My Farewell Column

After writing the Hangin' With Haskin column for 12 years and the Derby Dozen, numerous features and columns, and providing lead coverage of all the major stakes for 22 years, I no longer will be writing for the Blood Horse and due to my contract coming to an end. So this is my final column.

As most of you know, I resigned from my regular job at BloodHorse in 2015 and have been working freelance for the past five years, maintaining the title on the masthead of Senior Correspondent. It has been a fun and, in my mind, fruitful five years, and I hope it provided readers with a good deal of information, history, entertainment, and behind the scenes back stories, as well as a place to express your thoughts and opinions, as the column has done since 2008.

I want to thank the Blood-Horse and The Jockey Club for offering me the lucrative deal they did five years ago following my resignation and for hiring me as lead writer in 1998.

It has been a long and rewarding road, writing about racing for 45 years, going back to the Thoroughbred Record, Thoroughbred Times, and Daily Racing Form as National Correspondent and lead writer. 

I have not ruled out writing freelance in the future, but there are few websites available for what I do. There are possible plans in the works for a website/blog, which I will announce on Facebook if that comes to fruition. For now I will continue posting occasional racing related thoughts and racing photos on Facebook.

This final column is just to thank all of you for your support, kind words, and contributions over the years. Many have been members of this community for a long time, and I wish to express my gratitude to all of you in particular. 

I leave you with some of my most special moments of the thousands of horses, races, and back stories I have covered.

Of course, I have written numerous columns of those beloved horses of my past that helped me fall in love with this great sport; horses such as Damascus, Dr. Fager, Arts and Letters, Gallant Bloom, Buckpasser, His Majesty, Graustark, and the Golden Age of the '70s from Canonero II, Riva Ridge, Secretariat, and Forego to Seattle Slew, Affirmed, Alydar and Spectacular Bid. And two of my all-time favorites, the indestructible Jim French and the shocking emergence of Prove Out as the conqueror of champions thanks to the genius of Allen Jerkens.

I have also written a number of personal columns about my wife, my daughter, and my father, and how I got started in racing, exposing a great deal about myself. I did this for cathartic reasons and to impress upon aspiring writers that you don't need a college degree as much as a love and passion for the sport and the ability to tell a story in a cohesive manner and how to construct it the proper way. And most important, make the reader feel as if he or she is there and experiencing everything with you. Once you grasp that, the grammar and sentence structure will come with experience.

Of all the races I covered, none affected me more emotionally than the remarkable parallel tales of Mucho Macho Man and Kathy Ritvo, who both virtually rose from the dead and teamed up to win America's richest race. That is the one story I wish had been made into a book or better still a movie. With the additional stories behind the private sale of the horse to Dean and Patti Reeves and of assistant Finn Green, it was a story that just flowed from my mind to my laptop with such ease I barely remember actually writing it. This is the kind of story of which a writer dreams.

There actually was another story about which I felt the same way. I was never closer to a horse and his fairy tale story than I was to Smarty Jones, who provided me with some of the greatest back stories I have ever been privileged to write. His was truly the quintessential Cinderella story that had every element you could have asked for in a full-length film - a Cinderella feel-good story that began tragically and had everything, including the love affair of an entire city.

No incident jolted me more than Afleet Alex's heart stopping recovery from near disaster in the Preakness as he demonstrated one of the most amazing feats of athleticism I have ever witnessed. And the story behind the horse was equally captivating with plenty of human interest angles.

Ironically, the only time I wept openly was not at the racetrack, but at Madison Square Garden when Cigar bid farewell in front of the crowd at the National Horse Show. And when the lights went out and a single spotlight shone down on Cigar to the strains of Auld Lang Syne, I have to admit that I lost it. I was embarrassed to find myself bawling when the lights went on until I noticed everyone else in the Garden was crying as well. I was able to report on the event for DRF. 

Of course there was the sheer exultation and pandemonium that broke out at Belmont Park when American Pharoah ended a 37-year Triple Crown drought. It was even more special having spent the entire morning in Ahmed Zayat's RV with his family. What a way to go out for the last race I would ever cover.

No horse I can recall provided more material than Maximum Security, whose wild and wacky career has been like a Shakespearean play, with all the melodrama, controversy, and scandal. I can't remember having more fun writing about a horse's career, as he continues to defy all his detractors and wipe away the nefarious incidents that have plagued him. He had me on the edge of the couch cheering him on with his recent gutsy, heart-stopping finish, as he yet again proved to the world he is nothing more than an exceptionally gifted and talented horse...on his own.

I can't ignore the great fillies I have covered over the years, but there was nothing like the rivalry that never was between Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta, and I was fortunate enough to cover Zenyatta's emotion-packed victory in the Breeders' Cup Classic and write about the many people whose lives she affected in such a profound way. I also had the privilege of covering Rachel Alexandra's victories over the boys in the Preakness and Haskell Invitational, and her gut-wrenching win over older horses the Woodward Stakes the day she rocked the Saratoga grandstand.

Then there was Invasor, who enabled me to make new friends abroad and paved the way for me to travel to Uruguay with my family as guests of the Uruguayan Jockey Club, where I was treated like royalty. And there were two trips to the Dubai World Cup, one covering the inaugural running won by Cigar for DRF and the other at the invitation of Godolphin that included my wife and daughter the year Meydan Racecourse opened. I covered the race for BloodHorse, and my daughter wrote about the experience for

Also for DRF, I had the privilege of traveling on the plane with Thunder Gulch, Timber Country, and Serena's Song from Louisville to New York, and also with Silver Charm two years later as he attempted to sweep the Triple Crown.

I truly enjoyed covering California Chrome's Triple Crown and getting to know Art and Alan Sherman. What a classy father and son team. And how could you not love the story behind Chrome and his rise from Cal-bred races to the threshold of a Triple Crown sweep?

And finally there were the dramatic back-to-back Breeders; Cup victories of Tiznow and how he came to exemplify the fighting spirit of a country and a city in the aftermath of 9/11. That is one horse who will always remain close to my heart.

I have only scratched the surface of the great moments I have experienced and the great horses and races I have covered. The BloodHorse articles are all archived at

That is pretty much it. If anyone wishes to contact me for whatever reason, feel free on my Facebook page or Facebook private message if you're not a "friend" or email me at

Enjoy the final month of this year's oddly paved Derby trail, stay safe, and I hope to see you down the road sooner than later when we can begin it all again.

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