Oct 6, 2010


Galen May liked to gamble and it may have cost him his life. A key man in trainer Jerry Hollendorfer's organization, Galen was entrusted with Kentucky Oaks winner Blind Luck at Churchill Downs.

Galen was semi-retired after a life on the racetrack but Jerry would call on him whenever he needed a seasoned hand to prepare a horse for a big race until he could arrive on the scene. I got to know him from his frequent trips to Kentucky on behalf of Hollendorfer. He was a quiet and friendly man.

After Blind Luck's epic victory in the Oaks Galen returned to his California home.

Police arrested a neighbor of May's and charged him with murder. The motive was said to be robbery. Galen was a regular patron of a casino near Sacramento and the killer may have known his routine.

There is a sense of danger that pervades a gambling site, one of the few remaining businesses dealing in "cold cash".

I can recall several other big scores that resulted in homicide.

Fair Grounds had begun to offer the exacta as part of its wagering menu in 1969. There was an exacta only on the last race each day.

One day there was a lot of hooplah coming from the clubhouse bar. A regular had hit for big money in the last race exacta. A boisterous impromptu party broke out among a group of clubhouse regulars.

I drove home to my apartment on Esplanade in the French Quarter and thought nothing of it until I read the morning paper account of a murder victim who had been robbed of his winnings on the Fair Grounds exacta. He was shot in the carport of his apartment about a half-mile from where I lived on Esplanade.

I was at Hollywood Park one day when another steady high roller hit a Pick-Six for $40,000 and crowed about it enough to alert everybody in the park.

An assailant followed him down Century Boulevard towards the airport. The victim turned into the portico of a luxury hotel where he was shot dead. A gust of wind began to blow the money away and the thief could grab only a small amount. The scene sounded like the finale of "Treasure of Sierra Madre" when Humphrey Bogart watched his gold dust disappear in a sand storm.

The unlucky horse player drove a Jaguar with a vanity license that read YRU POOR.

Moral of the Story: If you hit a big lick it's best to keep it to yourself.