The Passing of an Icon

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It was 1986, and I was a young man working in the parking lot. – It was a 2nd job, but I loved it better than the one which made more money. – Wearing the windbreaker everywhere and always a Turfway Park on my noggin; I was pretty easy to see.  I used to walk in and watch a few races after my shift. – My boss was the general manager and we became friends from the first day. We would talk horses, bet a few, and he would let me tag along to the paddock area to get up close to racing under the lights. – Things just couldn’t get any better for a 19-year-old kid who loved the races. – He would introduce me to trainers, riders, and one special night I had a chance to meet the voice doing the pre-race handicapping from the paddock.

“Eddie, I’d like to introduce you to Mr. Asher. One of the best handicappers out there.” – “It’s John, Eddie. Just call me, John. Great to meet you. – You like the ponies?” – It was like looking behind the curtain and seeing what the Wizard was doing. – For a young man who just came in from the parking lots, this was getting pretty close to racing royalty. – John Asher was in charge of communications at Churchill Downs at the time and called the races at the old Dueling Grounds ( now Kentucky Downs). – Working at the home of the Derby and a legend in radio; I was star struck over a man who was big in racing.

For years I heard his voice, and over the years he climbed even higher at Churchill. – He would see me at the track over the years and I too had climbed a bit. – He always took the time to chat for a few minutes and asked my perspective on racing. – I was still that kid from parking, but now had more grey than thick brown hair. For some years I did the same job at Turfway he did as a favor to new owner Jerry Carroll, and trust me it never left my mind as I would open the gate and walk into the paddock. – Just being there was an honor.

We became friends on Facebook with the other million racing fans and industry folks, and when you had a “like” on your page from John you felt like a kid with a shiny star on your paper. – I enjoyed watching over the years as he shared his love for family, music, and history.  Oh, and always had an upbeat word to say about racing. – I relished his quotes from historical figures and always read them no matter what I was doing. Here was his last one I read. – It was the same day he left us for his Heavenly home.

John Asher

‪“Nothing in life is more liberating than to fight for a cause larger than yourself, something that encompasses you but is not defined by your existence alone.” – Sen. John McCain‬

How fitting could this be on so many levels? – The quote from Sen. John McCain still brings a tear to my eye. Sen. McCain gave us all words to live by no matter your political belief. – When I read this it reminded me of the man I met so long ago. – When I think of Churchill, John Asher will always be in my heart. Who’s going to remind us it’s 100 days until the Kentucky Derby? – Mr. Asher, thank you for making the game come to life for this fan and the millions of others. Thank you for making the post position draw an event for all to enjoy. Most of all, thank you for taking the time to meet that young kid many moons ago. He grew up to love racing and still works in the industry. – Our thoughts and prayers are with your family during this time of great loss. – Racing has lost one of the good guys, but Heaven gained an angel who’ll be handicapping the all-time greats. Rest in peace, John Asher. You’ll always be remembered.