Part III: Photo Finish
There is an eclectic collection of individuals that frequent racetracks.
Good friend and “Bet on Alan Garcia” tout, Stuart, is quite a character. He’s been involved in horse racing since his long hair, hippie days back in Maryland, where he’d skip school, hop the fence at Pimlico, and hang around at the track all day, which eventually evolved into becoming an owner and obscure pseudo-trainer and sometimes-jockey agent until he suffered a heart attack on Breeders’ Cup Day, 2005. And being the consummate horseplayer, he placed all his bets before going to the ER that morning.
Anyway, I ran into Stuart in the Post Time Pavilion shortly before the Lone Star Derby (Gr. III). As he drank his Heineken, he listened intently to my unsuccessful mission: procuring a photo of me with Bob Baffert.
Stuart was somewhat amused with the unfolding scenario, and surprisingly, offered to help me out. “We’ll go over to the paddock before the race and when he walks by, I’ll just snap a picture of the two of you.”
I hesitated, imagining a photograph of me standing by the paddock rail and way off in the distance there would be a white-haired figure that could be construed as Bob Baffert or Geraldine Ferraro.
But Stuart was confident, so we headed off to the paddock with the teeming millions. I handed him my digital camera. Stuart frowned.
“It’s not one of those throw-away cameras,” he complained.
We ran into Donna and Dallas Keen, both of whom were acutely aware of my quest and were scanning the jostling crowd to provide assistance.
And then he appeared. Bob Baffert.
The mission was effortless: I asked, he responded, Stuart took the picture. Then Bob Baffert disappeared into the throng in the paddock.
I was so excited! It was going to be great! What a photo! What an achievement! I anxiously grabbed my camera from Stuart to look at the much sought after image. It would be the crowning glory of the horse racing blogosphere! It wasn’t there!
What??? There was no photo! No image! I looked at Stuart, dumb-founded, unable to form words or ask questions. I don’t recall even having command of any language much less verbal communication ability.
I pressed a variety of buttons on my digital camera. I looked at all 42 pictures that were still on the memory card - birthday parties, bounce houses, Easter baskets, the kids with Minnie Mouse at Walt Disney World - hoping that the photo of Bob Baffert and me would somehow magically appear. It did not.
I performed routine troubleshooting, ensuring that my camera had been operational. And I found the trouble: Stuart.
Unbelievable. The opportunity had presented itself and it was gone. Resignation set in. Stuart apologized, suggesting that perhaps Bob Baffert would walk back in our direction after he saddles Samba Rooster. Maybe we could try again …
It was then that turf writer and inventor of the word “flapdoodle”, Gary West, strolled over to our little foursome, briefly chatting with the Keens before moving along to the paddock.
“Who was that?” Stuart asked.
“Oh, that’s Gary West,” I replied.
“Gary West? Who’s he?”
“He’s the turf writer for the Star-Telegram,” I explained.
“You should have your picture take with him,” Stuart insisted.
“With Gary West? Everybody already knows what he looks like. His face is plastered above his column in the newspaper.”
“You don’t understand,” Stuart went on. “He’s an important guy and you should have your picture taken with him.”
“Stuart, Gary’s on my Christmas card list. I want to have my picture taken with Bob Baffert.”
Stuart kept insisting that Gary West was an obvious replacement for Bob Baffert. And that’s when trainer Dallas Keen slipped off and headed to the saddling paddock. When he returned a few moments later, he had Bob Baffert with him.
Dallas Keen, Bob Baffert, and blogger suebroux, Lone Star Park, May 10,2008
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My sincere thanks to Donna and Dallas Keen, shining examples of why I love Texas. And thanks to good friend, Stuart: I owe you a Heineken.