Heading For Home

by Ed Meyer

posted on March 16, 2016 in Blogroll, General Discussion, Horse Racing, WinningPonies.com | No Comments >>

During my time of writing for Winning Ponies I always speak of the incredible jobs and wonderful people I’ve had the opportunity to meet. – Since 2008, I’ve never used many names out of respect for privacy, and some would blush just reading. The good-guy types who are happiest just being a part of our sport with a place in the background being fine with them. – Today I’m going to go against my grain and speak of one of the good guys by name. A man who loved racing, his family, and knew how to be a friend. Mr. Jeff Reidel.

I start with a heartfelt thank you. – I was a brand new track announcer, and you could probably tell by the look in my eye and the sweat running down my back. The job at Belterra Park originated from a long time friend (John Engelhardt) as well as the past two before. – Being new and a bit anxious, I was all ears to my cohorts. Not all had sage-like wisdom to offer, but one surely did. He was a well-dressed placing judge with an ear to ear smile. He offered up advice, told me tales of racing’s glory, and could crack a joke with the best of them. He took the racing entries in the morning and would help me out with tough names and visiting training outfits. Nothing more embarrassing than to call someone by the wrong name as they entered the winner’s circle.

The new job, new faces, and being back at the track made me like a kid at Christmas. – Jeff was a quick-witted sort who would mingle the truth with a little white lie when it came to helping me out with a name. When he would inform me with the proper pronunciation and I would call them on to the track, there would be a chorus of laughter from the booth to my left where the placing judges held court. – All in good fun, and the first year of getting to know my new friend was enjoyable. All you needed was thick skin and a sense of humor, and remember the first rule. ” Never take yourself too serious.” – He broke me of that right quick, and going to work became like a summer vacation back in school. There just wasn’t enough time.

Year two brought more of the same, and as I was getting a little better at seeing the “fib” coming my way we would pass the day talking about racing, family, and our kids. – I use to call him ” The Great Oz” for his all-knowing answers as he had travelled far in the game. Being a quick draw, he came right back with my nickname, “Fair Play.” – As the year passed and the gang would stop down for some chicken wings and a cold beer I asked him the origin of my name. His was obvious but mine was a little vague. His answer was simple; ” Some people just treat others fairly. They love to see others happy and go to great lengths to help.” – To this day, that corny little nickname between two guys was the best I’ve had in my life.

A couple of months passed and I was called at the last minute to announce some races at Turfway Park. I grabbed my binoculars, and headed out for a night of fun. As I was settling in, two arms reached around and gave me a big bear hug. “Hey Fair Play, are you ready ?” – That was January 15, 2016. This would be the last time I would ever see Jeff. We texted and occasionally talked after, but this was last time hearing my name and seeing his big smile. – Jeff passed away earlier this month, and to this moment it is hard to believe. He was loved by many, and was a friend for life. I have fond memories of this man who loved racing. He always had a good story, and could make me laugh until I cried. As I peruse the text messages on my phone, I think about the man. He had a smile that could light up the room, and a laugh that was infectious. – Just when we are sure being a good guy has gone out of fashion, you are blessed to meet a special few who leave a mark. – Jeff Reidel will leave a void. The kind that can’t be replaced or duplicated in your life. – As we round the turn and head for home. I thank you for the great jokes, your racing guidance, and above all your friendship. – Rest in peace my friend.

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