Anyone who knew SHAM knew that he was a real mudder. But not just on a deep, sloppy racetrack.
He was always a real easy-to-get-along-with colt, but he became very headstrong when it came to mud.
One February morning in 1973, at Santa Anita, after a night of thunderstorms and heavy downpours, we headed for the track. I heard a young man shouting. Up ahead was a horse rolling, saddle and all, in a knee-deep pool of water. Part of the track was flooded, there was water everywhere.
I remember listening to this guy, probably swearing in Spanish, pulling on the horse’s reins, trying to get him out of the muddy pool.
It struck me as very funny, and as I began to laugh, so did the other rider. The horse got up, reared, and pulled the rider into the water.
Down he went, as his horse ran off, bucking. Then SHAM began to paw at the edge of it. Suddenly, with no more warning than that, we were in the deep part. As he went down, I jumped off, and stood back. The other guy was laughing now, as SHAM splashed, and rolled around in that deep muck. I suppose it DID look funny. There I stood covered with mud from head to foot, watching a horse be a horse. It was quite funny, looking back. (Imagine if we had phones in our pockets then!)
When he finally decided to get up, a small crowd of horses, riders and grooms had gathered. Everyone was laughing. Someone asked who my horse was so he could bet on him next time he ran in the mud. We were so soaked and dirty.
SHAM shook himself off, and we walked back to the barn. We were greeted by cheers, questions, and clapping. SHAM walked quietly beside me.
When we arrived at the stable, Frank sighed, patted SHAM, and told me the next time I wanted to swim, to go to the beach and to take the horse with me. We rinsed him off, I hosed myself off, changed from jeans to shorts, and we went for our gallop.
Another great day among the horses, at the backstretch. Greatest early morning place on earth – WITH SHAM!