Fading Into History

by Ed Meyer

posted on October 23, 2019 in Blogroll, General Discussion, Horse Racing, WinningPonies.com | No Comments >>

The game of racing fades in 20-minute increments. – That’s the time in between post times. Where we made friends, talked horses, and handicapped for the big win. – Over the years, we see friends get older and make fewer trips to the races. Then, they disappear. You hear the story of how they passed and remember the wonderful stories. – We all say the same thing right about then. ” I sure wish I would’ve written them down.” – Not to be a downer or one who relishes sadness, but days like these take me back. – Back to the wonderful stories and laughter about the game I’ve loved with all my heart. The moments seemed as they’d always be there and the words or stories would last a lifetime.

I guess I could fill a dozen pages of writers who I’ve read and devoured every word like a fine wine. The talented folks who brought racing alive were nothing short of magic. I inhaled the works of; Andy Beyer, Steven Crist, Marty McGee, Marcus Hirsch, Jennie Rees, David Grening, Mike Beer, Steve Anderson, Byron King, Joe Nevils, Frank Mitchell, and a bevy of others.

Then I have the memory of the ones who’s stories still captivate. – Bill Nack, Bill Mooney, Joe Hirsch, Bob Fortus, Paul Moran, Charles Hatton, Furman Bisher and a multitude of many. – Some of the stories live on in books, articles, and pictures. – Each passing day and 20-minute increments fade them into history. – Who’s gonna be around to pass the torch of racing? – Who’s gonna tell us how the swelled crowd was on Belmont the day when Alydar and Affirmed ran into history? – The sorrowful day that Ruffian left us, or what it was like watching your first Derby from the infield in the mud. – We’re losing connection to the roots of our game.

I’ve had the opportunity to work at many tracks. – I’ve never regretted a single moment my car pulled into the parking lot. – One track that will always stick out in my heart will be River Downs. The small oval was the “cradle of race callers” for Terry Wallace, Mike Battaglia, Kevin Goemmer, Peter Aiello and Jason Beem to name a few. Picturesque along the banks of the Ohio River. – You couldn’t ask for a more beautiful track. But I digress. – The best part for me was working with John Engelhardt. A long-time P.R. man and one of the best photographers around. He had a “golden tongue” to weave a story and an eye to capture racing’s beauty. Yeah, it’s fair to say working with John was my favorite chapter of racing.

His stories growing up in New York, his family, and the races he saw. – No, not reading about them, he was on track with his Brownie camera catching the action. – His stories of some of the best people in life, that just happened to be a part of racing. It took me a long time, but I finally figured it out. John didn’t know some of the best people, he was one of the best guys going. – He was really versed in Ohio racing and to this day it is his profession. Oh, he kept up on the marquee races but Ohio action was his wheelhouse.

John would have family, friends and professional acquaintances stop by the office – Always good fun and the conversation was incredible. My favorite was his friend who would stop at River on his way back from the Derby. A large man with a deep voice. – Bob Summers was the” Happy Handicapper” for The Buffalo News. As the Happy Handicapper, he relished the chance to be ‘Everyman’ in the sport of kings.” – One of the good guys for sure and his stories were the kinds where you didn’t interrupt. You surely didn’t want to miss anything. – History, family, and hanging with John’s brother were the main points and how they would jump in the “Bet Mobile” and hit the afternoon races and the night harness card on the way home. Yeah, you could say Bob was my favorite visitor who stopped by our small office.

John had a bevy of friends and one was an older gent who loved to help the track photographer. – He would stop by and tell stories of hauling high-end race cars to every horse imaginable. – Good stories to say the least. – If you tossed out a horse he may have seen them as a two-year-old as he was born in 1932. He would tell tales of his family working in the industry and how some took care of some of the biggest names in racing. – For a real fan, it was a treat to hear the stories. – I used to love when he would drop me a line when I posted a picture from Old Latonia Race Course and he could recount in perfect detail how they ran. Yeah, it was always nice to see Dwight A. Brown (DA). – When social media mentioned he had passed away, I realized we had lost another gem. – I will miss his smile and seeing with his camera in hand.

Of all the years working at the little track. There was one night I’ll never forget. – It was cold and dark out as January weather can get wicked. – About 5’ish on a night in the office. John looked up at me and said the truest words he has ever spoken. – ” You know, Ed. We’re never going to have another job like this.” – I looked at my friend and we shared the best laugh. It was one of friendship, love, and respect. Never would two fellas who loved racing ever have a job like this again. – He was right.