JC / Railbird

Readings: Aunt Jinny’s Trainer

From “This Was Racing,” by Joe Palmer:

The Daily Racing Form’s poll of experts — and mostly genuine experts, too — picked Aunt Jinny as the best two-year-old filly of the year. This was a satisfaction, because she was bred, owned and trained by Duval Headley, about whom, now that the years have dimmed the performance, I am going to tell you a story. I hope it doesn’t get him in trouble.

Back in the 1938 he was training Menow for his uncle, Hal Price Headley, hereinafter known as Uncle Price. Menow, which had won the Futurity the previous year, was at Delaware Park getting ready for the Massachusetts Handicap. He was to have one last hard work and then ship to Boston, and Uncle Price was coming up to supervise it. As a matter of fact we rode up on the train together, and I still remember that though he spoke favorably of the weights on some of the horses, he never mentioned that he had a horse in the race.

Well, Duval wanted to work the horse a lot faster than his uncle would approve, so he went and caught the exercise boy and gave him orders in advance, to wit:

‘Now look here, boy,’ he said, ‘you get that horse off fast. And when you turn into the stretch, I’m going to be in the infield waving you down. But don’t you pay a damned bit of attention to me. You come on down with that horse.’

Menow broke from the gate. He was always a generous horse, and he was doing his best. When he’d gone six furlongs Uncle Price looked up from his watch and said, ‘Isn’t he going a little fast, Duval?’

‘My gracious, yes,’ (this has to go through the mail) said his nephew. ‘What’s that boy thinking about?’

He plucked a handkerchief from his pocket and began waving the horse down. The boy settled down and rode like the devil was at his throat-latch, and Menow broke Delaware Park’s track record for a mile and a furlong.

He came back and was received by the trainer in what might be called an extreme state of agitation.

‘Didn’t you see me waving at you?’ he demanded.

‘No, I didn’t, Mr. Headley,’ said the boy. ‘I got some dirt in my eye coming into the turn and I couldn’t see anything. I’m sorry if I worked him too fast.’

‘Well, he you did work him too fast,’ said the trainer. ‘You may have ruined this horse. Do that one more time and you’re through.’

Then he took Menow to Suffolk Downs, where the management was so sure that War Admiral would gallop in, that they had the winner’s blanket of flowers worked out in the gold and black of Glen Riddle Stable. Menow popped out of the gate in front, and he beat War Admiral by ten panels of fence.