The 55-Year-Old Kid

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This is not Benjamin Button, or something out of a Twilight Zone episode. Yes, Virginia. There are 55-year-old kids. – Well, sort of. Time stands still for no one, but there is something magical when you hear a name and transported back in time. You think of that sunny Saturday afternoon, and the electricity in the air at Churchill Downs. It was only 37 years ago when young Steve Cauthen rode into racing history. Affirmed was not only the winner of the Kentucky Derby in 1978, but he’s the last Triple Crown winner in Thoroughbred racing. – Affirmed and Alydar were in complete lockstep at Belmont on that memorable Saturday afternoon, and his gutsy mount bested his rival by four inches to be the victor. That’s a long time between drinks, and it’s this time each year Mr. Cauthen is busier than a bee. Even as he closes in on 55-years-old, he will eternally be “The Kid.”

 

Cauthen was raised on the family farm in Walton, Kentucky. He learned the craft of horsemanship from his parents long before he was given a leg up in the saddle. He was skilled in the art of cleaning stalls, and washing tack. If you look back in time, the great ones learned the game from the ground up. Knowing how to muck a stall and rub a horse was the education anyone who wanted a job in racing had to fulfill. Maybe it was the blue collar work ethic imparted by his parents, or the magic of the cosmos. Either way, a young man from a small farm town began his career by winning aboard Red Pipe at River Downs in nearby southern Ohio.

 

I met Steve Cauthen many moons ago at Turfway Park. He was hired as a vice president, and truth be told his stock was gold a few times a year when the media would blitz the track to speak to him. He wasn’t involved in the track’s planning or development, but what a genius idea it was to have “The Kid” on staff. – He knew everyone’s name, and would be seen talking to valet workers, or the biggest magazine scribes of the day. There wasn’t air of greatness, but just a relaxed Kentucky gent who was glad to be at the races. I still have his bobble head on my bar, and it is signed in gold pen. – “Ed, it’s always great to work with you. -Best of luck, Steve Cauthen.” – I’ll keep it there for as long as it stands, and wouldn’t take a million bucks for it. – He would gladly come on my radio show a few times a year, as you would hear an older kid tell the tale of how it all happened. Not with a sense of “here is how it’s done,” but rather a ” the trainer brought him ready, and with a ton of racing luck, we got pretty lucky.” That’s “The Kid” and how he speaks of one of the greatest moments in racing.

 

I was having a quick bite yesterday when I bought a newspaper. Racing coverage is non-existent, but this time of year everyone is a fan. In the USA Today Sports there was a nice article written by Gary Mihoces. Well written, and it was sure to capture the attention of the new to average fan. Not that I didn’t enjoy reading about racing, but there was a quote where Steve was asked what he felt about the Derby and Triple Crown. He was quoted as saying; ” I think any horse could win the Triple Crown, and this could be the year.” Now, I guess that gets the once in awhile fan riled, but for everyday players. The Triple Crown is like finding Bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster. The field is filled with some real tough guys. There are more than one you could make a case for, and it would be easier to hit the lottery twice in a week than finding tough colts bringing their “A” game. The game hasn’t changed it theory, but the money is so damn good that everyone is shooting for the gold. Remember last year when the connections of California Chrome loved the game when their colt won the first two legs, and responded in public will a negative post race interview? They felt horses that run in the Derby should be the only ones who can run in all three Triple Crown events. I know, right about now you’re saying; “that’s not the way the game was made, and it’s the reason it’s so hard to pull off.” I agree, 100%, and the man who last completed the task favors the historical format.

 

Playing devil’s advocate, does Mr. Cauthen want the Triple Crown taken down? I have two feelings on this, and if it we’re you, how would you feel? – First, Steve Cauthen is a class act. He did this a long time ago, and forever he’ll be mentioned in the pantheon of the greats. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1994, and he’s the only rider to win the Kentucky Derby, Epsom, Irish, French, and Italian Derbies. I don’t think he’ll be forgotten anytime soon. – On the other hand, he is the man of the hour, and his name gets mentioned more times in the spring than the Dogwood blooms. You would have to think that he gets quite a bit of attention. Even the coolest of cucumbers gets a little warm when you think about losing what you’re known for. What about the ability to help the sport by having the soapbox? The end result for me is he’ll always be “The Kid,” as this small town country guy is no actor. He’s as genuine as they come, and that’s why the people love him. As far as the Triple Crown, Steve. I couldn’t see one in a hundred miles of here. They are just too talented in 2015, and it would take an act of the Racing Gods. But who knows? I once saw a young kid from Walton, Kentucky shock the world riding like a house on fire!

 

 

 

 

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