He’s Still Got It

by Ed Meyer

posted on October 22, 2008 in General Discussion, News, Other Events | No Comments >>

The “Living Legends” race proved to be all that it was hyped to be. It wasn’t like watching an old folks home on Red Bull; it was one of the most interesting races I have seen all year.

Sandy Hawley, the “Snowbird” from Canada, jumped in the old familiar place on the hook. This was nothing new to the 59-year-old Canadian. He has amassed titles like: Canada’s leading rider nine times, and leading rider in North America four times.

This wire to wire victory gave Hawley his 6,450th win which put him 10th on the all-time North American riders list.  Not bad for a guy who has not been in the saddle professionally for 10 years.

If you go back in blog land, it was old Horstradamus who gave his “Legend” call of the race with Sandy Hawley jumping on the lead, and Jerry Bailey and Gary Stevens chasing down the lane. Not bad guesswork. All you had to do was box the three selections and you had the triactor, as they say in Canada.

Enough of me patting myself on the back…. It was great to see this gathering of riders. When they warmed up, it gave me chills on top of chills. To see these heroes from yesterday sitting tall in the saddle again was a reminder of how short life really is… So this was a moment to savor.

All in all, I was not disappointed. The best thing was that all covered the 7f distance safely, and gave us one more glimpse at greatness. If this ever happens again, it would be great; but one never knows what each year holds.

“If I was invited back again, I would do it again in a minute,” said Hawley, whose biggest personal challenge came in 1987 when he beat skin cancer. “I was 122 pounds two months ago, and when I got invited, I started working out and got on a few horses, and the weight came right off. I weighed 110 in the room today.”

“Being back with these guys was a thrill. I’ve been with them the last few days, and you really don’t get to see them more than maybe once or twice a year at the Derby or the Breeders’ Cup. To be able to ride with them … when I got the call, I was like, ‘Holy cow, yeah, it would be an honor.’ The field of riders they ended up getting was tremendous, and I never thought in a million years that I had an opportunity to win, but I got on a good horse.”  I kept waiting for track announcer Trevor Denman to say that Hawley had the Living Legends race “in the bag” as they came down the stretch.  Back in 1983, when Denman was just getting started as a race caller in the United States, that’s exactly what he said about Hawley and a horse named Shanekite when they opened a big lead in the Morvich Handicap, run on the hillside turf course. “Sandy Hawley and Shanekite have this one in the bag,” Denman announced as they hit the sixteenth pole.

Unfortunately, Hawley heard Denman’s call and eased up a bit on Shanekite as they approached the wire, only to get beat on the money by a John Longden-trained runner named Kangaroo Court, who was charging hard to the wire under a young apprentice rider, Joe Steiner. It was a rare mistake in an outstanding career for Hawley, and a race call Denman would like to be able to do over. “I heard the announcer say I had it in the bag,” a fuming Hawley said afterwards, explaining the loss to reporters.

There was no letting up on Saturday. On this occasion, Hawley was the best of the Living Legends.