On the TUNNEYSIDE of SPORTS June 17, 2013 #441 Up next…A badge of courage and honor!
After further review…The 145th running of the Belmont Stakes provided thoroughbred racing fans with yet another surprise as Palace Malice upset both Oxbow (the Preakness winner), and Orb (the Kentucky Derby winner), who finished second and third respectfully. Two National Racing Hall of Fame jockeys, Mike Smith aboard Palace Malice and Gary Stevens atop Oxbow, raced neck-and-neck as they rounded the final turn, both driving their horses to win.
In that final rush for the finish, when Stevens saw that Palace Malice was hard-charging past his mount, he said to Smith “You go on with him big boy, you’re moving faster than me”. Was Stevens giving up? Was he conceding the race before it was over? Not on your life! Stevens is in the Hall of Fame not only for his racing record (nearly 12,000 victories), but also in recognition of his integrity. He has been a jockey for over 30 years and has won the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes three times each as well as eight Breeders Cups. He is considered a class-act in the racing world.
In the Belmont race Stevens, with such vast experience, knew his mount Oxbow didn’t have “it” that day and made an honorable gesture to a fellow Hall-of-Famer with his words of encouragement. Do jockeys talk to each other as they race along at 45-plus mph? You bet they do; although the language sometimes used is not printable here. How do I know that?
Well, for starters, my father, Jim Sr., was a thoroughbred racing official for twenty years at California race tracks. Dad was recruited to that job in the mid-1940s when horse racing was earning a bad reputation due to alleged “fixing” of races by jockeys, trainers, and/or owners. Dad had never ridden a horse, but being a top-notch sports official knew a foul when he saw one and never failed to call it. My younger brother, Peter, has been in the racing business for over 50 years with more than 30 of those years as General Manager of a northern California track by maintaining that same level of integrity.
But this is not so much about them as it is about the courage and honor of jockey Stevens. In the heat of battle, during one of the premier horse races in the world, the tested old veteran had the wherewithal to encourage a fellow competitor. We don’t see much of that in today’s sports world.
Will you show honor and dignity to others in your competitive environment?