Jul 7, 2008


Harry Aleo died with his boots on a few days ago. My first encounter with Harry took place at a yearling sale conducted at Seattle’s now defunct Longacres. He owned a good horse named Minutes Away who had won the Bay Meadows Derby the year before.
A half-brother to Minutes Away was catalogued to sell at Longacres.

I was on a similar mission to try to buy the horse for Louisiana oilman John Franks. We were really rolling at the time, winning stakes on a regular basis with horses bought who had already begun a career or at the yearling and juvenile sales.

The horse we were both after was by first-year sire Night Mover. He had been a brilliant sprinter/miler in California for trainer Bobby Frankel. Franks was prepared to go to $40,000 for the horse and I thought that was ample until Harry showed up with trainer Greg Gilchrist in tow. This now figured to be a little tougher assignment.

For one thing, the Night Mover colt was a physical marvel, as good a looker as you’d find at Keeneland let alone a regional sale in Washington state.

Harry and I were the only serious bidders and he bid $40,000. In the heat of battle I answered with $45,000. He countered at $47,000. Sensing weakness, I hit it again and got the horse for $50,000.

There was just one more detail. Franks firmly reminded me that he had only authorized bidding up to $40,000. He declined to buy the horse.

I was undaunted because I really loved this colt. My Santa Barbara Stable partners were happy to have the horse. We named him Ricehart, an election year pun. Donna Rice and Gary Hart were an item that summer, as befits a colt by Night Mover out of Happy Vixen.

Ricehart made the partners even happier when he won his second start at Santa Anita in l.09. That prompted a $200,000 offer to buy the colt. This time I outsmarted myself by looking in the condition book where I spotted a non-winners of two on the turf at a flat mile.

“Let’s not sell yet,” I counseled. “ He’ll win that turf race and we will get more money.” Said I.

It was a great plan up to the moment when Ricehard bowed a tendon. A couple of months later we took him to a mixed sale at Del Mar. Word spread of the colt’s extreme good looks and every teenage girl in San Diego County wanted to buy him for a show horse.

A cowboy from Oklahoma bought him for $23,000, huge money for a bowed horse, and took him back to Remington Park. A little bit late, perhaps, but he vindicated my faith in him by reeling off win after win. He had set several track records on the turf and won 10 races before he bowed again. Then he won seven more races.