Jul 17, 2008


Jeff Siegel and Joanne Jones were chatting on HRTV the other day about Herat. They recalled the diminutive son of Northern Dancer who was sold to John Franks and left the Woody Stephens barn to join Jack Van Berg’s California outfit. As usual, that reminds me of a story.

Van Berg persuaded Franks that Herat deserved a shot at the upcoming Santa Anita Handicap with its million dollar purse. Those types of races were scarce two decades ago.

Franks rarely left his Louisiana home and he did not like California at all. But this time he flew the Franks Petroleum jet to Santa Anita. I joined him there. John was not a betting man, as a rule, and $20 across the board was his standard play.

I was surprised then to have him hand me three hundred dollar bills and instructions to bet across the board on Herat. I told him that I thought Greinton couldn’t lose but he wanted some action so off I went.

On the way to the windows the thought did occur to me that booking the bet was an option. I mulled it over until I glanced at the tote board. Heart was 99-to-1 on the board but started closer to 200-to-1.

Crowds of 80,000 were not unusual on Big Cap day and I suddenly realized that this would be a risky time to become a bookmaker. I got a little panicky as the minutes ticked away and the horses were on the track. Greinton was the cynosure of all eyes while Herat pranced onto the track looking more like Bambi than a horse with a chance in the Big Cap.

In the nick of time I got the bet down and made my own play on Greinton. Passing the sixteenth pole Herat was still in front by a length and looking for the upset of the century.

Laffit Pincay muscled Greinton up to the 14 hands Herat and gradually pulled away to win in the final strides.

Herat proved to be a sagacious purchase. He won the New Orleans Handicap and began to attract the attention of Kentucky breeders. Allan Paulson bought into the horse and backed him with some good mares as did Franks. Herat unfortunately developed fertility problems and could not handle a large book of mares..