It was winter in the late 70s. I found myself with two children, and needing a job. Arthur had given up his teaching studio and had begun to work for Van McCoy, doing arranging and lead sheets and delivering the music to New York City. Van liked Arthur’s work and was starting to use him more, but it was not enough just yet to pay the bills. Living in Alexandria Va, Rosecroft Raceway was nearly within sight across the river, accessible by the Woodrow Wilson bridge. Having developed racehorse caretaking skills from working for Mr Sims on Beulah Road, then for Raymond B Archer Jr at Laurel Race Course, I went to Rosecroft in the dead of winter.
There was no racing there during that time of year. (everyone raced at Harrington) it was gray, bitter cold, and the trees were bare, but somehow it was attractive, going down to an oasis of hillsides which looked rather bucolic, bordered by the Miller Farm on one side and Henson Creek Park on the other. It is still configured that way to this day.
I saw my first Standardbred at that point at Pete Warthen’s barn. He was standing out in the cold breeze on cross ties with hair hanging from his belly and a long beard…I was faintly shocked, I was unused to seeing any racehorses tied in such a manner after working with Thorougbreds. “That must be a pony” I thought to myself, referring to the lead ponies used at running horse tracks. Nope, it was Skip B, one of Pete’s better pacers. One came off the track, and I immediately began to wash it and scrape it off,… They saw that I knew what I was doing, and I was given a job.
That very first day, to Bonnie Haines consternation… I was allowed to jog a horse. The horse was a raw boned tall black mare name Mandy Crain. They told me I could go anywhere I wanted with her, so I took her the long way and ended up on the main track. I was the only one there. I looked over at the empty grandstand, The gray clouds were reflected in the glass windows on the top floor … To my right was the infield, with brown grass. Mandy’s hips were swaying to and fro, lazily,. first one hip bumping up, then the other, the lines leading back from her mouth to me… I swung her around the half mile track one time and looked at that grandstand. I pictured the stands full, and people cheering as I went into the winners circle, clapping for my horse, clapping for me. “Yeah… This is me”
Little did I know what I was in for,… But that is another story for another day. My point is that racing horses is part of the entertainment business. As Horsemen we would tend to get so wrapped up in the daily chores, the care, the rubbing, catching stall after stall, now miles on the road, that we would forget, that we are putting on a show. It is a show for the public that they will judge and they will either come and enjoy, or reject.
But that too is for another day. A lot has happened since I jogged that first horse.
I hope you enjoy my blog, and journey with me through our travels with horses and music. Cheers, Nancy