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Backstretch with Gordon: A memorable Sunday

October 02, 2017

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It's hard to believe that it's been 17 years—Oct. 6, 2000—that Julie Krone rode Moni Maker to that world record, under-saddle mile at The Red Mile. The atmosphere that day was something special, and the effort led me to shedding some tears after the two great ladies crossed the wire. And this morning I admit shedding tears for the second time ever at a racetrack, which happened after the special tribute for Hall of Famer Sam McKee, who died in March.

Race 7 on yesterday's card—which was raced under glorious weather—was the Sam McKee Memorial, and Sam's family, his wife Chris and their three girls Meagan, Lindsey and Melissa, were here. Boss Kathy and I had lunch in the clubhouse and the McKee family seated at the table next to us was joined by Don Niccum, one of Sam's longtime friends from back in the Michigan days.

All the drivers and trainers came up to the track for the ceremony and many other horsemen joined them following Race 6. I also made my way down trackside to participate. An absolutely outstanding video had been put together by Chris Tully and everybody stood silent while watching on the infield jumbo screen.

One moment that struck me was seeing Bob Stewart warming up a horse and passing by while the video was being shown. Bobby kept turning sideways as he went by while trying to watch. I thought it was great when that horse Hill Yes that Bobby was warming up won race 10.

After the ceremony Sam's daughter Lindsey saw me on the apron and as she gave me a big hug and told me how awesome it was to see the love everybody displayed for her father, I was glad I had my sunglasses on as the tears began to flow. Every morning I keep thinking about those pre-dawn texts from Sam as he jogged asking me if I found any good stories.

There was a pretty good crowd at The Red Mile. There was also a chili cook-off, but unlike last year when the booths were on the apron and there were continuous lines of people, this year they moved the vendors out to the grassy area by the Round Barn. So no, I had no chili this year, unlike last year when I had three servings.

Mohawk/Woodbine race secretary Scott McKelvie and his wife, Lori, made it to town and were at the races. They brought their daughter Tamara with them, and the McKelvie family is off today for a few days of fun in Nashville. Tamara is flying home from Nashville while her parents will be returning to Lexington for the last four days of the Grand Circuit stand.

As I walked through the upstairs boxes I saw Ohio State Racing Commission chairman Bob Schmitz sitting with Joe "Luckiest Guy in the World" Sbrocco. I love that Bob is a Standardbred guy and loves racing. I ran into Melanie Wrenn, and I noted to her that after not seeing her for about three years I have now seen her three times in a few weeks: first at Scioto Downs on Super Night, then at the Little Brown Jug, and now at The Red Mile. I also saw Jerry Silva, who said he had just arrived from New York and hadn't even checked into his hotel as he wanted to come directly to the track.

One person who flew a much longer distance was Bernie Noren. Bernie left here a couple years ago to return to his native Sweden. It was great when Bernie worked for Ake Svanstedt as he helped greatly with stories.

On the track I saw another driver wearing owner colors instead of his own. That was Mark MacDonald, who wore the colors of Diamond Creek Racing when he drove Blood Line to a second-place finish in a Bluegrass 3CP division.

My first stop this Monday morning was actually for an allergy shot. I usually have to wait 15 minutes after Kari gives me my two shots to ensure no reaction, but I signed myself out so I could get to The Red Mile. Kari gave me a shortcut a couple of weeks ago that takes me directly through campus, and while that's not a bad thing it also made the trip much, much shorter.

I saw two Hall of Famers as soon as I arrived: Chuck Sylvester and Mike Lachance. Mike went by me with a horse in his son Pat's barn, so I chatted with Chuck a few minutes. When I saw Mike coming back off the track I walked over and he told me that Pat had four horses here so he was helping out. Mike said while he's been in Lexington this was the first time he had been on the track in three years.

"This place is magic," Mike told me. "There is nothing like being on the track with the sun rising. It's just special."

Domenico Cecere came by so I said hello to the new "boss" of Lindy Farms. I decided to take a walk up to the top and a few others went by and said hello, but because of the glare of the sun I couldn't do any IDs. I neared the Toscano barn and the dogs Clarence and Eli came running to me, but as soon as I told them I didn't bring any treats they quickly retreated.

I was starting to head out when I ran into the newly-announced Communicators Hall of Fame inductee Dave Briggs. I thought Dave was going to be here yesterday but he explained his tardiness. Dave said he drove from Canada to the Detroit airport but made the trip several hours later than he originally planned. Dave said when he booked his flight he thought it was a 10 a.m. takeoff. Alas, he realized a couple of weeks ago it was a 10 p.m. flight. He tried unsuccessfully to change the ticket. I told Dave I think that has happened to all of us at one time.
I saw a big crowd under the Tree of Knowledge so I walked over to see who was there trying to get smart. I sat a few minutes with Nick Salvi and Archie Kohr, and then Mike Vandeheede came by. We touched on a variety of subjects, we even discussed Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner. Who says it's all racing all the time? Joe Bongiorno came by on the track and yelled hello to me, and then I said goodbye for the morning.

Remember that tonight is the Barn Buggy Bash at the Round Barn/Stable of Memories. Things get underway at 6 p.m., with the $45 tickets including dinner, beer, bourbon tasting and two drink tickets. There is also a silent auction with some great items available. And Tuesday night is the opening session of the Lexington Selected Yearling Sale. I'm looking forward to seeing the offerings from sponsor Hunterton Sales Agency.

The weather continues to be beautiful in Lexington and I'm hoping it holds up through the meet. Gas prices continue to stay stagnant, ranging from $2.27 to $2.39. I'm nearing empty so I'm shopping prices today.

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