If you are following along the early days of the Beychok Kentucky Derby love affair timeline you know from previous blogs that 1981 was a year to remember for me. I had graduated high school and met my future ex wife. Big stuff right?
Well, 1982 was bigger – much bigger. I got married and had a baby boy. Well, my wife had the baby but I helped. Dr. Leggio, our Kentucky Derby trip leader, of course delivered the baby because as an obstetrician at that time in Baton Rouge at the new Woman’s Hospital, Dr. Leggio delivered about a third of all the babies in Baton Rouge. More when there was a full moon. True story.
My routine with horses followed Dr. Leggio’s routine on some days. On many an afternoon I would go get the Daily Racing Forms from the downtown City News Stand – the only place in Baton Rouge where they were for sale and slip in the side door at his office and wait for him while he finished with his patients. He would come in, go straight to the little refrigerator he kept in his office, pop open a miller lite pony, put his feet up on his desk or sit on the couch and start reading the Racing Form.
We would have many a discussion about handicapping factors, speed, weight, jockeys and trainers. One such late afternoon we talked about how weight affected a horse and I innocently opined that since the horse weighed so much I didn’t really think a few extra pounds could effect a performance. At which point he related a story I will relate here and it goes like this.
Dr. Leggio had five sons and their span of ages covered about 10 years. It so happened that most of his boys loved to handicap the races too and they too had had the weight discussion. So, to illustrate his point and opinion that weight could affect how fast a horse ran Doc had his oldest son race around the block against one of the younger boys. The older son won by a pole. Then he placed 2 pounds of weight on each leg of the older boy and had them rerun the race. The oldest son could barely finish and the younger weightless son won by the same pole. Now, I’m not sure the porportions or ratios of dead weight to body weight correlated to horse racing and a few extra pounds but I’ve never forgotten that example when considering how going from 118 to 122 might effect the speed of a racehorse. I know it don’t help for sure.
Dr. Leggio and I would spend a lot of time together over the years centered around horse racing. We would go to the Fair Grounds where he was on the Racing Commission and had a suite. He would drive his Lincoln ninety miles an hour juggling a drink – he preferred Jack and Seven – and the racing form going down to New Orleans. On the way back, we would sometimes stop at Messina’s by the airport and pick up either some boiled crawfish for the ride home or so Doc could eat a quick dozen raw oysters. He was the only person I ever saw who could peel boiled crawfish and drive at the same time. He was good with his hands from delivering all those babies apparently.
My son Bradley was born two weeks before the Derby on April 16th and two weeks later I was in Louisville for the Derby. I’m not bragging – I’m just sayin’. I’m not sure what the cutoff point would have been for me to cancel the trip to the Derby. Maybe a week? We’ll never know.
As to the Derby itself in 1982 I think I ended up on Air Forbes Won this year but I know for a fact my father didn’t end up on my selection. After a few years of just following along he had learned how to read the racing form and wasn’t a bad handicapper. He picked Gato Del Sol to win because he liked Eddie Delahoussaye and his closing style. I’ve rarely seen my father as happy as he was after Gato Del Sol closed stoutly to win by a widening two and a half lengths and pay a more stout 20-1. It was always nice to see my dad happy and laughing and carrying on about how he was the best handicapper among the bunch of us as he was the only one who cashed the race I remember. I came home with empty pockets but my life has been so much fuller ever since that baby boy was born.