Laurie and Sham: December ’72

“SHAM and Knightly Dawn were being prepped to move to sunny California in December, as winter was fast approaching. Until recent years, with the addition of winter racing (and ruining horses), the tracks closed. Nobody complained. Grooms went to warm climates to work, horses trained on safe surfaces.”

“Mrs. Sommer was taking some time out west, and she insisted I travel with her. So while the horses shipped, we were already in Arcadia, a week before. I had time to prepare the barn, and I also helped out at Charlie Wittingham’s stable. He even put me up on a few horses, as he did when I was there the winter before, with one of my uncle’s horses, before he moved to Florida.”

“I went to the beach every afternoon, with a girl who worked for “Charlie.”   Mrs. Sommer took me shopping for shorts, t-shirts, etc.  Again, she insisted, but I turned down, her offer of staying at her place , in favor of moving in with Sandy, Mr. Wittingham’s groom, so we could be at the track EARLY.”

“SHAM was loving the climate, eating well, training hard. I mean, this colt loved to run.  He was being pointed toward a non-winners of 2 races, on New Year’s Day. The Christmas easy time was over.  But, on Christmas Eve, the Sommers rented the clubhouse, brought in catered turkey dinner and invited the backstretch, all of it, everyone! They were a very generous couple, very kind.”

“The race, SHAM entered the gate, and came out VERY quick, unbalancing him, and Lafette Pincay.  But, they caught up, and passed horses in the turn. Those jockeys from Panama could ride!  They started out learning to ride bareback then, so they stayed on, but did they ever HIT a horse.  When SHAM, still learning, began to slack off a bit, I swear, we heard that whip CRACK from the paddock. He hit him only once, saying later, to get the colt’s attention.   He was, after all, there to win the race.  Which they did, by over 10 lengths.”

“He cooled out well after, grabbing the shank playfully, as I walked him around the barn.  His groom and I traded off walking and preparing the stall and supper for later.”

“Sham’s next race would be in four weeks. On some days, Frank would tell me to walk and trot a turn of the track, then let him jog and gallop a bit. Sometimes he galloped two miles or more. SHAM had so much energy and stamina. The day before his race, we went for a long walk at 6 am. Then we jogged a turn late afternoon, before suppertime. Frank was very impressed with SHAM. “He was also beginning to care about him.”

“So was I.  I have always fallen for horses so easily. I still love each one I meet.”


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