Sep 4, 2008


My mother and father were invited to attend the l980 Kentucky Derby as guests of Mr. and Mrs. Harry Oak who owned the favorite, Rockhill Native. My father and Harry Oak were golf and martini buddies living in retirement in Pompano Beach, Florida.

The smallish gelding that was Rockhill Native went favorite off a win in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland and the fact that his trainer was the ultimate hardboot Herb Stevens.

Local rider Johnny Oldham got what he could out of his mount but he was history by the time Rockhill Native reached the quarter pole. A pall of disappointment fell over the box.

But not for long as my mother began to root demonstrably for the filly Genuine Risk.She chortled all the way to the cash window with a fistful of tickets to win on Genuine Risk at a stout l3-to-1. She was unabashed by the fact that no one else seemed to share her enthusiasm at the result.

My mother raised seven children and demonstrated her talent in countless ways to bring her brood to adulthood. She was smart, beautiful, hard-working, charitable, loving and full of life. But she just could not quite get the hang of pari-mutuel etiquette.

Five years after Genuine Risk I had a pretty decent 3-year-old named Fortinbras who had a longshot’s chance in the Hollywood Derby. My folks happened to be visiting me in California at the time and we all went down to Hollywood.

Frank Brothers trained the horse for my Santa Barbara Stable and partner John Franks.
Frank said the horse was doing well after a groom had mistakenly rubbed the horse with a caustic substance rather than his regular linament. He thought we had a chance off our best stuff.

No one else thought so. The board read 99-to-1.

Mom slipped away to get her bets down. When she returned I asked her how she had bet my horse. “I didn’t bet your horse because I don’t think he’s going to win,” she said.

My nerves were already a bit frayed from the pressure of the situation and I blurted out that she could not sit in my box and root for another horse. She was banished.

Dad arched an empathetic eyebrow but said nothing. Fortinbras ran a heck of a race and came home fifth, beaten only a couple of lengths.

Her horse didn’t win either.