When it comes to writing about horse racing, free-lancer Ernest Havemann is in the best of all possible worlds. A magazine writer for more than a quarter of a century, he has reported on a variety of subjects with equal facility, from Harry Truman to love and marriage, and he is also co-author of one of the leading college textbooks on psychology. But he is most at home when the subject of his work is horseracing, his lifelong hobby, as it is this week in his article on Trainer Bobby Frankel (page 42).
Havemann was practically weaned on the written word and the two-dollar bet. He says he began writing when he was six, bought his first racing form when he was 12 and frequently since has parlayed the two interests. When he was working toward his master's degree in psychology at Washington University in St. Louis he often combined classes in the morning with races at Fairmont Park in the afternoon. "I supported myself that way one whole semester," he says.
In 1963 he had his finest hour, one of the best any horseplayer ever had, when he hit the famed 5-10 pool at the Caliente track in Tijuana. Havemann bought $2 tickets on 48 different combinations and won $61,908.80. He wrote a 6,700-word piece on his betting coup for LIFE and appeared as a FACE IN THE CROWD in SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. Urged by admiring readers and friends, Ernie returned to Caliente for another try. He bet and lost four times, and his confidence began to wane. Then he hit again, though more modestly, this time winning only $1,125. Still, he says, he is the only living person to hit the Caliente pool twice in six tries.
Havemann has also tried owning horses, with some success. In 1957 he met a trainer named Dell Horner, who persuaded Ernie and a friend to buy a chestnut filly named Wedding Ring. Wedding Ring ran ninth her first time out for her new owners. Before her next race Havemann went to the paddock and issued explicit instructions to Horner and Jockey Bobby Wall. He wanted Wall to hold the filly back in the early going and then let her run down the stretch. Horner and Wall nodded gravely and looked at one another. When the gate opened, Wall took Wedding Ring right to the front, grabbing a lead the filly never relinquished. "I learned right there," says Ernie, "that in the horse business an owner is just a necessary evil. The trainer runs the show."
Havemann still owns four horses but says he is gradually getting out. As for other gambling ventures, in 1953 when he was on the staff of LIFE he was asked by Henry Luce to investigate the possibilities of Time Inc. starting a new sports magazine. "I had occasionally thought about such a magazine myself," Havemann says, "but after looking into the matter closely I came to the conclusion that it would not work. And I convinced just about everyone else to give up the idea. Except Luce."
Which was lucky, because a year later SPORTS ILLUSTRATED was launched, and now Havemann's byline is appearing in our pages for the 20th time.