Jenny Kellner is an award-winning journalist and educator who has written about horse racing for more than 20 years. She has been a media specialist with NYRA for the past four years.
One of the best things about getting to hang around racehorses is getting to know the people who work with racehorses. Winston Churchill once said, “Something about the outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man,” and by and large I have found he’s right – people who work with horses are nice people.
Two of the newer and more delightful denizens of Belmont’s backstretch (three if you count the horse) are trainer Tim Ice and exercise rider Chris Trosclair, who shipped in from Louisiana early last week with Summer Bird.
They haven’t seen much of New York outside of their hotel room, the barn, and the wretched challenging stretch of road in between known as Hempstead Turnpike, but instead of cranky and irritable, which is pretty much the mindset of anyone who drives on Long Island, especially in the rain, and especially in rush hour, they have been unfailingly pleasant and polite.
To wit: Even after 10 days of driving along Route 24, they still call me “Ma’am,” which I find extremely heartwarming, but not so heartwarming that I need to grab a bottle of Maalox.
When Tim, who has been training on his own for a little more than a year, and Chris, who is the son of retired jockey Angel Trosclair, are not experiencing the joys of Hempstead Turnpike (where drivers treat speed limits as mere suggestions) they get to hang around with Summer Bird. They spend of couple of hours each morning, and sometimes in the afternoon, bringing him outside to graze.
Summer Bird, who is a lot bigger than his sire, Birdstone, practically drags whoever is holding the lead shank from spot to spot as he searches for the perfect patch of green. If he doesn’t find one, he’ll walk over to the nearest tree and, giraffe-like, start eating the leaves. The only thing that will interrupt his laser-like focus is the rustle of cellophane that signals a peppermint is on its way. Then, he’ll drag Chris or Tim over to the person holding the peppermint, gobble it down, and wait expectantly until another is offered. And another. And another.
TIM: I go through a couple of really big bags of peppermints each week for him.
ME: Is there anything he doesn’t like?
TIM: We haven’t found it yet.
ME: Have you offered him veal?
TIM AND CHRIS: (Chuckle politely).
See? Even after a 35-minute drive that theoretically should take 15 minutes along Hempstead Turnpike (where drivers think it’s OK to go through a red light if they remember it was yellow, but only if they’re talking on their cell phones), they’re still pleasant.
There is something about the outside of a horse, after all.