My Daddy loved the Races. He would take me to the Race Track in Albany. When I was a little girl. He bought the cheapest tickets. I loved the “Track”. I loved horses. I loved being with my Daddy. It would be a perfect day. He would buy me a soda and a hot dog for lunch. We would go down to the paddock, where the horses were stalled, waiting their turn to race. He would say to me; “Act like you belong here”. Authority will never ask you to leave if you act like you belong .” As he lifted the rope with the sign that said “Keep Out”, for me to go under. That was a lesson I learned at his side and it served me well through out my life. We would look at all the horses and he would say to me; “Your the horse expert in the family, Mary Kay. Which horse do you like in the next race?” I was about seven years old and my only experience with horses was taking my Mother’s clothes line, fashioning a crude halter and unhooking a horse that was chained in the vacant field at the end of our street. I would climb up on a box and after a few misses I would manage to get on the horse’s back and ride and ride. I was horse crazy. I begged, prayed and pleaded to my parents, God and Santa Claus to get me a horse. It never happened.
He would look at his racing form and match the horses up in the paddock with the ones on his program. He would read off the odds and tell me the name of the Jockey. Then he would tell me what the horses racing history was. “This is the Six horse in the next race. What do you think of him?” I would give the horse my full attention. Reaching down to grab a hand full of grain from a bucket, I would open my hand and if the horse took the grain with out knocking them out of my hand and showed good manners I would give him a glowing recommendation. Now if the horse was really friendly and nuzzled me, I would get ecstatic. And want to” bet the farm” on him. Daddy would put a big star next to his name. I loved that part of the Track. I loved the smell of the horses and being near these great, wonderful animals was intoxicating to my senses. The horn would sound and we would rush back to the Grand Stand Field to get a place on the rail. This was so exciting. I was to short and sometimes if Daddy wasn’t to excited about the race he would remember to hold me up so I could see. If the horse won he would be really happy. “Wow! He was a long shot we would have won $100. if we had bet on him. ” he would gloat. If the horse lost he would say; ” Dang, we almost got suckered into betting on him.” “Oh well, we can’t be winners all the time”. He would sigh. It was a game. Daddy didn’t have the money to bet on the horse. Once in a while he would place a $2.00 bet, but it was rare. He would make it all so exciting and fun. We never cared that we didn’t have the money, we were spending a sunny day at the Track and being a part of all the glamor and excitement.
Years later when I was grown, I would take my Mother to the Races every year on her birthday. I would buy her a new hat and we would go to the Club House. I knew a lot of people and it was not unusual for there to be two or three cocktails stacked in front of us, from friends sending us a drink. It made my Mother feel like a celebrity and she loved it. Again the betting was not as thrilling as just being part of the scene.
I was managing a Hotel in Jack London Square, in Oakland. And we had a race named after us. So, I was in the Winning Circle to present the Roses to the Jockey. I brought with me three of my Models that worked the Fashion Show at the Hotel, my best friend Barbara Abbott, our friend Irene Meese who was killed in an auto accident later that year and my sister, Linda Dunlap. We are all dressed up with our Hats and Gloves feeling; Oh, so elegant. I was thinking at the time; “If my Daddy could see me now”. I look at that picture now and I believe I certainly look like I belong. Thank you, Daddy.
Many years later I bought two horses from the Race Track. See the picture of Esparate crossing the finish line first at the top of this story. Read the story, “Good-bye to Esparate”, on this blog. I paid $750. for him and he lived out the rest of his years on the Ranch that I live on today. When I bought him, I had tee shirts made up with that picture of him crossing the finish line on the front with; ” ASK ME ABOUT MY RACE HORSE” under it. My son David loved wearing that shirt to his neighborhood bar. He would tell all that would listen; “My Mom owns two Race Horses”. The fact that Espy was retired and the mare;” Week-end Zipper”, had never raced because of a leg injury, never came up. That didn’t matter, just being a small part of that glamorous world was enough. My Daddy would have worn one of those shirts with pride had he have been around at the time.
If anyone is interested in buying a horse from the Race Track I highly recommend it. You can Google, Buying a Retired Race-Horse. And go from there. I think I found an ad on Yahoo. My Mare; “Zippy”. I paid $250. for because she had a lame leg and could not be ridden. I bought her to be a brood mare. I bred her with the California Quarter Horse Champion. She threw four fillies in a row. I never had to have a Vet in attendance. I registered them with the American Quarter Horse Assoc. as Quarter Horse Appendix. I sold those four horses for Thirty-five thousand dollars. I think a lot of people do not know what a great bargain buying one of these horses from the Track amounts too. The horses are young, usually under ten years old, trained and beautiful and registered with the “Jockey Club”. I hired a professional horse mover and they delivered the horse to my ranch very reasonable. I still have my Mare; “Zippy”. She roams around my property with out a halter, at will. We jokingly refer to her as our lawn mower. She will live out her life here with us on the Ranch.