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Backstretch with Gordon

October 01, 2003

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There’s something about Harry. I've wondered about Harry for awhile now so I decided I had to finally ask trainer Ron Gurfein. Ronnie's been absolutely terrific when anyone here at The Horseman has had to call upon him for a story, and whenever I've been at his barn, his right-hand man Harry--whom I'm sure you've seen if you've been in the backstretch where Ron is stabled--is always around. So I had to finally ask Ronnie, "What exactly does Harry do?"

Let me preface this with telling an untold story of a couple of years ago that happened right here at The Red Mile. I intended to do a big story about Ron so I made arrangements to meet him at his barn at the track one morning. He was ready to go when I arrived, and we talked for slightly more than an hour. I can't read my own writing, so I use a tape recorder and sometimes just jot notes down. Well, that morning I was so engrossed in the conversation I was having with the "Trotting Guru" that I relied solely on the tape recorder.

When I got back to the office, I discovered that the recorder malfunctioned and that I got nothing but a hissing noise on the tape. Panic set in! I had to sheepishly go in to Kathy Parker's office and give her the news and ask what my next step would be. After admonishing me for not taking notes, she advised me to give Ronnie a call and explain the situation. I did, and Ronnie was a saint and told me to come back the next day and we'd do it all over again.

When I got there the second day, I apologized profusely. You know what Ronnie did? He put his arm around me and--I'll admit it--he planted a big kiss on my head. And then we did it all over again, with me checking the tape constantly to make sure it was recording. When we got done, I traipsed back to the office to transcribe the tape. As I was diligently working away, suddenly the tape becomes something like the erased Watergate tapes. There was a huge gap of missing conversation. Thankfully, I had more than enough to write the piece, despite the blank spot, and I can say that I--and Ronnie and Kathy--were all pleased with the way it turned out.

Anyway, when I asked Ron what exactly is Harry's position, he answered, "Harry's a "#$%&$%&@#!" Well, it was actually only a four-letter word, but it was said with obvious affection for his older, gray-haired sidekick. Assistant trainer Chris Lakata, who has been with Ronnie for nearly 20 years, said that Harry has been working for the stable for at least the last dozen years. When something has to be done, it's Harry's job to complete the task. I know that many times when I've called Ronnie on his cell phone, Harry answers it and relays the message. Earlier this meet I saw Harry in the back office at The Red Mile using the copy machine for something Ron needed copied.

Anyway, I'm sure there are plenty of "Harrys" around the barn, but I haven't been made aware of them. A successful stable is one that has conscientious and hard-working people from top to bottom, and Harry's an important cog in the Gurfein barn.
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