A Week in the World of Racing

It doesn’t seem that long of a time when you’ll hear and see things that make you go hmmm. – In any sport there are stories that are front page, and others that are just quick blurbs along the way. But this month has me introspectively looking at life. We are blessed with life, but it is in the hands of God of how long it will be. Since we don’t have the answers, and probably for the better we didn’t. – There are the ones who will not be with us when we pick up the phone to dial, and there are ones who dodged a bullet and have a new perspective on life. All things considered, we should take some time and reflect about what is going on around us. After all, when will we have another chance to do so ?

 

Weldon Taylor Cloninger Jr. of W. Farmington, formerly of Anna, TX, passed away Sunday, August 16, 2015 at Cleveland Clinic Hospital from a long battle with cancer. He was born July 16, 1969 in Dallas, TX to Weldon T. Cloninger Sr. and Carol Ann (Forbes) Anderson.  He was a Horse Jockey where he raced at Thistledown, Mountaineer, Presque Isle, Mahoning Valley Race Course, and Lone Star Race Park. He got his start in racing horses in Louisiana Downs at the age of 18.  Weldon’s passion other than his family and friends was horses and racing. He enjoyed traveling all over the United States. He was an avid golfer, loved all water sports, snowmobiling and just being outdoors.

He will be sadly missed by his loving parents and sister, Teresa Chance-McDonald, his girlfriend Kat Dregits, very beloved friends Neci and Jon Clark and his children, Shane and Cassidy Cloninger of Louisiana, Coby Pruitt of Alabama and Rudy, Destiny and Cheyenne Cloninger of West Virginia. He had 3 grandchildren and one on the way. 

A Memorial Celebration of his life will be held at Abundant Life Church of God located at 14662 Old State Road, Middlefield, OH 44602 on Friday August 21, 2015 at 6:30 PM. Thereafter, a food reception will follow. Weldon’s final resting place will be where his heart was, Texas. 

 

I didn’t play a round of golf with Weldon, or we didn’t share a beer watching the big game. – I was working for Keeneland at the time, and was asked to head up to Thistledown to promote our new ADW. – I wasn’t fond of making the trek to Cleveland, but did so with a painted smile. When I got to the old track, I was greeted by the familiar face of Rich Ruda who handled the on-air handicapping, group sales / handicapping seminars. He has a magnetic quality that was a throwback to the Sinatra days. His cool way of speaking and his rich Italian heritage showed with his every word. – As I walked into his office he was chatting with a slender, fit young man named Weldon Cloninger. Rich introduced me, and the talk just shot around like guys in a school locker room. ” Ed, Weldon is looking to get into the handicapping on-air stuff. Tell him he’s crazy !” – I would have liked to, but this is how I met Rich long ago when he made the trek down to River Downs to join John Engelhardt on his “Regular Guy Show.” – ” Go for it, Weldon. You’ll look good on air, and you’ll be a breath of fresh air compared to Rich !” – The talk went on for quite awhile, and Weldon said he had someplace else to be. He had a mount in the second half of the card, and needed to be in the jock’s room. – ” Good to meet you, Ed, I’ll stop down to Keeneland, and pay you a visit before the meet ends.”

We became friends on Facebook, and communicated a little over time. He was a vibrant man who loved the game, and I had been watching him ride for years. – ” Eddie, Weldon had a bad test. I think everything will be all right, but keep him in your thoughts.” – That seems like a hundred years ago, as Rich asked me to join him as a guest handicapper the next day. I declined gracefully, but was contacted by Engelhardt  later that afternoon. – ” Ed, you need to do this with Rich. He really likes you, and it will be a blast.” – Rich had called John and wanted me to join him. Later that night we found a watering hole in the hotel Rich set me up, and we had anywhere between 1 and 100 beers. That part gets a little fuzzy. – The part that is crystal clear is meeting Weldon. He didn’t show any distress and planned to win the last race on a cheap claimer that day. I’ve always enjoyed meeting the riders, and he had a knack for quick wit and a golly-gee attitude that would have been a perfect partner for Mr. Ruda. – When I read on Facebook he rode a winner months back, I started thinking he had beaten back cancer and was on his way. – But that was to be short lived. – Altogether, Cloninger won 1,538 of 11,737 races during his career, with his mounts earning $16,350,015. – I was glad to have made the long trip, and getting to meet Weldon was a pleasure. May you rest in peace, and my sincerest heartfelt condolences go out to the multitude of friends and family who are a testament to your wonderful life.

 

Corrie Boyd's photo.

 

 

There are close calls and there are knockout punches in racing. The participants who mount up and brave the sport are as tough as a nickel steak. When we hear of a rider, valet, or assistant starter injured or worse doing the job they love, the real fans of the game draw a deep breath and hope for the best. Here is a story from the Paulick Report that details one of the close calls that go on everyday in the sport of racing.

 

The fourth race on the Wednesday card at Indiana Grand Racing and Casino was cancelled after jockey Sophie Doyle fell from Katei Amour in the stretch of the third race.

Doyle was filling in for Erin Walker, who was originally scheduled to be on the first-time starter in the 1 3/8-mile turf contest. Three-year-old Katei Amour appeared relaxed along the rail for most of the race but clipped heels with rival Folded Wings just out of the final turn and was forced to duck in, unseating Doyle, who tumbled several times over the turf and landed underneath the rail.

Folded Wings, piloted by Didiel Osorio, was found by the stewards to have come over on Katei Amour, causing the interference, and was disqualified from first to fifth.

Doyle was attended by medical personnel on track and transported to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, according to Indiana Grand spokesperson Tammy Knox. Agent Cory Prewitt said that Doyle never lost consciousness and as of Wednesday evening, was “extremely sore” and still undergoing x-rays.

“[It’s] definitely not as bad as it could have been,” said Prewitt via text message.

Doyle tweeted early Thursday thanking her fans for their concern over her condition.

 

 

I first caught the new name in the program at Turfway Park, and wanted to know a bit more about the new jock. Sophie Doyle is from England, and comes from a family deeply entrenched in racing. – I had the unique opportunity watching her up close, as she hung her tack at Belterra Park before hitting the road to Ellis Park and Indiana Grand for the bigger money. – Why not ? She rides like the wind, and can rate speed and close from the clouds when necessary. I knew right away she wouldn’t last long on the circuit, just like fellow “Brit” Jack Gilligan did the season before. – Small tracks are a testing ground to get your business going, and the savvy agents and trainers see what you have to offer, and the calls start coming in. I was glad to hear Sophie is bumped and bruised. It means she’ll be back in action before we know it. – Best of luck Sophie from your friends at Winning Ponies !

 

John C. Engelhardt's photo.

Photo: John C. Englehardt

 

 

I can’t leave on a sour note, and would like to say something positive. With that in mind, here is a horse to watch that will deserves a big-time play next out. Yesterday at Belterra Park, in Race #6 there was a double non-starter with #2 and #3. – Como Luz was the #3, and his gate wouldn’t open. Christian Rojas forced his mount to break through the gate after spotting the field about fifteen lengths. – He was so far off the pace, and I could see him starting to pick up ground and dismissed him to a  horrible start. As they swung for home there were three or four runners in the top flight, and I could see the hot pink silks of the Angel Quiros barn beginning to take flight. When they hit the 1/8th pole I called him flying from out of the clouds. – He finished 3rd, and the stewards immediately threw up the inquiry sign into the start of the race. After he was declared a non-starter, he was taken off the board. – The runner was +6 lbs. over the weight, and had the worst start imaginable. Como Luz showed a competitive edge that is rare in racing. You may want to use him in exotics and multi-race wagers. I don’t think he’ll be 30-1, and if he gets out clean, watch this one start moving about the 3/8th’s pole.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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