Every Thursday and most Saturdays during the spring MB and summer, a gray Cadillac drives up to the Turf Club entrance to Hollywood Park in Inglewood, Calif., well ahead of the first post time. An attendant steps smartly forward and opens the driver's door.
"Hi, Doc," he may say to the occupant. "Got any good ones for today?"
A great bear of a man climbs out and gives the attendant a smile, a cheery hello and—if he has one—a tip on one of the horses running at Hollywood that day. Then the man called Doc walks toward the Turf Club gate. His progress is painful to watch. Bending at the waist and shoulders, he moves with the short, constricted steps of an arthritic. Despite the obvious discomfort, his face is cheerful and usually lit with a smile. He nods and smiles at the ticket takers, program sellers and other early arrivals as he moves up the steps and through the flower gardens on his way to the stands.
Sometimes he takes a detour down a short path on the right and goes through an unmarked door to the jockeys' room at the track. Inside, the Pinkerton guard at the door greets him deferentially, and the heads of the waiting jockeys turn his way. As he moves through the room, several of them may ask him about some real or fancied ailment, or pass on the latest piece of jocks' gossip.
One afternoon last May, Doc made a special point of looking into the jocks' room, because an Eastern rider, Walter Blum, had flown out from New Jersey to handle a mount in a stakes race. Doc had treated the ankle fracture that Blum had acquired at Santa Anita a few months earlier.
"How's it feel?" Doc asked Blum, who was booted and ready to ride. "Not too good, Doc," Blum told him. "Particularly when I bend it." Blum sat on a table, and Doc grabbed the booted leg, bending the foot down severely. "Ouch!" Blum said, "that hurts."
"Of course it hurts," said Doc. So they took off the boot, and Doc felt the ankle, kneading it expertly with his thumb and giving it another severe twist.
"How long is it going to hurt?" Blum asked.
"Oh, maybe another year," Doc said airily. "It'll get well. Don't worry about it. Just be glad you're not Shoemaker." So saying, Doc shuffled off to talk to a couple of other riders who needed attention. On the way out, a young jockey named Senon Trevino waylaid Doc and quietly told him to get a bet down in the second race on Kenavo, whose trainer had never before won a race at a major track. Doc was delighted. Nothing brightens his day like a long shot. He passed it along to the elevator operator on his way to the Turf Club, and also to a friend waiting at the daily-double window. Doc paired the long shot with a couple of favorites in the first race, then he went to his front-row box a few minutes before the start.
He sat there with his friends, Fred Astaire and Charlie Wacker—Charles Wacker III, a thoroughbred owner and heir to a Chicago industrial fortune. The three of them go racing as often as possible, and make a few thousand different kinds of bets among themselves, besides the ones they place at the mutuel windows. They nodded without surprise when one of the favorites Doc had in the first half of the double won, but the response was considerably more animated when Kenavo, who went off at 60 to 1, got up in the final stride to provide a double payoff of $419.20. It was a glorious sight to see Doc—bent but joyous—waving his winning tickets in unabashed triumph.