You have heard me talk about racing being a world within a world. It is true, and if you doubt it, spend some time behind the scenes and take in all that happens. They argue and bicker about things, but, when the chips are down, you always can count on the help of many.
I guess it is a lucky man that can claim he has true friends. What do you make of a situation where you argue, bicker, and try to beat during the races, and end up around a grill laughing and talking with some of your best friends? I saw an old face while I was filling up my car, and he stayed on my mind for the drive home. I thought of a few names that made an impression on me.
J.J Sunseri – Born in Ascoli-Picno, Italy, he was raised in Erie, Pennsylvania and has been aboard horses most of his life. J.J comes into the jock’s room daily, and brings candy and mints for all of the riders. He gets about 4 mounts per week on a good roll, and even that is rare. But you can always count on his candy. He buys a gift at Christmas for every rider in the room, and is involved in every charity, getting great items to raise money. I have never heard him complain, and his call to fame was being the “house-rider”. This is one rider who gets an extra mount fee to stay until the last race. He would fill-in if nobody ever wanted the mount. I saw him smoking a cigarette down to the filter as he was writing checks in the food court area of a gas station. I think his friend works there, and he was just killing time. If every rider had two drops of his blood, the game would be a much kinder place.
The Russian – If you like beer-can chicken, this is the right guy for you. Part shyster, part talker, and a man with a huge heart. He does so many things for his fellow man, and feeds the backside from his grill. He always teamed up with the chaplain, and put on a great holiday party and BBQ for the backside workers. He is a kind soul, and has a way to grow on you… I liked him from the first minute. The second minute, he offered me a Cuban cigar and didn’t know my name. Since then, we always speak, and he is another good person for the game.
George Bush – No, not either of the president’s, but a man who holds his own office. He can be seen doing the things that nobody would ever find out. He helps many others who are just starting. He and his wonderful wife have raised a sweet family, and enjoy daily the simple things life provides. George is the kind of guy who leaves the room in stitches, and listens when you need him. I always call him “Mr. President” and he loves it… George is a good man, and if you have any questions. Just stop by his barn, and he will explain until you are ready to get it done.
I have always enjoyed the people at the track. I miss the people more than the work. To listen as horses whiz by in the morning, and watch as the thick fog burns off in the morning sun. As the track crew polishes the track to get it safe for the riders and horses. The people who greet, and talk to the players. Everyone plays a role, and the backside is still that world within. Go back, and get a cup of coffee in the kitchen. Walk out and watch the workouts. I’ll bet you’ll meet at least 5 new folks, and they will remember your name when they bring their charge over to the paddock.
If only the game was just this easy. If the closed door meetings, and people in charge took a drive back to the barn area, they would have a different opinion. They would want the game to survive as much as these many good people do. Heck, they may even get an invite to eat some beer-can chicken, and have a cold one.