Horse racing,” knowing full well that my passion and my profession, whatever it turned out to be, were on two distinct paths with little or no chance of ever intersecting.

Then, my father said the words that would change my life: “Well, why don’t you make horse racing your profession?”

That concept was inconceivable to me, just as turning baseball or football or hockey into a profession was inconceivable. Not having any skills to enter a sport other than the ability to play baseball or football on a sandlot level, I had no idea what I could possibly do to get into racing. My father suggested I write letters to as many racing organizations as I could think of and see if I could get my foot in the door, even with a bottom level position.

So, I wrote to the Morning Telegraph (the Eastern and main edition of the Daily Racing Form), the New York Racing Association, and The Jockey Club. To make a long story short, I received a phone call from the Telegraph’s editor Saul Rosen’s secretary asking me to come in for an interview. Through a fateful series of events, too long and unexplainable to go into here, I wound up getting a job at the Telly as a copy boy. There was no one more happy than my father, who supported me every step of the way, taking me to Belmont Park, bringing the terrible photos I took of horses to his office and showing them off as if they were prized photos, and just continuing to encourage me. And no one was more proud when I was promoted to head librarian. Sadly, my father died two years later and never did get a chance to see where his words of advice would lead me.

Erika’s tribute to her father has enabled me to belatedly thank my father for all he did for me. I have always been convinced that he has been guiding me all along and I will forever continue to feel that way.

Through the years, I have met many young racing fans and horse lovers whose roots were planted by their father, whether through the love of the horse, the sport, or handicapping and betting. I believe Erika speaks for all of them.


Thanks, Popby Erika Parry

Everyone has it – that one defining characteristic that is not only symbolic of who they are as a person, but that which epitomizes every bit of who they are deep within their soul.  For me, although misunderstood by many, it is quite simple.  I, Erika Parry, am horse racing.  

I was not born into racing royalty.  I did not grow up anywhere even remotely near the sport, with a childhood that spanned rural Pennsylvania and a desolate chunk of eastern Oregon.  While horses were always in abundance, the world of thoroughbred racing seemed light years away.  Occasionally, my father would take me to catch a race or two at nearby fairgrounds in the summer, but the dusty dirt tracks of our Pacific Northwest home were never enough to curb my ever-growing hunger.  

I longed for places drenched in decades upon decades of turf history, haunted by the ghosts of racing’s kings and queens.  These were the places brought to life in the books of my youth, where stories of racing immortality leapt off the pages and into my eager imagination.  The internet did not yet exist – my passion was fed by musty library books brought home by my father and Saturday afternoons spent watching NBC’s Wide World of Sports.  

That brings me to…my father.  My Pop.  One Joseph Parry, a struggling writer and fervent dreamer with a penchant for cigarettes and black licorice.  As a little girl, we were inseparable, but as I grew into a young woman, our relationship quickly began to falter and fade.  For one reason or another, he became the oil to my water.  We fought like cats and dogs and would go months on end without speaking…unless it was about horse racing.  

When I was 6-years-old, going on 7, my dad introduced me to my first Kentucky Derby.  I remember sitting cross-legged on our living room floor, my poker straight bangs half covering my eyes, watching in awe as a slew of splendid thoroughbreds danced their way to the post.  I turned to my dad, stammering excitedly over my words, and said, “I like the chestnut, Pop,” in reference to a horse called Easy Goer.  The next two minutes truly changed my life forever.  When the race was over, my beautiful Easy Goer slain by a monster named Sunday Silence, I turned to my father again and said, “I’m going to do that someday, Poppa.  I’m going to be in the Kentucky Derby.”  He shot me one of his typical Joe Parry looks, rolled his eyes, and said, laughing, “You do that, Pooh.  You do that.”  

And so it began.  Every year, we huddled around the TV, watching each and every prep race with attentive eyes, looking for racing’s next big star.  The First Saturday in May became an official holiday in the Parry household and an unquenchable love of horse racing began permanently coursing through my veins.  A 25-cent book my Pop snagged at a library sale, So You Want to Be a Jockey, became my Bible.  I was undeniably determined to become the next Steve Cauthen, and while other little girls wrote essays about wanting to become ballerinas and actresses, I wrote about becoming a bug boy.  While most fathers would do everything to steer a daughter clear of this path, mine fueled the fire in every way.  He bought me book after book, magazine after magazine, and took me to see my first real racehorses at the Union County Fair in La Grande, Oregon.  

Much to his amusement, I wore a path around our house, killing what little grass was able to survive the hot, dry Oregon summers, and leaving a permanent welt on my right leg as I perfected my use of the stick – literally.  In the rare event that it rained, I perched myself on the front porch railing, hunkered over like Tod Sloan.  I would growl madly, my tree branch of a whip flailing wildly in my right hand as my mount of choice and I gutted out a victory over Ronnie Turcotte on Big Red.  I can only imagine what our neighbors thought of the quiet little girl with shy brown eyes who would turn into a demon of a porch jockey at the mere sight of a thundercloud.  But, as Joe Parry would say, the hell with them.  

We migrated back to pastoral Pennsylvania right before I hit my teen years and my relationship with my Pop would take a turn for the worse.  He fought many personal battles, and while I watched helplessly at times, it was the cement of horse racing that kept us together.  Slowly, however, we began going our separate ways.  My dream of becoming a jockey was replaced by the more physically realistic dream of becoming a biologist, and off to college and graduate school I went, secretly aching that I never ran off to Kentucky when I graduated high school.  

While I began to establish a life in which he played a very small role, we never failed to chat up the Derby trail and ramble on about promising 2-year-olds.  Together, we swooned over Zenyatta, and he swelled with pride when I sent him a picture of me with the great race mare from the backside at Hollywood Park after her Apple Blossom win in 2010.  He shed tears when he watched her lose the Classic to Blame, not only for her defeat, but because I had realized my lifelong dream of seeing Churchill Downs by being there for her final start.  No matter how harsh the words or how brutal the fights, horse racing could heal our hearts as one.  

Earlier this year, we had a falling out for a reason I can hardly remember.  I watched I’ll Have Another take home the Roses and pride regretfully prevented me from calling my Pop to discuss the race.  I made it to my very first Preakness, and as I yelled my heart out for I’ll Have Another as he nailed Bodemeister at the wire, I couldn’t help but wonder if my dad was home watching.  I wondered if he knew I was there, that I had made it to Pimlico, and that the race to the Triple Crown was on.   When I’ll Have Another deflected from the Belmont due to injury, my mind wandered to my Pop yet again, wondering what his thoughts were and how heartbroken he must have been, too.  

When I stood at the finish line at Belmont Park, watching Union Rags sneak in along the rail to nab Paynter at the line, I longed to call my Poppa and see if he saw what I had just stood a few feet from.  I ached to tell him that I shook hands with Ronnie Turcotte and made it to the place we always dreamed of, where the gods of racing reside and the ghosts of legends haunt each unturned corner.  I wanted to describe the beauty and grandeur of Belmont Park to him in every single intimate detail possible.  Most of all, I wanted him there.  

On July 19, 2012, my father suddenly passed away.  The hilariously crude, outspoken, nagging thorn-in-my-side-for-thirty-years had left this mortal realm.  Each day since has left me with an excruciatingly heavy heart, for I realize now it is far better to lose your pride with someone you love than to lose that someone with your useless pride.  While there are words that can never be said, or unsaid for that matter, I will cherish each and every moment we spent together, from that first Kentucky Derby to our very last.  I will cherish each and every argument over who was the better horse, Man O’ War or Secretariat, and every single heinously annoying time he made me remind him in what order the Triple Crown races were, or purposefully confused a fetlock and a forelock.  

I will never forget watching him shed uncontrollable tears of sorrow each time a horse broke down, or tears of joy every time one of our beloved underdogs scored a victory.  Most of all, however, I will always cherish the father who fueled his little girl’s crazy equine dreams, even to his dying day.  

Say hello to Old Bones, Big Red, Slew and The Bid for me, Pop.  And, hey.  I AM going to do that someday…

…I’m going to be in the Kentucky Derby.


Leave a Comment:

Mary Zinke

I'm sure many horse racing loving girls and guys, no matter their age, can relate to this beautifully written, emotive account. Thank you, Erika and Mr.Haskin. Kleenex required, again.

28 Aug 2012 2:20 PM

So touching and beautiful! I lost my father at age 26, and I did not get to tell him the things I appreciated about him. His favorite racehorse was Forego, I wish he was still here. I know Erika will make her mark on horse racing, she is exactly what the sport needs!

28 Aug 2012 3:04 PM
lunar spook

Thanks for hitting a nerve steve, my pop is getting long in the tooth nowbut we still go to our local track almost every sat. afternoon and bet on the simulcasts racing , weve never gotten rich in a monetary way , but weve made a fortune in memories !

28 Aug 2012 3:27 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Very moving, beautiful, and thought provoking words from both Steve and Erika. I am sorry you lost your Father at such a young age Steve but he was already very proud of you for who you were and the courage you had to pursue your dream. He already knew you would be successful at it, and may have even envisioned the path you would take.

  Erika- A moving, well told story of human relationships and of the passion we have for the most majestic of species- the thoroughbred. Remember this about the relationship with your Father- He always loved you very much and always knew that you loved him very much. Sometimes we just have difficulty getting along with people we love because of personality conflicts that we can't control. Also remember that he could have reached out to you also. Many of us run out of time to have the ideal bond we wish we could have with loved ones but we always have the marvelous moments of joy to remember. We have to take the bad with the good. I'll take the bad moments anytime, and the months of silence I had at times with my Mom because I also had amazing times with her too, and those are the times I choose to remember. There are always regrets but you can choose to remember those incredible times that you bonded together in understanding the passion and greatness of the sport and the stunning beauty of the horses.

28 Aug 2012 3:28 PM
Age of Reason


28 Aug 2012 4:13 PM

I am sobbing like an idiot right now.  This is so beautiful. What a gifted writer Erika is! Thank you so much for sharing her wonderful love story.  Erika, I'll bet your Pop knows exactly how you feel and when he could not be with you to share in your visits to the racetracks to cheer on your horses, he was most definitely there with you in spirit.  I only wish I had my father as long as you had yours. I am jealous of the relationship you got to share with him. Like yours, my father passed on his love of racing to me when I was a child -- but my chestnut was a little before yours...I was 9 when he planted me in front of the television in 1973 and that cemented the love affair I've had for nearly 40 years.  We would watch racing from Aqueduct & Belmont park when cable tv was in its infancy. A Philly kid who never set foot on a racetrack until I went to Keeneland as an adult....I lost my dad when I was only 16 and he only 47 and every time I visit a horse farm in KY or watch a race on tv, he's with me.  He never saw the likes of Zenyatta but held me when I cried my eyes out over Ruffian. Triple Crowns were somewhat common in the 70's....together we watched three of them and I thought this was normal.  We never went to a track together but as a kid, he saw Whirlaway win the Preakness at Pimlico and he loved Eddie Arcaro. He would have gotten a kick over the amazing female jockeys we have today.  The Breeders Cup would have been our special day....  He's with me all the time and the best gift he could ever have given me is the love I have for horses & racing.

There are so many wonderful stories that can be told, all derived from the love of horses.  I'm grateful that Steve not only tells these beautiful stories but that he is gracious enough to let others tell their stories too......   THANK YOU Steve & Erika.

28 Aug 2012 4:41 PM
Carlos in Cali

Coincidently,last night,I had a dream where me and my dad embraced as I tearfully told him how much I love and miss him. Regrettably,we had our 1st and only argument 2days before he suddenly passed away in June 04'.

My earliest memories of watching horse racing was at the age of 6, in 1977, sitting on my dad's lap as we watched what I believe to be the Flamingo Stakes? During the post-parade my dad started telling me about this super horse named Seattle Slew(I can hear his then thick accent),and how his owners bought him for only $17.5k at auction.He then proceeded to let me know how easily this horse will win and then go on to take the Triple Crown in a few months. Thankfully,he later explained what the Triple Crown meant while referencing Secretariat and Canonero II and his travails.

I've been hooked ever since...

Like the writer,I would also like to belatedly thank my dad for introducing me to this great sporting event and teaching me how to read the Racing Form at the age of 7. But most importantly...thank him for his words of wisdom, "if you like more than 1 horse for the win.. box 'em"! LOL!

Thanks,Pops.. indeed.

28 Aug 2012 4:42 PM
Old Timer


Thank you for a very moving article. It was beautiful.

I often went to Belmont and Aqueduct as a young man. My Dad, who passed on in 1993, enjoyed the horses but for various reasons did not go often. However I cling to a very warm memory of one day in the late 80's when no one wanted to go with me and I finally convinced my Dad to go over to Belmont. It was just him and me and I had my Dad all to myself. What a wonderful day. I still remember that it was the Dwyer Handicap and that Gone West won it that day. But most of all I just think of sitting next to my Pop in the huge Belmont grandstand just having a good time.

28 Aug 2012 5:05 PM

Tissues, please. Another wonderful column, this time by a well-spoken guest. Thank you, Steve, for graciously allowing another voice to be heard, and providing all of us with a reminder to treasure those around us. Memorable.

28 Aug 2012 5:55 PM
Linda in Texas

Thank you Steve and Erika.

The old saying truth is stronger than fiction just about sums it all up.

It wasn't the number of years you had with your dads that were important it was the quality of that time and what you both learned from them in the time they had here for you both to be the wonderful people you are today.

Your character came from the gift of strength that was unspoken by their deep love and affection for you both.

Thank you for sharing something so personal with us and i am sure someone has been helped by your candor.

Not a day goes by that i don't think of my father who died when i was 37. His message was never let something bad get you down, as it was only preparing you to be stronger to handle the next thing that might be a little more devastating than the last.

I sometimes wondered how strong do i have to be?  I am still here so i guess his theory has worked.

28 Aug 2012 6:37 PM

Moving, beautifully written. Thank you for sharing, both Steve and Erika. I needed tissues through reading both stories. Brought back many memories for me of a troubled relationship I had with my dad -- also, oil and water. It's good to remember, it's good to make peace with old memories.

28 Aug 2012 7:09 PM

Thanks, Steve and Erika, for your intertwined memories of two mutual loves: fathers and racing.

28 Aug 2012 8:07 PM

Wonderful column! Sorry to hear you lost you dad so young Steve but I am sure he has been with you all the way through your many successes!  How wonderful that he was so supportive!  Sorry to hear about you losing your dad so unexpectedly Erika.  I understand how that feels, happened to me too back in 2005.  I also understand the passion for the horses and racing - I have had it since I was seven.  Unfortunately neither my parents or husband or daughter are interested so I am alone in my craziness.  I have never gotten to see any of the great ones in person, but it looks like next year at 46 I am going to my first Kentucky Derby! I am excited to say the least!  Thanks for sharing your stories!!!

28 Aug 2012 9:24 PM

This blog took me back to my youth when my Dad & I would listen to the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball games on the radio.  My mother never understood our fanatical devotion to the Pirates and later to listening to the Steelers games on the radio.  Mom was the ruler of the television, but let there be a Pirates game on the TV and my Dad put his foot down....

Your daughter and I are going to watch the game on TV for a change.  My mother never argued.  I miss both of my parents.

28 Aug 2012 10:31 PM
Johnny D

This really really hits home.  Bravo Ericka, well done.  I too floundered around Wall Street for years Steve and have always loved the horses for every reason, sport, gambling, bonding.  My father loved it and we had many many great experiences before his passing in 2006.  For the years after I left Wall Street I have been doing insurance and blogging on horse racing in my spare time.  One day a friend came up to me and said, "you need to have a job in horse racing.". I went after it and I now have one and could not be happier.   Lesson to all that I learned at 40.  Go for what you love!!!

28 Aug 2012 10:46 PM
Paula Higgins

We can't pick the families we are born into, but we can love them the best we can. Your story Steve is a lesson about a father and son who loved each other in just the right way. A lesson to all parents who try to live vicariously through their children. Kudos to your father for encouraging you to seek in life a path that would make you happy. Erika, it is nice that you can remember shared happiness even though your father had problems. No family is prefect, but they are family.

28 Aug 2012 11:11 PM

Steve, you made me cry. What a lovely father you had!

Erika, you made me cry even more. I also had troubled relationships with my parents. The good and the bad all mixed together. And always a bit of regret thrown in that things could not have been better.

For me, it is a long hike in the woods which always reminds me of my father. He loved nature - trees, wild flowers, and animals of all sorts. I think if he could have followed any career, he would have been a national (or state) park ranger, out in the mountains somewhere.

Maybe in the afterworlds he is doing just that - exploring the mountains and canyons, watching the animals, riding his beloved mare Sugar on the trails, seeing the leaves change in autumn one day and the spring wild flowers the next followed by the beauty of snow in the pines.

Erika, maybe your father is in the afterworlds watching Sunday Silence and Easy Goer racing each other across endless lush fields just for the thrill it brings their competitive hearts. He is feeding peppermints and carrots to Kentucky Derby winners and playing with Ruffian's foals (for surely she has foals in heaven).

His personal battles are over now - and there is only happiness and love.

29 Aug 2012 12:43 AM
Mister Frisky

I'm sorry for your loss Erika.Steve,you always are dialed in to your fans.My dad died in 75 when I was thirteen.Best memories were the Saturday mornings at Hollywood Park watching Quack,Ack Ack, and other stars of the day do their am work.That and a hot dog and a soda at 7 am.The simple things in life are the best.

29 Aug 2012 1:05 AM

My father is the one I have to thank for my love of the sport. He lived for horse racing, and loved horses. In 2008 he was terminally ill, just a matter of time. We made his bedroom into a "hospital" room. I hung photos of racing's greatest all around him. The large painting of Jesus had to hang behind the bed because he preferred to look at the ponies. His final trip to the hospital was the one in which he told the doctors he was done fighting, to let him go. I hated his decision. I was so selfish, his suffering was immense. They pulled all of his meds except for a morphine drip, which is ofcoarse, the "kiss of death". Legal mercy killing, it's done everyday in the medical profession. Never a pain pill in his life, and now he was hooked up to an IV of morphine. I asked them to leave him on the monitor so I could see when he was getting close to the end. Reluctantly, they did. Around 8:00 am his vital signs were plunging, so I crawled  into the bed and scooped him up in my arms. I told him he was going see Man O' War, the Bid, Secretariat, and all the other greats, with that said, he inhaled and exhaled for the last time. Daddy died in February of 2009. We scattered his ashes on the track at Fonner Park. That year Mine that Bird won the derby. My dad always bet the long shots. Bird was "his horse" and I love Mine that Bird to this day. I just wish daddy could've seen him win the roses, but then again, I'm pretty sure he did.

29 Aug 2012 2:22 AM
Steve Haskin

Thanks to everyone for sharing your own stories -- the happiness and the sadness. They are all special. Ksweatman, that is an incredibly moving story, thank you.

29 Aug 2012 6:18 AM

As always Steve, just as amazing as your writing ALWAYS IS, so too is your ability to "pick" an amazing story.    This also put me in mine of my Dad who I lost to cancer in 1990.   "Mac" was a WWII vet who earned 3 Bronze Stars, was lost in the jungle of New Guinea for over 24 days before being found but NEVER talked about the war or what happened to EARN those Bronze Stars.    He met my Mom in  a stateside Hospital while she was singing for the USO.  (If there's not a "movie" in there somewhere I'll eat my hat!).   I grew up a horse crazy kid in a family of non horsey people.   My Dad spend 25+ yrs as a bus driver in NYC and met just about all the varied folks you could meet in that job.    He treated everyone the same.   A future President on his bus was no different than the working person.  I vividly remember he took each of us (my 2 sister and myself) to work with him on a "special day" for each of us and I remember how he seemed to know EVERYONE in NYC!   From the guys in the bust garage to his "regular riders" on his bus to the folks in the local diner on his route.   And they ALL seemed to know "the girls".    Everywhere we went it was "oh is this one of your girls, Mac.....which one is this?"  

One very special memory for me is when I was allowed to have actual riding lessons for my 11th birthday and I needed to get proper riding gear.   My Dad allowed me to "play hookey" from school (which was NEVER allowed) so that my Mom and I could go into the city to that wonderous purveyor of horsey goods.....MILLERS SADDLERY!   Which at the time I believe was on Varick Street.  Oh the wonderous smells of leather and liniment that hit you when you walked off the street and into that hallowed place (which is no longer)!   I think my Dad was as excited as I was to see my "stuff" when he got home.   While my Mom was at every riding lesson, my Dad was working. But he made sure to be at the Horse Shows with his trusty Bell & Howell Movie camera (which I still have) to record everything for posterity!

He loved ALL animals and they all loved him.   When I did get my first horse at age 18 (bought & paid for myself) my Dad always was able to get my "Copy" to "shake hand" with one else ever got him to do that!  Both daddy & my Copy are gone now.   In fact when I lost my horse at the grand old age of 29 yrs, before the vet put him down I whispered in his ear to "Go find Daddy & he'll take care of you until I get there".    I prayed that somehow I would know they were together and safe.   That night I "dreamed" that I saw Copy in a beautiful pasture and standing in front of him was my Dad.......they were "shaking hands".   I guess I got my sign!     Thanks Dad!  

29 Aug 2012 9:03 AM
joanne halsey

Wow, did you bring up memories.  I too lost my dad five years ago.  Since knee-high to a grasshopper, I've loved horses and so did my Dad.  A WWII vet, he went to Canada after he got out and met and later married my Mom (Northern Dancer nicks with Bold Ruler).  My fondest memory is sitting with them at a picnic table in Belmont's beautiful backyard, watching the horses get saddled, and him giving me half his sandwich and me giving him half my french fries while Mom yelled at him for picking the favorite again!

To this day, I go to pick up the phone to call him and say the big race at Belmont, Aqueduct, Santa Anita, Churchill Downs, etc. is coming up on tv.  If you're at the track in California in the next few years and see a colt named Handsome Pete say hi to my Dad's

namesake so named for my best friend and my awesome father.  xo xo Dad!  

29 Aug 2012 10:41 AM
Abigail Anderson

Steve: What a beautiful and precious story you have shared! And I'm so glad you told it, since saying our stories keeps those closest to us alive forever.

Erika! What a beautiful and courageous piece of writing. Beautiful because you may be in the Kentucky Derby one day (although it seems to me that you already are), but you are also a writer. Don't let that gift go, please. It's (at least) one of your endowments and should be honoured.

Like you, it was my grandfather & I who watched the Derby together, without fail, until a few months before his death in 1964. My grandfather was a tough, tiny man and very hard to get close to because of it. But the bridge we built happened over thoroughbreds and the Kentucky Derby. Both he and my beloved Grandma Wheeler nurtured my love for horses and never questioned that that love was a big part of me -- even though I would question it, when I "grew up," and (wrongly) decide for decades to pack it away with other childhood loves. And, also like you, my Dad & I were close and then "oil" to each other's water for a good 15 years. Because of this, there was so much I never got to tell him, since he died at 65 when I was just 31. But, as I said to Steve (above), in re-memorying your dad you will always be alive in those special moments and all his love for you will frame them. That is the reward of showing the courage to write this piece -- beyond the sorrow and regret is a whole landscape of love.

Thank you so much for sharing your story with me, Erika. And Steve, thank you for just being in the world!

29 Aug 2012 11:42 AM
Fran Loszynski

Beautiful story Steve. Couldn't help but tear up. My Mom introduced me to racehorses hiding under a bleacher because I was too young to be there! She actually died on Kentucky Derby Day, Majestic Prince won that day. You were born to write as Ms. Parry about horseracing, no doubt about that. I look for your column everyday. Horseracing as a fan or writer is just in us and that's that.

29 Aug 2012 12:05 PM
Steve Haskin

Karen, Joanne, Fran, and Abigail, thank you all for those wonderful, touching stories and for sharing them with everyone on here. And Abigail, thank you very much for your kind words.

29 Aug 2012 12:05 PM

Every year from when I was a kid leaving my pony outside to eat grass with his bridle on, I watched the triple crown with my folks.  Then I grew up, got married and moved away and had to watch the triple crown from afar.  Divorce came and I moved very close by and once again we have not missed a triple crown. My folks are 95 and 90 so I can tell you they have seen a lot of horses run.  My dad was a banker and in his day, bankers could not go to the races, so many times my mom and dad spent race day in the parking lot on the top of the car at Pimlico cheering on thier favorites!

29 Aug 2012 2:39 PM

Wow, Steve.... just when I think you've written your ultimate blog story you've come up with another ... and shared the space with a very talented and eloquent guest. To so many of us you have become an "old friend" because of your comfortable style and endless trove of interesting and often touching stories.

My dad was a Missouri farm boy, a long way from any racing ... he had farm horses as a kid and eventually went into the career of a military officer, serving in both WWII and Korea. For much of my young life he just wasn't able to be around much. My mom raised me and my three brothers --- mostly on her own, with some help from grandparents. To my grandparents, horses were a necessity and not something to get emotional over... but my dad (born 1903) sure knew about "Ol' Dan Patch" --- said he had actually seen him but was so young at the time he had no real memory of it. My pop was a quiet, private man but we were very close... after being told by an Army doctor he had 6 months to live he was reassigned to recruiting duty in Glendale, CA --- that was in 1946 and he ended up living to the age of 87.    

My mom was a sports fan so I grew up knowing all about baseball and horse racing and later football... these days I have lost interest in baseball and football but the horse racing--- NEVER. We listened to all the sports broadcasts even on Armed Forces Radio when we were stationed in Japan... when TV became available we of course watched a lot. We lived too far from any tracks to go to the races so I had to content myself with bicycling to some of the nearby stud farms. Mom also lived to 87, and was a Dodgers fan to the end.  

Nowadays, with the multiple media we have, it's easy to watch and learn and get to know people and horses... Steve, you and your regular blog friends have becoome my friends as well, and my life is the richer for it. Thank you.


29 Aug 2012 3:15 PM
anita b

Thank you Steve and Erika,

I have had a life long love affair with the thoroughbreds. As a todler-I was found sitting on the back of my grandmother's hors in the pasture.

I wanted (still do-can't do it at this time) to become a trainer-had my own methods of training.

On Derby Day-Belmont days, after Secretariat won, I called my dad--; he died later that year after heart surgery.

thank you both for your dad's- they were very special and still watching you.

29 Aug 2012 3:32 PM

The Jewish religion teaches us that if you love someone, he lives on in your heart.  Steve's column and all these wonderful letters prove that.

29 Aug 2012 4:01 PM

Oil and water, Erika, me too ... but take heart.  

On Dec 7th it'll be 10 years that Dad died.  (Yeah, cancer too)

He knew nothing about horse racing but dammit! he took me to the Queens Plate at Woodbine in 1965 --figuring out how to get there, how to get two little girls into the track, where to sit (on the steps next to a couple from Alberta who were soooo happy because that year the first Alberta-owned horse won the Plate: Whistling Sea at some gawdawfully high odds) and even how to bet (on Langcrest in one of the supporting features -- why Langcrest?  He had finished second to the Dancer in the Plate the year before and he listened to me, the expert!)

I remember these things more over time and it eases my heart.

You never forget.  You just learn to live with what you thought were failures but really, in the end, made memories and helped you grow.

What greater gift could any father give you?

Peace, Erika.  Peace, Steve.  Peace everyone else lucky enough to have had fathers who cared --- even if we fought them all the way.

29 Aug 2012 4:09 PM
Steve Haskin

And the great stories just keep coming. Thank you all.

Patricia, that is an amazing story about your parents. Your friends are here, so keep coming back.

Deb, it's hard to top watching the races from the top of your car. This is being a true racing fan.

And thank you, Anita, MZ, and Agnes. It's very easy to believe that. All these responses and recollections are very special.

29 Aug 2012 4:18 PM
Steve Haskin

One thing I neglected to mention was that my father, an engineer by trade, served in the Navy during WWII and participated in the invasion of Leyte Gulf, the largest amphibious invasion in history. Prior to the battle he wrote my mother an eight-page letter from "Somewhere in the South Pacific." It is a letter I not only still cherish, but every single person who reads it or listens to me read it swears it was written by me. No one can convince me that is a coincidence.

29 Aug 2012 4:36 PM

No, Steve, it wasn't a coincidence... family values and traits, even patterns of speech and thought DO follow down the generations...

When my mom passed away my brothers and I found a box of letters Dad had written to her in 1943-45 from "somewhere in North Africa" or "somewhere in southern Europe" and later "somewhere in Italy". He described the local areas, the terrain, flora and fauna, and the people, and his most recent experiences (the ones that could get through the censors). I found them fascinating reading, and though I already knew my quite Dad was very observant, I also learned how eloquent he was in sharing all this with my mom, though he couldn't tell her where he was, or what the current operation was... or that he had been MIA for a week out searching for some of his troops...

When he went to Korea he was actually a liaison with UN civil assistance, so was normally back away from the front lines, but that wasn't always the case. Also, by this time he was able to be much freer about where he was and what he was doing.

He came through both wars with no wounds, but also rarely spoke of the battle and war part of things. He is buried as close as possible to the Flag in a veterans' cemetery with my mom next to him. We were so lucky to have had them both for as long as we did. And though we were separated for literally YEARS at a time those letters kept us all close. [even the kid letters written by my brother and me]

Steve, I KNOW your dad understood your need to follow your passion. How lucky you were to be able to do just that. And how lucky we all are to be able to benefit from your dad's wisdom.    


29 Aug 2012 5:05 PM
Karen in Texas

Such touching, poignant stories! Thanks, Steve.

There wasn't much angst in my relationship with my father, but he definitely allowed and influenced my interest in horses when no one else remotely cared. He died Thanksgiving weekend in 1998 of CHF.

He had grown up riding bare-back on neighbors' ranch horses near Amarillo, and recognized my passion for all things equine by the time I was about three. We originally rode together at local stables, and he helped me purchase my first horse when I was in only the third grade. (I had saved any money that came my way--allowance, chores, etc. since kindergarten.) My King was a quarter horse/thoroughbred gelding with lots of personality, and we were a "good fit".

As an adult I began to travel to see my favorite racing thoroughbreds, and Daddy always enjoyed my stories and photos--especially the ones I took at Belmont at the 1995 Breeders' Cup. We always had the horses in common, and that is comforting even now.

29 Aug 2012 5:07 PM
Chris Simonds

First and foremost Erika, my heart goes out to you and I commend you for sharing this personal story.  Although I don't enjoy crying at my desk at work, I recently made my first trip to the Derby which Steve wrote about due to its significance for my grandfather and myself.  After reading your story, I picked up the phone and called my grandpa just to let him know I love him.

29 Aug 2012 5:08 PM
Karen in Texas

P.S.---My father served in the U.S. Marine Corps in the south Pacific during the second World War as well. We played the Marine Corps Hymn at his funeral.

29 Aug 2012 5:14 PM

As the only crazy horse lover in the family, I was always told "You'll outgrow horses"  I never wanted to be a jockey, but always wanted to be galloping a beautiful thoroughbred with its mane whipping in my face. While in my 30s, I transferred from one job into a lower paying job just to be able to work with horses.  When I finally told my parents, my mom's first response was "I guess you never outgrew horses, did you"  Since that day, both my parents have been supportive of my love for the majestic horse.  When my favorite draft horse was being retired from the theme park where I used to work, I took him and gave him to my then 11 year old daughter, to be her "pony".  I acquired an OTTB as well and rode him dressage.  Sadly, both my horses are gone, but the love I have for the horse hasn't faded.  In fact, Zenyatta, and my love for her, and my excitement of her caused my parents to actually watch the 2010 BC when she "ran out of room".  I've since spent a lot of time going to races, and taking photos.  My favorite subject- the horse... especially their eye.  

My parents are still with me, and I still show them photos, and we talk about my horses, and they still support me in my new career, that of a veterinary technician who wants to work with horses....

29 Aug 2012 5:49 PM

Ugh, so sad but so heartwarming too.  Words to live by: " is far better to lose your pride with someone you love than to lose that someone with your useless pride."  How we all should remember this.

I grew up with parents that didn't understand the first thing about racing, or how someone could be so moved to tears by the horses she watched race on TV, or read about in Sports Illustrated.  They would never take me to Hollywood Park, or Santa Anita.  Tracks nearly in my own back yard.  

I grew up silently watching the races, earliest memories were of Ruffian breaking down.  I cried alone in my room.  There simply was no one who understood the passion, and few around me do to this day.  I'm an Oregon girl now, but at least there is the internet and some blogs where people DO understand, I'm thankful for that. You and Erika had something few of us do, someone who understood the passion and supported it. God Bless that!

29 Aug 2012 7:03 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Good luck casey. If I was a horse vet I'd hire you in a second.

Many amazing stories here. ksweatman9, I found your story to be especially moving and thought provoking.

Thanks to Steve's Pop. It's possible that without his words of encouragement to Steve we wouldn't have had all of these years of incredible stories and insight. I can't imagine that anyone has ever been such an ambassador for so long of the love affair between horse and man and so eloquently and passionately put it to words as has Steve Haskin. Many here have that same passion and eloquence. Another special blog. This is one of those that will endure in our minds. I have been thinking a lot about the loved ones I've lost and what they meant to me. Some of you are lucky enough to still have your parents that are of that incredible generation that went through WW2 and the Korean War. I've been thinking also of the great horses we have lost and hope that Paynter can pull through.

29 Aug 2012 7:33 PM
Steve Haskin

That was beautiful, Dr. D. Thanks so much.

Chris, great hearing from you again. Say hi to your grandfather.

And once again, thanks to everyone who posted on here. Dr D is right. This one is special. More than I ever could have imagined.

29 Aug 2012 7:44 PM
Erika Parry

Thank you to everyone for your wonderful comments, heartwarming stories, and fond memories of long lost (and still kickin'!) loved ones. This has been an extraordinary and humbling experience for me. Steve, I absolutely cannot thank you enough for giving me this opportunity. I was so hesitant to share something so insanely personal, but in the end, it has been a complete blessing. Such a perfect tribute this turned out to be - to two truly amazing poppas. I know for a fact mine is beaming on the other side. I wish the very best to you all - please keep the beautiful memories coming!

29 Aug 2012 10:19 PM
Mike Relva


Of all the talents you're blessed  with, one that's always on display is the way you carry yourself.

29 Aug 2012 10:45 PM
Dr Drunkinbum


   I've read your post numerous times and each time I feel and see more inside and outside of that room. It's like Secretariat's Belmont. I've seen it numerous times and get teary-eyed every time eventhough every time I think I won't. And like Secretariat's Belmont your post is very powerful, visually and emotionally for me. I too love Mine That Bird. That Derby Day and his win is very special to me, and the story of Mine That Bird and Chip will forever be one of the greatest stories of horse and man of alltime. Mine That Bird looked fantastic that day, ready to run the race of his life. Chip also looked great despite being on crutches. The energy that both exuded that day was amazing.


  The posts on this blog are full of champions, human and equine, those in print and those in our memories. Thank you Erika and Steve and everyone that has posted. All of you are champions.

29 Aug 2012 11:00 PM
Paula Higgins

Steve, you are very lucky to have such a wonderful letter from your father before the Battle of Leyte Gulf. A priceless gift and an important piece of history. It is a true treasure. My dad was in the Army Air Corp in WW II. He was a recon. photographer after bombing raids and took many pictures during the war from the air and on the ground. We gave them to an Army museum a few years ago. They were truly the greatest generation. We owe them everything.

29 Aug 2012 11:19 PM

TY Steve and Erika for your 'tissue' stories. It has triggered many happy memories for me of my Mother and Stepfather. My Mother 'contaminated' me at an early age with TB racing although her first 'love' has always been arabians. Watching on TV together, bring home various trade magazines and allowing me read and clip out articles in the newspapers to fill the scrapbooks my mother bought. My Stepfather, while not a 'horse' person supported our love. In 1977 on our 'annual' camping trip made an 'unscheduled' stop in Lexington to show me the not yet opened Horse Park and drove as close as we could get so I could get a picture of the newly moved MOW grave/statue. He also found where Claiborne was located and we made a 'drive by' and stopped on the edge of the road to watch and catch a glimpse of Secretariat before the privacy fences went up. My father passed in 93 but not before enjoying the ups (Belmont and BC) and downs (Derby) of my favorite horse A.P. Indy. Mom finally got her arabian, but she was by my side when the first horse I owned and trained fell a whisker short of breaking his maiden and after 27 year Army Career, I have my racehorse farm...Standardbreds, but who knows what the future holds? And hopefully my daughters, who are all grown now and also 'contaminated' will have just as many happy memories (Brandy and Holy Bull- Lindsey and Rachel). Little things that over the years that add up and the things we remember the most as time passes. TY for bringing them back!

30 Aug 2012 11:03 AM

OK, WWII from a different perspective:

Dad was 19.  The Germans came through northern Italy, picking up anything that was male and could walk or hobble and moved them into a Concentration Camp (concentration as in "bunch them all in together") in Yugoslavia (now Slovenia?).  From there, they were to be sent to Russia, where the Germans were hysterically fighting a last ditch "battle" -- although what it really was was a rout.  Everyone knew if you went to Russia, you would never come back (and many, many did not).

A doctor in the Camp told my Dad that he would help him.  He told the Germans that Dad couldn't go because he had a ruptured appendix.  He actually operated on my Dad's perfectly healthy appendix and saved him.  The war ended soon after and Dad was able to make it home.

Erika: my regret is never getting the name of that Doctor.  If I may ge given the right to use that term, that Doctor was a "Righteous Among the Nations".

Although I can never thank him or his family, maybe it was fated that I would never know his name: he could have been Italian, he could have been German, he could even have been a POW doing work there. I'll never know but I will be eternally grateful to him.

30 Aug 2012 11:16 AM
Erika Parry

mz, that is an absolutely amazing story! My dad's father was a WWII vet, and I used to LOVE listening to stories from this era. Hearing tales such as your father's really cements my belief that there are angels walking among us at all times. Thank you for sharing!

30 Aug 2012 5:48 PM
Paula Higgins

mz, what an amazing story about your dad! Whoever that doctor was, he had great humanity. I hope his incredibly compassionate act was repaid many times during his lifetime.

Another story from WW II. My 92 year old uncle is still alive and living in Maine. He was with Patton's army during the war. They ended up in Yugoslavia towards the end of the war. He was shot in the head, but survived it. They were never able to remove the bullet because of where the bullet was lodged. He still has momentary seizures every few minutes but it never prevented him from having an incredibly rich life (literally and figuratively). He is an amazing man.

30 Aug 2012 10:44 PM

Oh, my goodness... it was multiple tissue time here. All of these stories are heartwarming, heartbreaking, and beautifully-written. Steve, we already knew what a master you are, but Erika and my fellow commenters here have added a whole other dimension to this post!

I had to share my story with you, because it's a bit different. You see, my dad didn't particularly like horses, and paid little attention to horse racing, so I didn't get my horse fever from him (that was Mom's doing). He also thought horses were "out to get him," after the Shetland pony he was leading around with 2-year-old me on its back stepped on his foot. But all that didn't stop Dad from supporting me, literally and figuratively, in my pursuit of horse sports. He was always ringside cheering me on at my academy horse shows, filming and taking countless photos. He painstakingly repaired my model horses when I'd break them, even for the fifth time. I know he would have loved to buy me my own pony or horse but worked hard so I could at least have gear and lessons. Dad even consented to ride in a couple Adult Leadline classes, where we kids paraded around with parents stiffly clutching the reins.

The main reason for my tears after reading this, though, is you reminded me again of how blessed I was to have the relationship we did when he died at age 59, of Alzheimer's Disease. There were no unsaid words, no unbreached distance. Unlike so many AD victims, Dad retained his ability to recognize family members. The last conversation I had with him, I cried as I apologized for living too far away to help with his care. He said simply, "You had to work." The last words he ever said to me in person were, "I love you." It's been 19 years since he passed but I can still feel his unconditional love, and strong hand wrapped around mine. We might not have shared the love of horses, but he was my father, my friend and my champion.

Thank you for the chance for all of us to talk about our dads!

30 Aug 2012 11:30 PM
Ted from LA

I want to dedicate this song to all the people who love their fathers.  Dr. D, mz, this one is dedicated especially to you.

30 Aug 2012 11:52 PM
Bob from Boston

Karen in Texas and Paula Higgins... that song is dedicated to you too.  Sorry Ted forgot you... he is tempestuous.  I am going to call it now, Dullahan is going to win the Breeders' Cup Classic unless Jason Shandler bets on him to win at some seedy OTB in South Florida.  In which case, he will finish second by a nose.

31 Aug 2012 1:39 AM
The Deacon

I was never that close to my father. He introduced me to horse racing way back in 1955. He took me to Santa Anita, my first trip to a race track. I was so very excited to spend the day with my dad. He was always working and too busy to spend any time with his 4 children. He wanted me to see his favorite horse run in the Santa Anita Derby. My dad loved horse racing. He started going to the track back when Seabiscuit ran.  My uncle had a horse ranch and although I was very young my uncle would allow me to ride with him. My pop knew I loved horses but going to a race track was a world that I had never seen before. My dad never said much but to see the excitement on his face that day watching Swaps win is something I will never forget. He too like so many on these blogs, fought in WWII. He was in Europe and was a 1st lieutenant in the army. He commanded a platoon at the Battle of the Bulge. He wouldn't talk much about it, just bits and pieces now and then.

He passed away a few years ago at age 93. I will always thank him for introducing me to the second

passion of my life horse racing. My sweet wife of 43 years will always be my 1st love and passion.

My pop and I were always so different, but at least at the race track we shared a commonality.

I lost a very close friend today and was feeling down.

I opened Bloodhorse and read all of these heart felt posts and with a heavy heart wanted to share a moment. We lose loved ones everyday

in the world, we also lose so many of our equine hero's but somehow we wake up on a new day with hope, faith and the ability to go on.

Thanks Steve for this blog and  all of the past blogs you have written. It is a reminder to remember and cherish each and every day. Your story telling and writings are second to no one.

Always know that you are respected and revered by all who read your words. It is a very special gift to have the ability to put down on paper the way you capture your readers. Blessings to you all........

31 Aug 2012 3:46 AM
Karen in Texas

Sweet song...thanks, Bob/Ted.

This could be described as a "therapeutic blog"--something only Steve Haskin could accomplish in the field of turf writing.

31 Aug 2012 11:40 AM

Well I'm a mess now!  Nothing moves me more than matters of the heart, love of the parent for child and vice versa.  Incredible moving stories, Steve and Erika! It just inspires me further to try and be all that I can be for my 18 year old daughter.

My dad took me to a track when I was a kid and I still remember thinking, "Wow!  I had no idea they ran so FAST, the thundering of the hooves!"

I turn 50 in February, and I dream often of walking away from a career that started in 1987, and go to Kentucky and start at the bottom, cleaning stalls or whatever's available for whoever will have me.  This year, I've volunteered to work at the Breeders Cup at Santa Anita so I can be near all that I love.  November can't come soon enough!

Thank you, again, Steve!  

31 Aug 2012 12:25 PM
Old Old Cat

Beautiful, I cried.

31 Aug 2012 3:52 PM
Paula Higgins

Ted from LA I love you buddy! What a wonderful song by Luther Vandross. It's o.k to be tempestuous, that's one of your charms. The Deacon, I loved your post. Especially, your comment about your wife. You are a gem. I am very sorry about the loss of your friend. But you know, our love of horses and horse racing can get us through some tough times. When our dog died 3 weeks ago, I replayed Zenyatta's, Rachel's and Black Caviar's races on Youtube. It helped. As for you not being close to your dad, I think that generation of parenting was much different than it is now. My dad came from the school of "children should be seen and not heard." But I knew he loved us. However, he was not as wise as Sreve's father. When my brother received an appointment into the Coast Guard Academy and didn't take it, he was not happy. My brother is a V.P. with Save The Children now and has lived overseas all his adult life working to help children/people less fortunate. Till the day he died, my father didn't really get it.

31 Aug 2012 10:40 PM
Ted from LA

While Ted from LA likes to talk about himself in the 3rd person, he doesn't like to do too many long distance dedications.  After reading The Deacon's post above, I can't help but think of Harry Chapin (who died way too young) and this song.  One more of the great "dad" songs of all-time.

31 Aug 2012 11:41 PM

Thanks Steve and Erika.  As all the young horses start to race, we are living on the perpetual threshold of a dream.  I thank my father for his part many years ago. Native Dancer. Swaps.  Citation.  *Noor. Northern Dancer.  Kelso. Buckpasser. Forego. John Henry. And on and on as each new crop hits the horizon.  

01 Sep 2012 1:06 AM
Steve Haskin

Deacon, that was wonderful. Thank you for the kind words and for sharing that. I'm so happy this blog was able to provide such cathartic moments for so many people.

01 Sep 2012 12:07 PM
Paula Higgins

Steve, Erika you need to hang out your psychiatrist shingles. Yes, it has been cathartic for alot of us. Ted from LA I loved Harry Chapin. One of the greats and also a great song. Much better than most of the stuff kids listen to now that don't tell a story (although I do love Gotye's Someone I Used To Know).

01 Sep 2012 4:08 PM

Just one more... and I wish I didn't have to write this...

I lost my beautiful Arabian stallion last night. He was 28 and was bred by me from a dam I bred. He was always a gentleman, always willing, all boy but respectful... he left a few lovely foals but though he was from old classic American bloodlines he wasn't "fashionable" enough to attract mares from those other than the students of the breed. His foals have his sweet personality, athletic ability, and good looks, and are cherished by their owners.

He was my "Pip."

RABU FARWA ch h 1984 by Elsinore Abufarza x Rabalaika by Aurab.

He is buried in his entirety on a knoll overlooking his girls and his domain. And for the first time since 1964 I have no stallion. Will take some getting used to.


01 Sep 2012 4:34 PM
Linda in Texas

Well Steve, your writing abilities are quite famous and now you have a Director of Music on top of it to boot,pardon the pun. Good choices Ted from LA.

Want to mention the great one Theatrical's final trip to the eternal turf. He was a

handful and i always loved reading about him. Mr. Paulson obviously adored him and i know Mrs. Madeleine Paulson Pickens has wonderful memories of them and feels a bit melancholy today. Thank you Mr. Paulson and Mrs. Paulson Pickens for your care of Theatrical and then his many years at the hands of thoughtful caregivers at Hill N' Dale Farm. Theatrical no doubt has already found Mr. Paulson, and i am sure he is telling him all about his offspring. I have the hardest time saying good bye to man, horse, beast, dog, cat even my hamster Hammie, you name it. For some reason i find it tough to hear about Theatrical but probably because he is the one that sealed my love of Turf Horses in his spectacular last race against Trempolino in 1987. I was just able to once again watch horse races after Ruffian. I gave up watching for about 11 years when she lost her life.

To lose any of them always means the end of an era. And makes me feel older but better for having known them all.

Thanks Dr. Steve, such wonderful thoughts from so many, no wonder we were victorious in WWII and why sometimes our conversations get heated, it is that winning spirit that so many of us carry. Thanks Pop to mine,U.S. Army Medical Corps South Pacific, set up hospitals in the jungle to treat the wounded spent 5 years,went in as a Major ROTC NMMI(New Mexico Military Institute) is why he had a rank, and came out a Lt. Colonlel. Never talked about the atrocities suffered by the brave. And Deacon your words were so kind and gentle. May you and your lovely 'bestest half' live 50 years more. Along with the rest of us! And so sorry to hear of the loss of your friend.


01 Sep 2012 10:12 PM
Linda in Texas

longtimeracingfan-i am so sorry to just this minute read about your "PIP" how very sad. My thoughts are with you, must have been thinking about it before i knew it when i just wrote my post.

Your friend. Linda

01 Sep 2012 10:30 PM

Thinking of you, longtimeracingfan, on the loss of your beloved stallion. What a lucky horse to have had you to love him his whole life through!

02 Sep 2012 1:17 PM

Thanks Linda, it's been hard to look up to his field, he was always the first one I'd see in the early mornings, and he'd be watching for me. He always met me at his gate for his feed, and never got pushy or anxious, waiting for me to dump it into his feeder... I have other horses (all mares, including one daughter), and my hounds, but I will miss him terribly. He had such a positive attitude, could turn around any bad day for me, except last Friday... perhaps he and Theatrical met at the Rainbow Bridge... now there's a nice thought.

Thanks again for your kind words.

Patricia in FAR northern California

02 Sep 2012 3:18 PM
Paula Higgins

longtimeracingfan, I am so sorry about your PIP. I know this is a very hard time for you. But I bet he had the most wonderful life with you. If everyone could say a prayer for Paynter, it would be appreciated. He is in the fight of his life with colic. Although he is doing better, he is still quite sick. I am praying it isn't colic x, which is a killer with a not very high survival rate. He sounds like he is getting the very best of care from his vet and the Zayat's.

02 Sep 2012 5:21 PM

I'm Glad Steve that you and Erika acknowledged the importance of your father in your life. My Dad took my to Thistledown racetrack when I was about 10 years old. I would wathch the races and watch my Dad bet. My mom often accompanied us to the racetrack. When I was old enough to bet I would do so and had a great time. My dad would always tell me to take his picks because they were "gauranteed winners". I stood by my picks, although betting wise, my dad held his own. I miss my dad who passed away in 1999. Sadly my mom passed away in Nov. 2011. I went to bet the Breeders Cup in 2011 at Thistledown with my mom. 2 weeks later my mom died. I was very close to my mother. She was my best friend and always cherished the times that I spent with my mom and my Dad. Today I am married and have a beautiful wife and 2 beautiful sweet daughters. I am truly blessed to have 2 loving caring parents and now have a family of my own. I take my 2 daughters to Thistledown sometimes in the summertime. Thistledown is adding slots in 2013 which will preserve and strengthen the track. Everyone I talked to except myself believed that Thistledown was going to move to Akron. I am glad they are staying at their current location. I am looking forward to going to the Breeders cup again to bet the Saturday Breeders Day Cup card this year with my brother. I will be thinking of my mom and dad and I know they will be watching and cheering for me.

02 Sep 2012 5:33 PM
Mike Relva


Very sorry to hear of your loss.

02 Sep 2012 7:18 PM

All I have of my Dad's love for horses is a picture from the late 30;s or early 40's.  He never spoke of it to me.  Guess girls were not allowed to know bout that, but I grew up on stories of Citation and Exterminator, so without knowing maybe he played a part.  At least I would like to think so.

03 Sep 2012 11:23 AM
Linda in Texas

longtimeracingfan - he will always be there every morning and with you in spirit always. Thank goodness no one can vote away our private feelings. Thank you for sharing a little about "Pip" with us and i know he misses you til that Rainbow Bridge time comes for you, may he rest in peace.

Paula - i saw a video over the weekend that someone took of Paynter under his shed with a caregiver and his eyes tell me that

he is a very sick puppy. No doubt. In Paynter we had a horse to count on after Bode, Union Rags and all the others that were dropping out of the mix and we were depending on him to carry the torch and now we all just sincerely hope he gets well soon. I have saved this post to late afternoon awaiting to hear an update on Paynter. He has now developed an infection where they insert his nutrients. And blood clotting. This indeed needs all of our thoughts, extreme well wishes and prayers for his strength to fight on. This was tweeted by Mr. Zayat who is a hands on owner.

So sorry to hear all of the latest but i knew he was not well yesterday. His eyes tell it all.

Changes of seasons always affect  us and the horses in different ways. I hope they are all positive ones for all in need of some help. Fight on Paynter. Fight on!  

03 Sep 2012 6:42 PM
Mike Relva


Will you write in the near future on the great Theatrical?

04 Sep 2012 11:11 AM

Wonderful articles and tributes to your father Steve and Erika to hers.  I was away a couple of days to "destress."  I've just read most of this blog and have just learned the latest on Paynter and am quite choked up at this point.  Steve's articles bring out such class on the blogs that accompany them.  Ksweatman's was particularly moving.

My dad was an engineer as well and passed as many of you know just 3 months ago.  He did not get me into horseracing, I got into it on my own and I was getting him interested in it.  He's probably up there with many of the departed loving fathers getting quite an education on racing.  Lovely, touching heartwarming stories on here, a great read.

Now, as for Paynter.  I'm praying for him.  Oh my God, seeing him in the Winner's Circle at Monmouth beautiful and looking as if he could have ran around again and now THIS?  I can't even get my head around it, colitis, laminitis, clots, infection at catheter site, and whatever caused the original fever, the poor poor animal.  If only they can recover him from the other stuff and just deal with the laminitis.  I sympathize with Mr. Zayat entirely, how much suffering is enough?  My sister too, just this weekend was taken to the hospital yet again with the 5th or 6th pneumonia in a year, I've lost count.  She is Down Syndrome, in the late stages of Alzheimer's disease at age 50 now, and left with a feeding tube and constant bouts of pneumonia.  They're the innocents, Paynter and her, and yet they are suffering so.  I'm so thankful I saw Paynter in the flesh when I did at Monmouth, at least I saw some of his greatness and ability.  The rest of his 3 yr. old season and 4 yr. old campaign is a mute point, now it is a matter of mere survival.  I'm sickened over Paynter, I hope God spares him from terrible suffering and I'm hoping for a miraculous recovery.  We'll never know "what could have been" this year with all the major 3 year old players, we'll just never know.  Please get better Paynter.

04 Sep 2012 5:57 PM


I am so sorry to hear of your loss of your beloved Arabian Pip.  All those wonderful stories you told us of the Arabians, The Harvester, etc. were just captivating as I am sure Pip was.  Think of the good years, he had a great life and great caretaker in you and that is what counts.  I know it is unbearable right now for you.  Losing an animal is so hard.  I like to think of all the innocent animals that have to die and all the disabled people and children too in the world that have to die are escorted by thousands of angels when they pass on a one-way, all expenses paid, first class trip to Heaven.  Think of him in heaven now, for all we know Pip may be having a conversation right now with Bamboo Harvester, imagine how great that would be.  Please try to stay positive and remember all that Pip was and live in his memories, he will be all around you, don't worry.  Pip will teach you to be strong in his memory and go on to take care of your other animals.  My thoughts are with you at this time and Mr. Zayat as well.

04 Sep 2012 6:41 PM
El Kabong


You really did it this time. You made everyone think back. To Family, to Friends, to their roots, not only to family, but to their base beginning of this colorful sport. This was a "That which does not kill us, makes us stronger," moment and I never expected it here.  Thanks for taking the leap on this one. You always listen to your heart my friend and it never betrays you.

04 Sep 2012 8:54 PM
Paula Higgins

Linda In Texas, I have been reading the updates from the Zayats and it is very bad, I know. It just breaks my heart to see him snowball like this. They have tried so valiantly to save him. I think if he is really suffering they will do the right thing but it is a miserable decision to have to come to. They have all been in my prayers, especially Paynter. Keep praying for him Alex'sBigFan.

04 Sep 2012 9:08 PM

My night has been pretty much dedicated to Paynter.  I found a cute little music video dedicated to him on YouTube.  It is entitled "Paynter The Fighter."

Let's pray he can fight through all that he is faced with now and win.  When they were coming out in the Haskell some guy was standing next to me at the rail and he said he had to get a photo of Paynter.  So I told him, "that's him, no. 3, right in front of us, that is your winner."  The guy got his photo and Paynter went on to the victory.

I dread turning my computer on tomorrow for fear of having to read what I can't bear to read at this point but let's hope it does not come to that and Paynter makes it.

C'mon Paynter, you can fight this, you can do it.

04 Sep 2012 9:32 PM
Mike Relva


I feel the same way. My attention is on Paynter over the past week. Just hoping for the best.

05 Sep 2012 9:07 AM

Hello my friends its been a while since my last log-in,I hope you are all doing well.WOW I recognize a lot of screen names but the site has changed.It looks like Shandler is gone and now there are more varied characters than before.Now along with a Kentucky Veterinarian we have a Locksmith making picks.Who would of thought a locksmith would be good at picking the ponies.I look forward to all your replies.I hope you all remember me.

05 Sep 2012 7:16 PM

Mike Relva,

Hey, Mike.  Yeah we gotta keep praying and hoping.  Seems from the Zayat tweets there is a slight improvement today, Wednesday.  The colitis seems better and the BH article says the bloodwork was ok.  If only he can get past all the issues and just deal with the laminitis.  They have casts on his legs now and he is walking comfortably.  Poor little guy.  Another one far from his home in California toughing it out in unfamiliar territory.  What a fighter though, if any horse can pull through all this he can. It is great that the Zayat family also lives in NJ and are visiting Paynter regularly.

Keep praying everyone and Steve if you are in touch with your friend Mr. Zayat please convey our prayers for the family and Paynter.

I go to the Haskell thinking of Hansen and end up falling hard for the new star, Paynter!  I just keep seeing him over and over again in the Winner's Circle so beautiful that day.  He is a beauty, he's got to make it.  None of them deserve this amount of suffering.  In some tweet somewhere, as I am reading stuff all over the place that I can find, someone suggested the buttermilk left out in the sun that was given to Inky.  Wow, worth a shot if nothing else works.

Keep fighting Paynter.  PowerUpPaynter!

05 Sep 2012 10:26 PM
The Deacon

Better news today for Paynter, not out of the woods but better news. All those prayers are working.

A prayer group is a powerful thing, lets all keep it up. This gorgeous equine speciman is in God's hands now.

06 Sep 2012 3:20 AM

Hey Haskin and Other Readers

Love the Bolog..I was wondering what improve wagering...The cheapest I can find is:

Profitable Horse Racing Handicapping: How to Maximize Profits and Minimize Losses -J Paul Moore

(for like 3 bucks on the Amazon Kindle Store)

What do you all recommend...


06 Sep 2012 8:42 AM
Karen in Texas

I've been sending many prayers to Power Up Paynter as well. He and all his team are fighting the good fight.

06 Sep 2012 11:14 AM
Mike Relva


Always your comments, class act. If anyone can pull it off, he can.

06 Sep 2012 12:43 PM

Just want to say thank you to everyone who has expressed their condolences to me over the last few days. I still automatically look up the knoll to Pip's field, expecting to see him walking the fence or standing there watching for me... but the field is empty of all but memories now. He is buried on a knoll just next to his field... I'll always miss his soft muzzle and gentle ways and imperious neigh... but I have had many horses, a lot of them his close relatives, so he also joins that pantheon of memories. I've been very fortunate to have some really wonderful horses and seen or worked with many others... each one teaches something and we just hope we can give them what they need from us. I'm down to just 4 mares now, and will not be breeding any more, so within a few years all I'll have is photos and memories. Probably just as well, I'm no spring chicken.  

I've been following the ups and downs of Paynter... every morning I turn on the computer and head for the BloodHorse homepage, both dreading and hoping... and today's news has been an "up" so perhaps he is turning the corner. He has a lot of people praying for him. But most of all he has caring owners who want only the best for him. And if the worst should happen they will also do what is best for him.

For all the negatives people want to throw at racing, there are always good, positive stories to tell... and Paynter's is one, no matter what the outcome. He did NOT sustain an injury due to "poor breeding" ... or to a racing or training misstep... he simply came down with an illness, a very nasty one, and he has shown courage and tenacity we all can admire. His caretakers and owners are doing all they can for him. THAT is a positive about them and about racing. Spread the word... and if you can, donate to laminitis research; or if you prefer, colic research, or horse rescue, or Thoroughbred retirement and retraining programs. Do it in the name of Paynter... or whatever other horse you favor. Every little bit helps.

Steve, you are the very best. Thank you for this elegant little forum and window on racing. You DO bring out the best, both in your writing and in the people attracted to it. Long life and health to you. And keep on writin'...


06 Sep 2012 1:05 PM
Fran Loszynski

Did you read all, Paynter is doing better and his bloodwork came back okay. Any horse that can lose a shoe and almost win the race he ran first in on the hardest track, Belmont, well what can you expect from this real trooper! Go Paynter, Paynt The Town!

What great stories to read in your blog Steve. I feel like I want to meet all these racing fans. And who knows maybe we all have at some rail, some race, cheering on these great kings of the sand and wind.

06 Sep 2012 1:20 PM
Linda in Texas

There is a candle burning at the Washington National Cathedral for Paynter in The Candle Room. And a prayer for him was prayed on the high altar.

My son works at The Cathedral Choral Society located on the close. Is in the cathedral every day many times.  It is basically a nondenominational cathedral with Episcopalian overtures as i call them that overlooks Washington D.C. and from the Bell Tower one can see Virginia. Right now we will take any and all religions that get Paynter through this.

And continued strength to those caring for him and Mr. Zayat and family.

We are all here for you Paynter, hoping and praying and thinking and

pulling for you. Take it slow and easy as you take each day. We won't desert you. Fight on good fella. Fight on.  

06 Sep 2012 8:19 PM

Beautifully stated Linda and Fran.

Wow, a prayer for him on the high altar in Washington, that's wonderful.  My 78 yr. old neighbor is going to light a candle for Paynter in her church this Saturday.  Linda I am glad you thought of prayers and strength for those caring for Paynter, I am sure they are faced with quite a medical challenge and need our prayers as well.  It must be so stressful and day to day.  Fran, I love the "Paynt The Town."  What a great name for an offspring of Paynter's, I don't care if he never races again, I just want him to run free in a pasture healthy and go on to make little Paynters.

Keep praying all.

06 Sep 2012 9:23 PM
Uncle Smiley


You bring out the best of your readers.

Now here is a strange turn...

My Dad, as a youngster, worked for a banana vendor in Brooklyn, I kid you not, 1930's, whose business was horse drawn.

He knew how to hande a horse.  Not common for a kid like me growing up in Flatlands to have a Dad who could handle a horse.

He was unique, just like all the Dads you and your co bloggists have described.

Uncle Smiley

06 Sep 2012 9:46 PM
Steve Haskin

Uncle Smiley, we had a banana vendor come down our block in Brooklyn. A little Italian guy who would yell, "Banano, Bo-nano; Hey today, Bananay." We moved to Flatlands when I was 16.

06 Sep 2012 11:37 PM
Uncle Smiley

Wow, Steve, that wouldn't have been Old Banana Nose wandering away from the Big A?

Uncle Smiley

08 Sep 2012 6:31 AM

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