She was almost 13-1. The old chart says it all. "Queen of Turf forced the early pace while in hand, moved along the inside to gain command midway of the turn, drew out with a rush and won in hand." By 3�! Easily. She paid $27.40 for $2. I was elated, chagrined, jubilant, angry. She was the first horse I had ever taken to the post—and the last, as things turned out—and I had touted my own parents off her. Moments later, I was leading her out of the winner's circle when a bettor leaned over the rail and shouted: "Where ya been hiding her, you thief!" I didn't answer. Hot and excited, the filly pulled me toward the tunnel. I looked up and saw my father standing there, looking very grim. "Sorry!" I shouted. He just shook his head. I dropped mine, and kept on walking. Back at the stables, Parker threw a fit.
"What kind of outfit is this?" he shouted to Mr. Hack, who was tugging furiously on his pipe. "They stiff their own help to make a score. That's just great. A hell of a thing!"
Later that night, after the filly was cleaned and bedded down, I called my parents. "What the hell happened?" my father asked.
"I guess it was a go," I said.
McGinnis left that week to get a job in the real world, and life at the track changed for me. So a week after Queen of Turf broke her maiden and mine, I packed my things and went back home to get ready for school. We came back to Arlington many times in the summers of the '60s—my father followed the horses all his life, until he died on Valentine's Day in 1982—but it never was the same for me after that. Something was lost, if only the gay, innocent exuberance of my youth. When I think of that summer, I remember best my final afternoon at Arlington, the day before I drove down to school. It was Aug. 22. Round Table was carrying 132 pounds, giving no less than 20 pounds to eight other horses, in the 1[3/16]-mile Arlington Handicap on the grass. I stood in the grandstand, just below the eighth pole, wanting to see him win a final time, as I had seen him do so often, knowing I would never see him run again.
It was poetic. At the far turn he was lying third, but suddenly Shoemaker clucked to him and he took off. He swept to the lead around the bend, and turning for home, he was a length in front. Shoemaker pushed and pumped. Manassas emerged from the pack behind him—carrying a feather of 112 pounds—and began closing in. And then I started running down the apron of the grandstand, through the crowds, around the benches, down to the fence. Manassas came to him, cutting the lead to a length, half a length, a neck. Round Table was tiring, but he fought back. And I was dashing around wastebaskets, past folding chairs, urging the horse home. Manassas was a diminishing head behind him when they swept past the wire.
In the end, I found myself draped over the railing down by the wire, breathless from running half the length of the stretch. There was no point in waiting for the ceremonies; I had seen enough. So I turned and headed for the grandstand exit, leaving behind all but that final, indelible vision.