Laurie and Sham: On to Belmont Park

After a bad, unlucky trip, Sham ran a troubled fourth in the San Jacinto Stakes, then, after coming out of the race in fine form, easily won the 1973 Santa Anita Derby, in WOW fashion.   He had a brief rest before shipping back to New York, and Belmont Park.



On the return trip, I got to fly with the horses.  They loaded pretty well, and rode quietly; Sham doing a lot of dozing off.  We arrived on a Sunday morning,  cooler than when we loaded.

Once home,  Frank Martin treated our stable star like royalty, which he was to us.  Sham was a very easy horse to train or work around, very gentle.  However, all everyone in the backstretch or papers yapped about was Secretariat, and fittingly so.  I was on the track with Secretariat many mornings, as he went out early also.  Up close, he looked like an equine bulldozer.  I mean, this horse was built!  He also was very laid back, and kind to those who handled him, and he had an intelligent expression.  I have to admit now that I liked him, though for obvious reasons, for many years, I did not.

As the Wood Memorial approached, Frank was very undecided for a time, how many horses to run.  The Sommers had a few good three-year olds, but Mrs. Sommer did not care for “coupling” her horses.  As usual, she won the toss up.

Sham threw in a couple of fast works.  So did Secretariat.  On one particular morning, which was supposed to be an easy two-mile walk/jog, Sham was feeling quite full of himself, pulling me around the shedrow, shaking his head a lot.  Frank walked over, took him by the reins, motioned for me to let go, and led him around the barn once.  He talked to us both, soothing his nerves –  and mine.  We didn’t go to the main track that day, but to the long, narrower one where less horses were.  My guy relaxed, stopped fussing, and became his usual willing partner.

Too bad Frank could not have ridden him in the race.  He knew his colt so well. He knew all of his horses.   I once had the opportunity to be around another great horseman like Frank, who could “talk” to his horses.  His name was Charlie Whittingham.

Far and few between are these kind of trainers.

Just like the horses they helped develop into the champions they were.



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