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Echoes of an Equine Past
William Nack
September 18, 1989
A spanking new Arlington track has gone up near Chicago. The old establishment offered attractions aplenty, as well—especially to a horse-loving teenager in the '50s
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September 18, 1989

Echoes Of An Equine Past

A spanking new Arlington track has gone up near Chicago. The old establishment offered attractions aplenty, as well—especially to a horse-loving teenager in the '50s

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But there was no stopping me that summer. Our Special Jet had put $100 in my pocket, and I had made a big score at Arlington. In my saddle horse days, I had met a man at the riding school who exercised horses at Arlington, and one day I saw him in the grandstand. We talked about the old days, then the new. "I'm galloping a horse who's a cinch the next time he runs," he said. "He can't lose." My ears pricked. "What's his name?" I asked.

"Clandestine," he said.

The horse was in the seventh race on July 21, a sprint for some of the fastest horses on the grounds, and I called my father. He galloped to the races that day. The colt was 5-2, and I bet $50 on him to win. So did McGinnis. What a score! Clandestine sailed to the lead, through a blistering half in : 44[4/5], and laughed all the way home, winning by 3� lengths. He paid $12.40 to win, and McGinnis and I each pocketed a $260 profit. My dad made away with $125.

I was master of the universe, king of the world! Eleven days later, the colt's exercise boy gave me the thumbs up, and this time I put $200 on Clandestine to win, the biggest bet I ever made in my life, then or since. It was nearly all the money I had, and it was the bet that turned me into a $2 player forever. Once again Clandestine raced to the lead, opening five lengths after a half-mile, and he looked like Man o' War until he came to the eighth pole and began to shorten stride. In the last 200 yards, a horse named Etonian cut into the margin, and in the final few jumps he caught Clandestine to win by half a length. Back at the barn, I nearly got sick. "It serves you right, you damn fool!" Parker scolded. "What are you doing betting that kind of money. You better go home and go to school."

There was one more thing to do. When Rafael was deported to Mexico, I took over the grooming of his four horses. One of them, a chestnut filly, was named Queen of Turf. The word was out on her. The daughter of Alibhai, out of a mare by Count Fleet, could flat fly. She was still an unraced maiden at age three, a consequence of two bad ankles. Every morning in early August, Molter knelt beside her and felt them for heat. "I may run her soon," he said one day. "Take good care of her."

Naturally I had already told my father about her. This was going to be the big hit of the summer. On Aug. 10, I picked up the next day's entries and found her in the sixth race, a six-furlong sprint for maiden fillies. I called my parents and told them to be there the next day, by the tunnel leading out to the track. "I'll know more then," I said.

No one seemed to know if Molter planned to give her an easy one or let her roll. I asked Parker, "Is it a go?" He said that one of the exercise riders had told him, "He ain't gonna let her run today." I bridled her and was dusting her off when Mr. Hack shouted up the shed, "All right, take her over dair."

I walked her over in the sun. Molter saddled her, and spoke quietly to jockey Ray Diaz. I couldn't hear what they were saying. Diaz rode her out to the track and I followed through the tunnel. My parents were waiting for me there. I shook my head at them. "No!" I said.

"Ten bucks to win?" my dad asked.


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