Jul 7, 2010


The recent running of the Queen's Plate brought to mind my first appearance as a commentator for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) on that nation's richest and most coveted event.

On that occasion the royal family was represented by the Queen Mother. The TV team was briefed on protocol should we be spoken to by the Queen Mother.

The producer assumed that I was a Canadian citizen. She was surprised to learn that I was an American in Canada that allowed me to work. I told her that I was not entirely comfortable with the bowing and curtsying that Canadians love to shower on what are called "The Royals'.

I decided to behave myself, figuring the odds were pretty high that she would wish to come and speak to me in Woodbine's leafy walking ring. During a two-minute commercial break I began to sweat as the Queen Mother headed in my direction.

Just in time she stopped to chat with jockey Ken Skinner who had the mount on longshot Market Control for Kinghaven Farm. "I'm going to back your horse," she told Skinner and ambled off to watch him win at boxcars.

This year it was the reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II who attended and received vigorous applause from her subjects. Another head of state that I encountered in a happy winner's circle was Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum. He had just won the Irish Derby with the great filly Balanchine.He was known around the world as simply Sheik Mohammed who can play the game in blue jeans and a T-shirt in Kentucky or a morning suit and top hat at Royal Ascot.

As I exited the Curragh I noticed a tall woman, regal in bearing, and greeted her as a fellow American-Mrs. Jean Kennedy Smith, the US ambassador to Ireland and sister to President John F. Kennedy. I couldn't help but think that high station in life doesn't grant immunity from life's woes.
The Aga Khan (make that H.H. Aga Khan as in His Highness) races with great success wherever he goes but he keeps a low profile when when he wins a big race. His breeding operation is second to none and I would love to talk breeding patterns with him. But I'm still not sure about this HH business.

The late Joe Taylor once drove me through a field of about 50 mares owned by the Aga Khan, boarded at Taylor Made farm, most of them grey as I remember.

On this side of the Atlantic, I was questioned from time to time why I addressed my main client, John Franks, simply as John while most called him Mr. Franks. I said that I was 47-years-old when we met, hardly a novice at this game and that we had terrific success right from the start. There were camp followers aplenty around him who adopted an obsequious demeanor with an eye on his pocket book more than proper etiquette.

And then there was the ecumenical duo of Prince Khalid of Juddmonte and Bobby Frankel. "Bobby called him Prince Khalid" said Juddmonte manager Garrett O'Rourke. "But not very often. They spoke about twice a year."