Athletes have dabbled in thoroughbred racing in the past, but most have had little success. Whitey Ford tried it, as have Gordie Howe, Bobby Orr, Al Kaline, Richie Allen and Jim Kaat. When Cheevers started buying horses four years ago, however, the racing business was getting no maiden. "I walked hots and worked on the backstretch at Ft. Erie when I was a young hockey player," says Cheevers. "I'd do it during the off-season and it was good work. The pay was only $50 a week, but I got to know horses and started to understand them. Later I worked selling mutuel tickets and then got a job in the publicity department of the Ontario Jockey Club."
Today, Cheevers owns some 20 horses trained in Maryland by Lenzini and his father. A few years back an outfit called the Four and Thirty Stable showed up on the tracks. It was named for Bobby Orr (uniform No. 4) and Cheevers (No. 30). The two had fun, but made little money. Cheevers and Orr are still friends, and when it came time to submit names for two of his yearlings to The Jockey Club for registration earlier this year, Cheevers proposed either Royal Ski or Royal Goal for his Raja Baba colt and Score For Orr for his son of Exclusive Native. The Jockey Club selected Royal Ski. The other colt, Score For Orr, has started three times but has yet to win.
Royal Ski will be shipped to Florida for a rest before a winter campaign that hopefully will get him to the Kentucky Derby. Cheevers, meanwhile, will be thinking Stanley Cup. If the Bruins make it, he will certainly miss the first two legs of the Triple Crown, because neither Louisville nor Baltimore has an NHL franchise. In fact, he has seen his horse win only two stakes, the Mayflower and the Heritage. "I usually find out in a hurry, though, about how he has done," says Cheevers. An hour after the Remsen, Betty Cheevers, who was at Aqueduct for the race, called him in Toronto. "Listen," she said, and a taped call of the race went out over the phone. "Ski is some kind of horse," Cheevers told his wife, "and we're lucky, just plain lucky." That night Cheevers' luck ran out; Toronto put four goals by him, and the Bruins lost 4-2.