Scarcely able to believe it, even as it was happening, our General Charley makes it
On a warm July 24th, Red Rabbit Racing's only racing asset incredibly won his fourth race in a row to remain undefeated at Arlington Park for the 2010 Meet! Entered for the 4th time this summer in a $25,000 Claiming race at a mile and 1/16th, The General continued where he left off - with another wire to wire victory under the masterful riding of RRR Prime Jock Eddie Perez.
The General went off as the Even Money favorite in a field of 7. The race was washed off the turf with torrential downpours that blew thru on the 23rd, but we never even considered scratching our boy as he loves Arlington's polytrack.
Eddie broke Charley out of the gate like a bullet, grabbed the rail within 50 yards and then slowed down the pace - just as he has done the last 3 outings. Antrim County, a Giant's Causeway gelding who beat us at the Fair Grounds last winter, settled right outside of Charley's right shoulder and shadowed him for almost a mile. His plan was to stalk our General, grind him down to a nub like my sisters have done to their husbands, and then pounce on the lead. Fat chance.
When they turned for home, Antrim County was as spent as a novice groom on his wedding night, and Charley left him literally in the dust. I knew the race was over at the stretch pole as Charley was firmly in front and yet still in Eddie's tight control. Just for laughs, Eddie let him have his head a sixteenth of a mile before the wire - just to show off, as we won comfortably by 3 & 1/4 lengths.
He even needlessly tapped Charley a couple times - which if Charley could talk would have elicted a "Hey... Hit me with that stick one more time you Jack Ass and we'll see where it goes next!"
On the 23rd I get a call from a Daily Herald Sportwriter, John Leusch, who wants to do a story on the fun our entire family is having with this Horse Racing adventure. I say sure and then quickly call Jean, Jeff and Peggy and tell them this reporter wants to meet us at the barn in 2 hours to interview us for a story.
Quite kindly, Chris agrees to take Charley out of the stall for a couple of snaps with us and the next day, A PAGE ONE story - on the Front Page - not the Sports Page - appears about our Red Rabbit Racing. The story can be read by clicking here. John did a spectacular job, capturing not just the racing angle but the human angle of a family that gets together every 3 weeks for a race. It was superb. Thanks to John and Daily Herald Publisher & long time family friend Doug Ray for a story to treasure.
Picture upper left is Charley breaking on the lead. He never saw another horse in the race again.
Below are many links to Photos, Videos and other gems. Directly right on Rabbit TV is the video of the race. Click the play button at the bottom to view. Thanks to Steve Gallo for what was his best effort capturing pictures and Brettie for his work on the Home Video. His Video can be found further down the page....
We had a new record of people in the Winners Circle - by my count over 65. There still were others that wanted to get in but couldn't make it as it was taking too much time getting us loaded up into the Winners Circle.
When Charley walked in for the picture he was breathing like a locomotive and the spray & sweat off his neck was just running off him. He runs with his whole heart and gave everything he had.
First , some background. As many of you understand, these 4 races that Charley has won this summer were all Claiming Races. That means that any horse, including Charley, could have been bought by any licensed Trainer for $25,000. In our 1st race this summer, we weren't too scared of a claim because Charley had not run well at the Fair Grounds and no one in thier right mind would buy him. But as he had now strung 3 wins in a row together, we were concerned that some Poacher would plop down the cash for him and take him.
RRR Trainers Chris Block and Neil Pessin (Pictured right) knew a claim was a distinct possibility but they have also counseled us that you enter your horse where he has the best chance to win - even if you may lose him. Well, our minds agreed with that logic, but our hearts had a little trouble. The night before the race, I stayed a couple hours with Charley as I though it might be the last chance to do so. We even split the last carrot together. (How's that for a tender tear-jerker?)
To The Story.... Well right before the race, Southern Trainer Neil Pessin barrels down to the track apron where all of us are and shouts at the top of his lungs, "There will be NO Claim!". So we all wheeled around and demanded to know how he knew that as they don't announce any claims till immediately after the race when the new owner turns up to lead your horse away.
So Neil explains... "Because I staked out the damn Claim Box in the Racing Office for the last 30 minutes and no one dropped a claim!" Can you imagine, our buddy Neil decides to surveil the Claim Box so he could ease our fears before the race that we were keeping our Charley.
That is a true friend
I asked him later what he would have done if someone had made a move on the Claim Box for our Charley. Neil said he would have explained to the potential Poacher that dropping the Claim Slip would have been a bad decision. If he still wanted to place the claim - Neil was going to stand between the Box and the Poacher until time ran out. What a guy.
Brett's Paddock Video Featuring Eddie Perez
Brett's Video Of Antsy Rabbits Awaiting The Race
Brett's Video Of The Race & Winners Circle Celebration
Finally, in one of lifes strange twists, this race was scheduled on the same day as the real Red Rabbit, Russell Johnson, had died back in 1976. I hadn't seen the grave site since his funeral - some 34 years ago. In fact I don't think enyone in the family had either - as there had been a rumor floating around that his last wife Virginia may have moved him without our knowledge.
So Brad and I set out on Saturday morning and at the 2nd Cemetery we stopped at - lo and behold we find the grave of the Red Rabbit himself.
He is interred at Maryhill Cemetery in Niles next to Virginia who is flanked on her other side by her first husband Sam. He had not been moved - but was exactly where he was buried back in 1976. We said a prayer over the grave, recorded the exact GPS co-ordinates, (click here to get them) and left a memento that the Red Rabbit would have loved.....