Archive for the ‘Thoroughbred racing’ Category

The Preakness: A day for old men

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

At 2 a.m. on a Saturday in late March, trainer D. Wayne Lukas pulled out of Hot Springs and began the long drive in the dark to New Orleans, where he would saddle the thoroughbred Titletown Five for the 100th running of the Louisiana Derby at the Fair Grounds.

One of the owners of Titletown Five is Paul Hornung, the Pro Football Hall of Famer who grew up in Louisville, Ky. Hornung won the Heisman Trophy at Notre Dame and played on four of Vince Lombardi’s championship teams in Green Bay.

Titletown Five made a bid for the lead at the half-mile pole that day before fading badly in the stretch.

After the race, the 77-year-old Lukas got back in his car and returned to Hot Springs so he could train his horses at Oaklawn Park early the next morning.

It was just another day — another long day — at the office for the man they call The Coach.

The fact that one of the most famous thoroughbred trainers in history makes Arkansas his winter and early spring base speaks volumes about the national prominence Oaklawn now enjoys in its new golden era. While he no longer was receiving the media attention he once did (prior to Saturday’s running of the Preakness Stakes, that is), few trainers work harder than the aging Lukas.

On March 16 — as a crowd of 33,963 looked on at Oaklawn with the sun shining down — Lukas stablemates Will Take Charge and Oxbow finished first and second respectively in the $600,000 Rebel Stakes, the key prep race for the Arkansas Derby.

“I was feeling pretty good 100 yards from the wire,” Lukas said after the race. “The competition was so tough. The hill gets a little steeper from this point.”

Will Take Charge had won the Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn on the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, but he fell to sixth in the Southwest Stakes on Presidents’ Day on a wet track. Lukas joked after Will Take Charge won the Rebel: “Will Take Charge is a fair-weather horse. He said he didn’t feel like running in the rain last time.”

Veteran Jon Court was aboard Will Take Charge in the Rebel.

Aboard Oxbow that day was another veteran jockey, Mike Smith.

Oxbow ran in the $1 million Arkansas Derby on April 13, finishing a disappointing fifth with 50-year-old Gary Stevens aboard. Oxbow competed three weeks later in the Kentucky Derby, finishing sixth.

Oxbow, owned by the legendary Calumet Farm of Kentucky, then shocked the racing world this past Saturday in Baltimore with a wire-to-wire win in the Preakness. Kentucky Derby winner Orb had been the heavy favorite coming into the race.

Oxbow was a 15-1 longshot.

“I get paid to spoil dreams,” Lukas said. “You can’t mail ‘em in. It’s a different surface and a different time. You gotta line ‘em up and win ‘em.”

Calumet, Lukas and Stevens represent racing royalty.

Consider Lukas’ resume:

– He has trained 24 Eclipse Award winners, including greats such as Althea, Azeri and Winning Colors.

– He has trained three Horse of the Year honorees — Lady’s Secret in 1986, Criminal Type in 1990 and Charismatic in 1999.

– He has won 14 Triple Crown races, surpassing “Sunny Jim” Fitzsimmons on the list of Triple Crown winning trainers with the Preakness win on Saturday. That record includes four Kentucky Derby wins, six Preakness Stakes wins and four Belmont Stakes victories.

– He once won five consecutive Triple Crown races, beginning with the Preakness in 1994 and ending with the 1996 Kentucky Derby, when he sent out five horses and won it with Grindstone.

– He became the all-time money winner among thoroughbred trainers in 1988. He was the first trainer to top $100 million and $200 million in stakes earnings.

– He has saddled more than 40 Kentucky Derby starters.

Last year when Lukas got Optimizer into the Kentucky Derby at the last moment, longtime Newark Star-Ledger sports columnist Jerry Izenberg wrote: “The battle lines leap to mind in a rush of memory — Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird — linked together as closely as second skins in a pantheon of confrontations where each heartbeat combines a lot of Ahab and a lot of the White Whale. Here in ‘Weep No More’ city, year after year for a long time, it was always D. Wayne Lukas and Bob Baffert.”

Izenberg went on to describe Lukas as “racing’s lion in winter” and said: “The white heat of his competitor’s heart burns so fiercely you could light downtown Louisville with it for a month.”

Stevens ended a seven-year retirement in January and won his third Preakness. He already had three Kentucky Derby and three Belmont Stakes victories.

“At 50 years old, after seven years of retirement, it doesn’t get any better than this,” Stevens said. “This is super, super sweet, and it happened for the right guy. All the stars were aligned. It’s even more special winning it for Wayne Lukas and his team.”

Stevens was riding for Lukas when the jockey won his first Triple Crown race aboard filly Winning Colors in the 1988 Kentucky Derby. Stevens had last won a Triple Crown race aboard Point Given in the Belmont Stakes in 2001.

“He supported me,” Stevens said of Lukas. “He was the first guy to call me up. He said, ‘I’m going to have a colt for you. His name is Oxbow.’”

Lukas had not won a Triple Crown event since saddling Commendable in the 2000 Belmont.

Shug McGaughey, Orb’s trainer, said of Lukas: “When Wayne wasn’t going good, he was still the first guy out on his pony. The guy is a credit to racing. He’s always upbeat and optimistic.”

Lukas had three of the nine horses in the Preakness (Will Take Charge finished seventh and Titletown Five finished ninth). He said of breaking the tie with Fitzsimmons for Triple Crown victories: “I shared that record with a very special name. If I never broke it, I was proud of that. But I’m also proud to have it.”

Calumet, meanwhile, has produced:

– Two Triple Crown winners, Whirlaway in 1941 and Citation in 1948.

– Eight Kentucky Derby winners. In addition to Whirlaway and Citation, there were Pensive in 1944, Ponder in 1949, Hill Gail in 1952, Iron Liege in 1957, Tim Tam in 1958 and Forward Pass in 1968.

– Eight Preakness winners.

– 11 horses in the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame — Alydar, Armed, Bewitch, Citation, Coaltown, Davona Dale, Real Delight, Twilight Tear, Two Lea, Tim Tam and Whirlaway.

– Two trainers in the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame — Ben. A Jones and H.A. “Jimmy” Jones.

– Five Horse of the Year titles — Whirlaway in 1941 and 1942, Twilight Tear in 1944 (the first filly ever to be voted Horse of the Year), Armed in 1947 and Citation in 1948.

The 762-acre breeding and training farm was established in Lexington in 1924 by William Monroe Wright, the owner of Calumet Baking Powder Co. The farm initially bred and raced standardbred horses. Wright’s son Warren took over in 1932 and changed the focus to thoroughbreds. The first stakes winner came in 1933 when Hadagal won the Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park in New York.

Some of the finest thoroughbreds in history would go on to wear Calumet’s devil red and blue silks. Ben A. Jones came on board as trainer in 1939, and Whirlaway gave Calumet its first Kentucky Derby victory two years later, just months before the U.S. entry into World War II.

By 1947, the farm had become the first ever to exceed $1 million in purse earnings. After Citation won the Triple Crown in 1948, jockey Eddie Arcaro described him as the best horse he ever rode.

Ben Jones passed away in 1961, and his son Jimmy retired in 1964. Calumet had only 20 stakes winners from 1964-77. In 1976, John Veitch, whose father Sylvester had been a Hall of Fame trainer, was hired. Veitch was the trainer of Alydar in 1978 when the sport saw perhaps its greatest rivalry as Alydar finished just behind Affirmed in all three legs of the Triple Crown.

By the 1980s, Calumet was in serious decline.

Alydar died in 1990, and the farm went into bankruptcy soon after that. In 1992, Calumet was put on the auction block. It seemed that an iconic name in racing history was about to die.

Mismanagement and fraud had gone on for years. In 2000, former Calumet president J.T. Lundy and former chief financial officer Gary Matthews were convicted of fraud and bribery and sent to prison.

Enter businessman Henryk de Kwiatkowski, a Polish-born Canadian citizen with a deep love of racing and its traditions.

When he heard of the auction, he quickly flew to Lexington, arriving less than an hour before the sale began. He became the Calumet owner following a $17 million bid. Within weeks, his employees were repairing the white fences and mowing the lush grass, returning Calumet to its former beauty.

Following de Kwiatkowski’s death in 2003, the farm remained in a trust controlled by family members.

Last year, the Calumet Investment Group bought the farm from the trust for more than $36 million and leased it to Bowling Green, Ky., native Brad Kelley. He’s the fourth-largest landowner in the country with more than 1.7 million acres of ranching land in Texas, New Mexico and Florida.

As for Lukas, his story is well-known to racing enthusiasts. He was born on Sept. 2, 1935, in Wisconsin. He taught high school and coached basketball for nine years after graduating from the University of Wisconsin.

Lukas began training quarter horses in California in 1968. During the next decade, he trained 24 world championship quarter horses before switching to thoroughbreds.

Now, the “lion in in winter” has returned Calumet and jockey Gary Stevens to the racing spotlight.

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Sporting Life Arkansas

Monday, November 26th, 2012

I knew big changes were afoot when Jeff Hankins left the Arkansas Business Publishing Group.

Jeff was a fixture at Arkansas Business, one of those people I thought might be there until retirement.

Now that Jeff has landed at the Arkansas State University System offices here in Little Rock, I have a feeling he will be happier than ever. He has long had a passion for ASU, his alma mater. There’s nothing like getting paid to do something you’re passionate about. Take it from a guy who is passionate about our state’s private colleges and universities and now has the chance to work full time for those 11 schools.

I hate to date myself, but I first met Jeff more than 30 years ago. He was a high school student in Pine Bluff working part time at the Pine Bluff Commercial. I was a college student in Arkadelphia, holding down a full-time job as the sports editor of the Daily Siftings Herald. The Commercial and the Siftings Herald were owned at the time by the Freeman family of Pine Bluff, and we worked closely together.

I became friends in the late 1970s with a Commercial sportswriter named Jim Harris, who was working for the newspaper’s well-known sports editor, the late Frank Lightfoot.

Let’s just say that Jim and I have covered a lot of miles together through the years — from the Liberty Bowl in Memphis to the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville (how many of you remember the fog that descended on the Arkansas-North Carolina game there in December 1981?) to the late (and not so great) Hall of Fame Bowl in Birmingham.

Within days of Jeff’s departure from Arkansas Business, it was announced that the vehicle for Jim Harris’ outstanding reporting and commentary on sports in our state — Arkansas Sports 360 — would be shut down by the Arkansas Business Publishing Group.

Fortunately, Jim was not without a vehicle for long.

Enter Simon Lee.

Simon, another longtime friend, was once an Arkansas Business employee. He’s an Internet whiz who has now made a career of doing web-based work for the health care industry. With most of Simon’s and business partner Jon Davis’ clients based outside the state, Simon has kept a low profile in Arkansas. But this Dumas native loves our state. He loves sports. He loves hunting and fishing. He loves the people and events that make Arkansas unique.

So two ol’ southeast Arkansas boys — Simon Lee from Dumas and Jim Harris from Pine Bluff — have hooked up to launch a go-to website at SportingLifeArkansas.com. The site went live last week.

Here’s what Simon had to say in his introduction letter on the site: “If you understand that sports in Arkansas is even more than tackles and blocks and dunks and homers and includes tee-ball, volleyball, swim meets, deer woods and eating some great food with good people, welcome. We are happy to launch a new online publication that features Jim Harris and a cast of other sports journalists and opinion makers from around the state.

“We want to bring you writers who will report and write about all levels of Arkansas sports, from the Razorbacks and Red Wolves to the Bears and Reddies. … We are going to work to be an outlet for sportswriters and aspiring sportswriters from high school through college. Part of the excitement of this for us is building a platform and outlet for the next generation of journalists and writers in our state.”

I’m happy to be part of the initial cast of characters at Sporting Life Arkansas.

Arkansas Business Publishing Group had a large audience for Arkansas Sports 360 but never could figure out how to make money off the venture. Simon thinks he can put his past business experience to work and find a way to monetize the site.

Sporting Life Arkansas won’t ignore hunting and fishing, which are so much a part of who we are as Arkansans.

“The sporting life in Arkansas is fun,” Simon writes. “The site should reflect that fun.”

Go to SportingLifeArkansas.com and check it out.

I like what I see so far.

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Running for the roses

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

As I drove past the airport on my way out of Louisville on Sunday morning, the private jets still covered almost all available space in the general aviation area.

The millionaires, it seems, were sleeping in.

My wife and I, however, were on the road back to Arkansas. This was my eighth Kentucky Derby but my first in 23 years.

When Melissa and I were engaged but not yet married in the spring of 1989, we drove west from Washington, D.C., to stay with a group of friends at a Lexington hotel, making the short trip to Louisville for Derby Day.

We were young and adventuresome, sitting on the infield for what turned out to be the second coldest Derby in history. There was sleet that morning, and the temperature never made it out of the 40s as Sunday Silence held off Easy Goer in the Run for the Roses.

Two weeks later, Melissa and I made quick drive from Washington to Baltimore on a much warmer day to watch Sunday Silence and Easy Goer square off in the Preakness Stakes. Despite Sunday Silence’s victory in the Derby, the bettors in Maryland had made Easy Goer, the son of Alydar, the favorite.

In what some racing experts rank among the top 10 thoroughbred races of all time, Sunday Silence won the Preakness by a nose after a duel down the stretch. Pat Day was aboard Easy Goer. Patrick Valenzeula was aboard Sunday Silence. It was a race for the ages as Sunday Silence became the 23rd Derby winner since 1919 to complete a Derby-Preakness double.

Three weeks later, Easy Goer won the Belmont Stakes to deny Sunday Silence the Triple Crown.

I was determined that this Derby trip would be a more civilized experience for Melissa than the one in 1989 had been. Having been appointed a Kentucky Colonel by the governor of Kentucky when I worked for the Delta Regional Authority, we were able to purchase what’s known as the Colonels’ package for Oaks Day on Friday and Derby Day on Saturday. It was my Christmas present to myself.

Along with two grandstand seats outside, we had two seats each day at a table inside the Kentucky Derby Museum, where there was a full buffet and no lines at the windows or the restrooms. If you’ve ever seen the lines outside, you realize how important that is.

As always, Arkansas was well represented on Derby Day.

The winner of the first race on the 13-race card was Atigun, owned by Arkansas’ John Ed Anthony.

Joe and Scott Ford of Little Rock had a horse running later in the day.

And when I began going through The Courier-Journal’s Derby special section Sunday morning, there on the fashion page was Keeley DeSalvo of Hot Springs (owner of the famed Pancake Shop on Central Avenue), resplendent in a yellow outfit and matching hat.

As I’ve written previously on the Southern Fried blog, Arkansas — a state with no NBA, NFL, NHL or MLB teams — is only in the major leagues of professional sports in one area. That sport is thoroughbred racing.

Being a newspaper junkie, I picked up the Thursday edition of The Courier-Journal as soon as we arrived in town. The lead story on the front page concerned the previous day’s post-position draw. There in the second paragraph were the words “Arkansas Derby” since Arkansas Derby winner Bodemeister was the Kentucky Derby favorite.

I flew our state’s colors in a sense, wearing Arkansas Derby ties to the Colonels’ reception on Thursday night, the Oaks on Friday and the Derby on Saturday.

Arkansas native Kane Webb is now the editor of Louisville magazine. We had dinner with Kane and his wife Fran on Friday night at a place called Jack Fry’s on Bardstown Road.

Derby Eve in Louisville is like New Year’s Eve in other cities, so Kane had made the dinner reservations back in January. There was bumper-to-bumper traffic along Bardstown Road. We’re both former newspapermen, and Kane knew Jack Fry’s would be my kind of place. It was established by Jack Fry and his wife Flossie in 1933.

Here’s how the restaurant’s website describes him: “Fry was known as a rambling, gambling kind of guy who loved amateur boxing and the ponies. As a result, Jack Fry’s became a sportsman’s hangout, as evidenced by the numerous historic photographs that fill the walls of the current Jack Fry’s.

“He was also known to conduct his bookmaking and bootlegging affairs discreetly from the back room. He was a much-loved character who often gave a free meal to a needy friend. Jack closed his business in 1972. After 10 years of renting this space as Por Que No, a Mexican restaurant, it was re-established as Jack Fry’s. Susan Seiller bought the restaurant in January 1987, the same year that saw the death of Jack Fry.”

After returning to the hotel from dinner, I was asleep within minutes. The Oaks and the Derby only take about two minutes each, but the days are long.

Oaks Day features a 12-race card with the first race beginning at 10:30 a.m. and the final race going off at about 6:30 p.m.

Derby Day features a 13-race card with a 10:30 a.m. post time for the first race and a 7:50 p.m. post time for the final race.

On Friday, a day when the infield had to be emptied at one point due to afternoon thunderstorms, the second-largest Oaks crowd ever showed up.

On Saturday, it was the largest Derby crowd in history as 165,307 people packed Churchill Downs.

The irony is that the Derby is bigger than ever  — truly among the classic American events — at a time when thoroughbred racing is suffering nationally.

A Courier-Journal editorial put it this way: “We hope, as the Stephen Foster lyrics say, the sun will shine bright on Churchill Downs for the 138th running of the Kentucky Derby. But the forecast for the future of horse racing in Kentucky remains cloudy.

“A bill aimed at allowing expanded gambling in Kentucky — a measure supporters have tied to the health of Kentucky’s signature horse industry — again has died, this year in the Kentucky Senate. The measure would have let voters decide whether the state constitution should be changed to allow expanded gambling.

“Supporters say expanded gambling is essential to make Kentucky’s $4 billion horse business viable with other states that allow gaming, such as casinos, and where proceeds are used to fatten purses and draw more horses to racetracks.”

Oaklawn Park at Hot Springs is one of those tracks that’s actually increasing purses on a regular basis.

The tie between Arkansas racing and Kentucky remains strong.

Providing commentary Saturday on NBC was Hot Springs native Randy Moss.

Guarding the door to the jockeys’ room as a Churchill Downs media relations volunteer was Hot Springs native Greg Fisher. I got to visit with Calvin Borel briefly Friday, telling him we’re proud to have him as a member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame. 

My mother’s oldest brother moved to Louisville soon after the end of World War II to work for Belknap Hardware, a company that no longer exists but at one time was among the largest hardware distributors in the world. Uncle Bill Caskey had a box at Churchill Downs, and I began attending the Derby as a college student.

William Burke Belknap had founded the company in 1840 along the banks of the Ohio River in Louisville. He produced iron products such as horse and mule shoes, nails and spikes. The company was in a brick building at the corner of Third and Main with three employees.

When Belknap Hardware celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1940, there were 37 buildings covering 37 acres. The complex had underground passages and covered bridges. The 1940 company catalog had 3,000 pages with more than 75,000 items. By 1957, the catalog had 90,000 items listed.

I remember visiting that old Belknap complex. It was like something out of Dickens. Belknap went bankrupt in 1986 (my uncle had long since retired, ending his career as one of the company’s top executives) and closed its doors.

Uncle Bill and Aunt Sarah seemed to know everyone who was anyone in Louisville. Though he was a native of Des Arc, my uncle had become a fount of knowledge about the Derby and its traditions.

After college, I covered the Derby for several years as a sportswriter, always staying at my aunt and uncle’s home while bringing other writers along.

In 1982, when I was a young sportwriter at the Arkansas Democrat, Wally Hall and I made the trip to Louisville in my car, staying for almost a week at my aunt and uncle’s place in northeast Louisville.

Others who would make the drive with me in later years included Bob Wisener of The Sentinel-Record at Hot Springs, the late Kim Brazzel of the Arkansas Gazette and Harry King of The Associated Press (now with Stephens Media).

The memories of those trips are rich.

So I’ve watched the Kentucky Derby from the press box, the tunnel where the horses enter the track, the infield, my uncle’s box and now the Colonels’ section of the grandstand.

I’ve been fortunate in my career to have covered the Super Bowl, college bowl games too numerous to mention, the NCAA Tournament in basketball and much more.

The Kentucky Derby remains my favorite sports event.

I can assure you I won’t wait 23 years this time before going back.

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Oaklawn’s Terry Wallace: Hall of Famer

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

The most recognizable voice in Arkansas?

If you were to guess Terry Wallace of Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, you might have the correct answer.

The 2012 race meet has begun, and Wallace’s voice is no longer heard in Hot Springs. Wallace, who retired from the track announcer’s booth at Oaklawn last year after 37 seasons of calling races in the Spa City, set a record for the most consecutive races at a single track — a record that might never be broken.

He hit the 20,000 mark with his call of the third race on March 25, 2010.

He ended the streak at 20,191 calls without a miss following the fourth race on Jan. 28, 2011.

“When someone says Oaklawn, the first thing that comes to mind is Terry Wallace,” said Larry Collmus, the track announcer at Gulfstream Park and Monmouth Park.

Wallace will be inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame as part of the Hall of Fame’s Class of 2012 when the organization holds its annual induction banquet on Friday, Feb. 3, at Verizon Arena in North Little Rock.

Tickets for the induction banquet are $100 each and may be obtained by calling Jennifer Smith at (501) 663-4328 or Catherine Johnson at (501) 821-1021.

Wallace is among 11 individual inductees — six from the regular category, three from the senior category and two from the posthumous category — in the Class of 2012. The Hall of Fame also will induct the 1994 University of Arkansas national championship basketball team.

Oaklawn’s owner, Charles J. Cella, once called Wallace’s consecutive race streak “the most incredible record in sports. This record will never be touched. I can’t imagine anyone will come close.”

Wallace came to Oaklawn in 1975 and has been a consistent presence there ever since. He regularly arrived at the track on race days by 7:30 a.m. If a radio station had a live remote broadcast from Oaklawn, he might be there as early as 5 a.m. At home each night, he would work late into the evening handicapping the next day’s races.

Arkansans loved the way Wallace would play on horses’ names with dramatic inflections, pauses and a strong emphasis on certain syllables. Ask any race fan to name a favorite horse that Wallace called, and that person is likely to come up with a name.

Perhaps it was Dragset.

Or Razorback.

Or Chop Chop Tomahawk.

And then there was Boozing.

“The crowd really got into that one when I dragged the name out,” Wallace said.

Wallace’s path to Arkansas was an unlikely one. The Cleveland native majored in modern languages at Xavier University in Cincinnati before spending a year at the Sorbonne, the commonly used name for the famed University of Paris, which was founded in the 12th century.

Wallace planned to be a teacher, and he did just that for several years following college.

“When I was in summer school at Cincinnati, I got a job with some buddies parking cars out at River Downs,” Wallace said. “That led to a job as a runner for the guys in the press box. I started to develop an interest in racing.”

Wallace taught French, first at the junior high level and later at the high school level in Cincinnati. He still would work at River Downs during the summer. Wallace was recording the call of a race there in French one day for his own amusement when the track announcer made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. If Wallace would record a few races in English, the announcer would offer a critique.

Wallace was home grading papers one night when he received a call from Latonia Race Course manager Johnny Battaglia (whose oldest son, Mike, has long set the morning line for the Kentucky Derby). Battaglia’s track in the northern Kentucky suburbs of Cincinnati needed a fill-in announcer. Wallace headed for Latonia, which is now known as Turfway Park.

In the months that followed, Wallace would get to know and occasionally fill in for the famed track announcer Chick Anderson. It was Anderson, on the CBS Sports national telecast, who made perhaps the most famous call in thoroughbred racing history — his description of Secretariat’s stretch run in the 1973 Belmont Stakes. Anderson told the nation that the 3-year-old was “moving like a tremendous machine.”

Wallace replaced Anderson at Oaklawn in 1975 when Anderson took the track announcer’s job at Santa Anita.

In his first years in the racing industry, Wallace performed a number of jobs in an attempt to make ends meet. He was even a jockey’s agent for a time. For the Daily Racing Form, he moved from call taker to chart caller, handling a racing circuit that included the Fair Grounds in New Orleans.

In December 1974, Wallace received a call from W.T. “Bish” Bishop, the dapper, erudite general manager at Oaklawn. Anderson had handed in his resignation and suggested that Wallace be hired as his replacement.

Bishop took Anderson’s advice, and Wallace was soon on his way to Arkansas.

Wallace continued working at other tracks during the nine months there was no racing at Oaklawn, including calling jockey Steve Cauthen’s maiden win at River Downs.

Wallace called races for 14 years at Ak-Sar-Ben (that’s Nebraska spelled backward) in Omaha, which closed in 1995. He’s a member of the Nebraska Racing Hall of Fame. Wallace even called races for three years at Louisiana Downs.

Wallace always has been known for his work ethic.

“The problem with those other tracks was that when I went home at night, I wasn’t in Arkansas,” he said. “I love Hot Springs.”

The people of Arkansas have loved him in return.

His long stay at Oaklawn allowed Wallace to call the races of such greats as Zenyatta, Rachel Alexandra, Curlin, Azeri, Cigar, Afleet Alex, Smarty Jones, Sunny’s Halo and Temperence Hill.

For this one-time French teacher, it has been quite a career.

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Jockey Alonzo Clayton: Hall of Famer

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

Alonzo “Lonnie” Clayton reached sports stardom at an early age. In 1892, at the age of just 15, he became the youngest jockey to win the Kentucky Derby.

It’s safe to say, however, that most Arkansans have never heard of Clayton.

The Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame will remedy that situation Feb. 3 when Clayton is inducted as part of the Hall of Fame’s Class of 2012. The induction banquet will be held at Verizon Arena in North Little Rock.

Tickets for the annual banquet are $100 each and may be obtained by calling Jennifer Smith at (501) 663-4328 or Catherine Johnson at (501) 821-1021.

Clayton was born in Kansas City, Kansas, in 1876 and moved with his parents to North Little Rock when he was 10. There were nine children in the family, and finances were tight even though his father had steady work as a carpenter. Clayton worked as a hotel errand boy and as a shoeshine boy to earn extra income for his family.

In an 1896 story in the Thoroughbred Record, it was written that Clayton also had attended school as a boy and was considered “exceptionally bright.”

Clayton was only 12 years old when he left home to join his brother, Albertus, a jockey who was riding at the time for the legendary E.J. “Lucky” Baldwin. Alonzo Clayton soon found work as an exercise rider for Baldwin’s stables. His first race as a jockey came in 1890 at Clifton, N.J. He had his first victory later that year.

Thoroughbred racing had become one of the top sports in America by that time, and it didn’t take long for those on the East Coast to recognize Clayton as a rising star. He won the Jerome Stakes aboard Picknicker and the Champagne Stakes aboard Azra at Morris Park in Westchester County, N.Y., in 1891.

On May 11, 1892, Clayton was aboard Azra in the Kentucky Derby. Azra came from behind in the stretch to win the derby by a nose, and Clayton became one of only two 15-year-old jockeys to win America’s most famous race.

He would be in the money in the Kentucky Derby three more times in his career, finishing second in 1893, third in 1895 and second in 1897.

Clayton’s best year was 1895 when he had 144 wins and finished in the money in almost 60 percent of his races. He won the Arkansas Derby that year at the Little Rock Jockey Club’s Clinton Park. In 1896, he became one of the few black jockeys ever to compete in the Preakness Stakes at Baltimore. He finished third.

Other significant races won by Clayton were the Clark Stakes at Churchill Downs in 1892, the Travers Stakes at Saratoga in 1892, the Brooklyn Handicap and Futurity at Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn in 1894, the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs in 1894 and 1895, the Cotton Stakes in Memphis in 1895, the Saratoga Stakes in 1895, the Latonia Derby in Cincinnati in 1897, the St. Louis Derby in 1897, the California Derby in San Francisco in 1898 and the Suburban Handicap in Brooklyn in 1898.

In an interview with the Chicago Daily Tribune, Clayton called the Suburban Handicap “the greatest race I ever rode.”

Racing historian Ed Hotaling said Clayton “became one of the great riders of the New York circuit all through the 1890s, but he rode all over the country.”

“While spending most of his time on the road, Clayton, who never married, came back to North Little Rock regularly to visit family,” Cary Bradburn wrote for the online Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture. “He bought his parents a farm in 1894 in what is now Sherwood and had the Queen Anne-style house (in North Little Rock) built in 1895. His celebrity status spawned a legend that erroneously linked him to another Queen Anne house, known today as the Baker House, a bed and breakfast at 109 West Fifth St. in North Little Rock. According to legend, Clayton, misidentified as Artemis E. Colburn, raced horses in England and came back to his hometown of Argenta (now North Little Rock) to build a grand house; however, he soon left the area.

“The reason for Clayton’s departure is not clear, but in a larger context racism did contribute. In the early 1900s, bigotry drove black jockeys out of the sport they had dominated in America since the mid-1600s. Most stable owners stopped hiring them when sanctions, and even physical threats against black jockeys, increased. Some went overseas, as Clayton may have done.”

Indeed, black jockeys once ruled the sport.

“These were the first great American athletes, white or black, and they were written out of the history books,” Hotaling told the Baltimore Sun. “The saddest part is that they weren’t and haven’t been brought back into the sport.”

Black jockeys won at least 15 of the first 28 runnings of the Kentucky Derby.

“Once economics — big money — came into racing, the black jockey was pushed out,” said Inez Chapel of the group African-Americans in Horse Racing. “And racism is still alive. There are black jockeys out there, but they do what they have to do. They claim to be Jamaican or something else. If you speak in an unknown tongue, then the color of your skin doesn’t bother people.”

As racing began to gain prominence following the Civil War, many horse owners used their former slaves as jockeys. Former slaves tended to gravitate toward the sport because they were comfortable working with horses. Jim Crow laws changed that. The majority of black jockeys were gone by 1910, though some continued to race in more dangerous steeplechase events.

The last black jockey to compete in the Kentucky Derby was Henry King aboard Planet in 1921.

“That was a rarity,” Hotaling said. “If people see that and think black jockeys competed into the 1920s alongside white riders, that’s just not true. By 1910, they were all but gone.”

The last black jockey to ride in the Preakness Stakes was Willie Simms in 1898. The last black jockey to ride in the Belmont Stakes was Jimmy Lee in 1908.

Clayton and his family lived in what later would be known as the Engelberger House in North Little Rock from 1895-99. His earnings had enabled him to build a home that the Arkansas Gazette described in 1895 as the “finest house on the North Side.”

The home at 2105 Maple St. was purchased by Swiss immigrant Joseph Engelberger in 1912. It was listed in 1990 on the National Register of Historic Places.

Bradburn wrote: “Written in pencil in the attic are the names of Clayton and eight brothers and sisters, as well as ‘Mama and Papa Clayton’ and ’1899′ and ‘Goodbye.’ On a baseboard to the right is a drawing of what appears to be a jockey, under which is written ‘Ragtime Jimmie,’ the meaning of which is unknown.”

In April 1901, Alonzo Clayton was arrested at Aqueduct in New York for allegedly fixing a race. The charge later was dismissed, but his career was over for all practical purposes. He made short comeback attempts in Montana in 1902 and Memphis in 1904.

Clayton died in March 1917 in California of tuberculosis. He was only 41. He is buried at Evergreen Cemetery in Los Angeles.

 

 

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John Ed Anthony, Mr. Garland and lots of trees

Friday, December 9th, 2011

It’s chilly on this early December morning as John Ed Anthony carries another piece of wood to throw onto the fire.

I’m at Anthony’s Shortleaf Farm, a gorgeous spread between Lake Hamilton and Lake Catherine on Arkansas Highway 290.

On Feb. 10, the University of Arkansas’ Sam Walton College of Business will induct Anthony into the Arkansas Business Hall of Fame.

Also being inducted are Arkansas Democrat-Gazette publisher Walter Hussman Jr., CJRW chairman emeritus Wayne Cranford and former Wal-Mart president Jack Shewmaker.

John Ed long has been one of my favorite Arkansas business leaders, dating back to my days as a young sportswriter when his Loblolly Stable was among the top thoroughbred racing and breeding operations in America.

On this morning, though, we spend more time talking about the timber industry and his family’s long, colorful history in that business. Having grown up in the pine woods of south Arkansas, it’s an area that interests me.

“Most people only ask me about racing, and that’s just a small part of who I am,” John Ed says.

Any discussion of what’s now Anthony Timberlands Inc. must start at Bearden in Ouachita County, a town that had a population of only 966 people in the 2010 census (down from a high of 1,300 in the 1950 census).

Bearden was founded as a railroad stop along what would become the Cotton Belt Railway Line. The city limits were set in 1882 by the Southwest Improvement Association, an agency of the Railway Land Office. Bearden was named for Judge John T. Bearden, a lawyer for the association.

Surrounded by virgin forests, Bearden soon began to prosper. In 1885, the Cotton Belt Lumber Co. picked Bearden as the site of a large lumber mill.

“Lumber was the driving force of Bearden’s economy,” according to a history of the town posted on the online Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture. “Four large lumber mills — the Cotton Belt mill, the Freeman-Smith Lumber Co., the Eagle Lumber Co. and the Stout Lumber Co. — operated within six miles of the town from 1885 to 1930. At one point, the mills employed and supported more than 2,000 area men and their families. Most of the mill workers were farmers or sons of farmers. They would work the mills by day and the fields before and after work.

“While the success was long lasting, Bearden, like many communities in the early 1900s, experienced the results of unsound lumber practices. Many acres were cut and not replanted correctly or at all, resulting in a shift in milling. Even so, the town continued to prosper, but with fewer mills. The first mill to leave was in 1923.”

Enter Garland Anthony, who would become a legendary figure in the forestry industry known simply as Mr. Garland.

Mr. Garland and an uncle built a sawmill in 1907. By 1910, the uncle had turned the operation over to Mr. Garland, declaring that he was heading back to the farm to raise cotton.

Mr. Garland was John Ed’s grandfather, by the way.

Mr. Garland’s grandfather, Addison Anthony, had come to south Arkansas in the 1840s from Virginia. Garland Anthony was born in 1884 and grew up near Bearden, where his family farmed and raised livestock.

Noting Mr. Garland’s sawmill, George Balogh goes on to write for the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture: “Other members of the family, along with outside partners, started similar operations in southern Arkansas, eastern Texas and northern Louisiana. Between 1910 and 1930, Garland and his brothers Frank, William and Oliver formed Anthony Brothers Lumber and built their first permanent mill in Hopeville (Calhoun County), accumulating 2,000 acres of cut-over timberland in the process.

“The brothers built their mills in areas that large companies had harvested and left behind. They discovered that a cut-over pine forest in southern Arkansas could renew itself in 20 to 30 years and could become self-sustaining if properly managed. The company became a leader in the techniques of selective harvesting — giving smaller trees time to mature so the forest could be harvested repeatedly over the long term.”

The big companies that had cut the virgin forests moved to the West Coast once they had finished their work in Arkansas.

John Ed says of Mr. Garland’s efforts to capitalize on what they left behind: “He would cut the second-growth forests and say, ‘Leave those little trees.’ In a sense, it was the beginning of modern forestry.”

Through multiple partnerships, the Anthony family operated between 20 and 30 mills in the 1930s.

John Ed began the first grade in Bearden in 1945. By Christmas that year, he had moved with his parents to Woodville, a town deep in the piney woods of southeast Texas.

John Ed’s parents divorced in 1951. His father moved back to Arkansas. John Ed remained in Woodville through high school with his mother.

He had never set foot in Fayetteville until his first day at the University of Arkansas, where he majored in business. A month before he graduated from college in 1961, John Ed received word that his father had died at age 48 of a massive heart attack.

At age 22, John Ed leased a house in Bearden and took his wife and one-month-old son Steven there to join forces with 77-year-old Mr. Garland.

In 1966, John Ed oversaw the replacement of the family mill at Bearden with a concrete-and-steel facility. When he approached his partners in the early 1970s with expansion plans, they declined. John Ed moved forward by himself, forming Anthony Timberlands Inc. He quickly acquired the Hot Spring County Lumber Co. at Malvern and its holdings.

George Balogh picks it up from there: “Within two years, ATI acquired the Hollicer-Jones Lumber Co. in Benton along with its land holdings. In the 1980s, Frizzell Lumber Co. in Gurdon and International Paper’s mill in Beirne were acquired by ATI. Bearden Lumber Co. remained in family ownership under ATI management until fully acquired by ATI in 2006. The headquarters were always in Bearden, less than three miles from Garland Anthony’s original mill.

“John Ed Anthony focused on quality and modernization to build mills that provide a variety of products for both domestic and overseas customers. During these years, timberland acquisition continued, with acreage owned by ATI and other family partnerships growing from 70,000 acres in 1961 to 180,000 acres owned and 30,000 outside acres managed by 2006

“Sister companies Anthony Hardwood Composites in Sheridan, Anthony Wood Treating in Hope and Anthony-Higgs Lumber Co. in Gurdon were formed as private entities under ATI’s management umbrella. Anthony Hardwood Composites is a laminating facility that utilizes low-grade kiln-dried hardwood lumber to make engineered industrial matting for the support of heavy equipment where ground conditions are soft. … Anthony Wood Treating, built in 1987, produces treated wood for outdoor applications like decking, landscape timbers and fencing. …

“The Benton mill was consolidated into the Malvern plant in 1980 and production expanded. The Frizzell mill was consolidated into the modernized and expanded Beirne mill with Frizzell converted to Anthony-Higgs Lumber, a hardwood concentration facility.

“The Bearden and Malvern mills produce pine framing lumber, timbers and decking. The Beirne mill produces hardwood lumber products, primarily oak, with timber from the bottomlands of the Ouachita, Saline and Little rivers and area creeks. Associated with the Beirne mill are log-storage facilities in East Camden and Rockport as well as drying facilities at Fordyce.

“ATI’s timberland management team is headquartered in Bearden. Its staff of about 10 graduate foresters advises timberland owners, without cost, to promote multiple-use concepts to optimize land use. The company’s pine and treated wood sales office is in Arkadelphia. In normal operation, ATI has about 750 direct employees working in the mills and offices. Contractors who service the mills total about 400 — 250 in logging, 100 in trucking and 50 in security.”

John Ed’s son Steven has been the ATI president since 2004.

With significant declines in the housing market, the timber industry has suffered in recent years.

“I wish I could be optimistic about the future, but I can’t be,” John Ed says as he throws another log on the fire. “It has been a bloodbath the past five years or so.”

He notes the mills that have closed across south Arkansas — Georgia-Pacific mills at El Dorado and Fordyce, Weyerhaeuser operations at Mountain Pine, a Potlatch mill at Prescott, a Bean Lumber Co. mill at Glenwood, the Georgia-Pacific plywood operation at Crossett, the reduction of Potlatch operations at Warren from three shifts to just one.

“That’s hundreds of millions of board feet production we’ve lost,” he says. “We now have a huge inventory of uncut timber. Trees that were planted in the 1980s and the 1990s are cutting size, but there’s no demand for them. I don’t see it turning around anytime soon.”

Certainly John Ed has done his part to promote the industry and promote Arkansas through the decades. That’s why he’s being inducted into the Business Hall of Fame.

His grandson Addison makes the seventh generation of Anthony family members working in the forests of south Arkansas. The family tradition continues.

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More on the Hall of Fame Class of 2012

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

No one who knows Arkansas can dispute that one of the most recognizable voices in our state is that of Terry Wallace, who retired from the track announcer’s booth at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs this past spring after 37 consecutive seasons of calling the races there.

Terry is part of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2012, which will be inducted during the organization’s annual banquet at Verizon Arena in North Little Rock on the evening of Friday, Feb. 3.

Terry was known for trademark lines such as “here they come into the short stretch of the mile run” and “picking ‘em up and laying ‘em down.”

He set a record for consecutive race calls at a single track that may never be broken. Terry hit the 20,000 race mark with his call of the third race on March 25, 2010. He ended his streak at 20,191 calls following the fourth race on Jan. 28 of this year.

Through the years, Terry called the races of such greats as Zenyatta, Rachel Alexandra, Curlin, Azeri, Cigar, Afleet Alex, Smarty Jones, Sunny’s Halo and Temperence Hill.

Larry Collmus, the track announcer at Gulfstream Park and Monmouth Park, said: “When someone says Oaklawn, the first thing that comes to mind is Terry Wallace.”

In addition to Wallace, those being inducted from the regular category are former University of Arkansas basketball star Lee Mayberry, former Newport High School head football coach Bill Keedy, former Razorback basketball star U.S. Reed, former Razorback football standout “Light Horse” Harry Jones and Little Rock native and former Oklahoma State University head football coach Pat Jones.

The Hall of Fame also will induct the 1994 Razorback national championship basketball team.

Last week, we briefly profiled the other inductees from the regular category.

This week, let’s take a look at the three inductees from the senior category and the two inductees from the posthumous category:

Senior category:

Margaret Downing — Downing, among the true pioneers in the history of women’s basketball in Arkansas, was the head coach at Southern Arkansas University from 1965-84. Her Riderettes won eight Arkansas Women’s Intercollegiate Sports Association titles. She also coached teams to several state Amateur Athletic Union championships in the years before AWISA.

The Waldo native was an innovator and a promoter of women’s basketball, serving on committees and associations at the state and national levels. She was associated with the U.S. Olympic Committee, the U.S. Girls Basketball League and the U.S. Junior Olympic Basketball Committee through the years.

Bob Ford — As a center and linebacker, Ford helped guide Wynne to the state championship in 1950. He was awarded a football scholarship to what’s now the University of Memphis and was the team’s most valuable player as an end in 1954.

After serving in the U.S. Army from 1956-58, Ford joined the staff of fellow Arkansas native Paul “Bear” Bryant at the University of Alabama and served on Bryant’s staff for three seasons. Ford coached at the University of Georgia during the 1961 season and was the defensive coordinator for the University of Kentucky in 1962.

After spending the 1963 season as a player personnel employee for the Dallas Cowboys, Ford coached in 1964-65 at Kentucky, in 1966 at Mississippi State University and in 1967-69 as the freshman coach under Frank Broyles at Arkansas while also obtaining his law degree.

Ford began practicing law in Wynne in 1970 and also spent 25 years as a part-time player scout for the Dallas Cowboys.

Elmer “B” Lindsey — Old-timers in east Arkansas will tell you that perhaps the best high school backfield in the state’s history was the one in 1957 at Forrest City that included “B” Lindsey, Sonny Holmes, Dan Wilford and Clinton Gore.

Forrest City was a powerhouse in high school football in those days, going 77-36-7 from 1954-64. Lindsey played on an undefeated team in 1957, scoring 22 touchdowns as a halfback despite a broken hand.

Lindsey scored 44 touchdowns in a high school career that saw the three teams on which he played post a combined 30-2 record. He also starred in basketball, baseball and track at Forrest City.

Lindsey was Frank Broyles’ first football signee at Arkansas but chose instead to sign a baseball contract with the St. Louis Cardinals. His signing bonus was believed to have been more than $50,000, the most ever offered to an Arkansas player to that point.

Lindsey played in the Cardinal organization for six seasons. After those six years in the minor leagues, he returned to St. Francis County to operate his family’s farming interests.

Posthumous category:

Raymond Bright — He excelled as a football and track coach at Conway High School and the University of Central Arkansas. After playing on UCA’s 1947 championship football team, Bright began his coaching career in 1949 at Conway Junior High School and was later the athletic director, head football coach and head track coach at Conway High School.

Bright went to work at what’s now UCA in 1958. He was the head football coach at the school from 1965-71. His 1965 and 1966 teams earned shares of the Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference championship.

Bright left coaching following the 1971 season. He later served as UCA’s director of housing. Bright previously was inducted into the Arkansas Track and Field Hall of Fame and the UCA Sports Hall of Fame.

Alonzo “Lonnie” Clayton — Born in 1876, Clayton moved with his family to Pulaski County when he was 10. He attended school while working as an errand boy to earn extra money for the large family.

Clayton left home at age 12 in 1888 to live with his older brother, Albertus, a jockey in Chicago.

“Lonnie” Clayton was soon working as an exercise rider at stables owned by racing legend E.J. “Lucky” Baldwin. Clayton became one of only two 15-year-old jockeys to ever win the Kentucky Derby. Aboard Azra, he came from behind in the stretch to win the Kentucky Derby by a nose in May 1892.

Clayton was second in the Kentucky Derby in 1893, third in 1895 and second in 1897. To provide for a family that included eight siblings in Arkansas, Clayton bought property and built a home in what’s now North Little Rock in 1892. The home, located at 2105 Maple St., still stands.

At the peak of his career in 1895, Clayton posted 144 wins and was in the money in 403 of 688 races.

The Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame inducted its first class in 1959. Andrew Meadors of Little Rock is the organization’s president, and Ray Tucker serves as the executive director.

The Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame Museum on the west side of Verizon Arena is open each Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. It includes an 88-seat theater with a video highlighting the careers of Arkansas sports greats along with a touch-screen kiosk with a database of all Hall of Fame inductees.

Members of the Hall of Fame vote each year on inductees. Membership dues are $50 annually. Membership forms can be obtained by going to the organization’s website at www.arksportshalloffame.com.

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Hall of Fame Class of 2012

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

You remember that night of Monday, April 4, 1994, don’t you?

The national championship in basketball was on the line when a 6-6 junior named Scotty Thurman hit the most famous shot in University of Arkansas basketball history with 51 seconds left.

Thurman’s three-point shot snapped a 70-70 tie against Duke.

Arkansas went on to win the national championship, 76-72, over a Duke team that was amazingly playing in its sixth Final Four in seven years and its fourth championship game.

We all cheered when Russellville native Corliss Williamson was named the tournament’s most outstanding player.

I was home alone that night. My wife and son had gone to south Texas to visit relatives. I was the political editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette at the time, obsessed with the second year of the Clinton administration and the coming midterm elections. Watching the game on CBS provided a nice respite from politics.

It was a warm night in Little Rock. I can remember going out onto my back deck to listen to the radio postgame coverage once the television coverage had ended. I could hear the cars honking up on Cantrell Road. Over at Reservoir Park, they were setting off fireworks.

Thurman, Williamson, their teammates and their coaches will be honored Feb. 3 when the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame’s Class of 2012 is inducted during the annual banquet at Verizon Arena in North Little Rock.

This is the second time in its history that the Hall of Fame has inducted an entire team. Arkansas is still a football state, so it was probably to be expected that the first team to be inducted would be the 1964 national championship Razorback football squad. It was inducted in 2010.

It was a no brainer, however, for the second team to be the Razorback basketball champions from 1994. The man who coached that team, Nolan Richardson, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998. Thurman was inducted in 2010, and Williamson was inducted in 2009.

There also will be 11 individuals inducted as part of the Class of 2012.

One of them is Lee Mayberry, who joined with Todd Day to lead Arkansas to the 1990 Final Four in Denver, where the Hogs lost in the national semifinals to Duke. Day was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2008.

The Class of 2012 will consist of six people from the regular category, three from the senior category and two from the posthumous category.

In addition to Mayberry, those being inducted from the regular category are former Oaklawn Park track announcer Terry Wallace, former Newport High School head football coach Bill Keedy, former Razorback basketball player U.S. Reed, former Razorback football player “Light Horse” Harry Jones and Little Rock native and former Oklahoma State University head football coach Pat Jones.

Those being inducted from the senior category are former Forrest City star athlete Elmer “B” Lindsey, former college coach and NFL scout Bob Ford of Wynne and former Southern Arkansas University women’s basketball coach Margaret Downing.

Those being inducted from the posthumous category are former University of Central Arkansas head football coach Raymond Bright and 1892 Kentucky Derby winning jockey Alonzo “Lonnie” Clayton.

The Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame inducted its first class way back in 1959. Here’s a short look at some of those in the Class of 2012:

– Harry Jones: The Enid, Okla., native lettered for the Razorback football team from 1964-66. He was an All-Southwest Conference selection in 1965 and developed a national reputation for his breakaway runs on offense, earning the nickname “Light Horse.”

Jones played safety on the 1964 national championship team, ending the season with 44 tackles and two interceptions. During the 1965 and 1966 seasons, Jones rushed 166 times for 974 yards and seven touchdowns. He also caught 29 passes for 598 yards and five touchdowns.

He was the first Razorback to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated following Arkansas’ 1965 win over Texas. Jones was selected in the first round of the 1967 NFL draft by the Philadelphia Eagles and played for the Eagles from 1967-70.

– Pat Jones: The future coach developed an interest in football while growing up in Little Rock. He was a lineman for the Forest Heights Eagles in junior high, a guard for the Hall High Warriors in high school and a linebacker and nose guard for the Arkansas Tech Wonder Boys in college before transferring after his freshman season to the University of Arkansas.

Jones was the head coach at Oklahoma State from 1984-94 after having served five years as an assistant at OSU under Jimmy Johnson. His teams compiled a 62-60-3 record and went 3-1 in bowl games. During the five-year stretch from 1984 through 1988, the Cowboys were 44-15 with records of 10-2 in ’84, 8-4 in ’85, 6-5 in ’86, 10-2 in ’87 and 10-2 in ’88.

Oklahoma State won the Gator Bowl after the ’84 season, the Sun Bowl after the ’87 season and the Holiday Bowl following the ’88 season.

Jones coached nine All-America players at Oklahoma State and later was an assistant coach for the Miami Dolphins and Oakland Raiders under Johnson, Dave Wannstadt and Norv Turner.

– Bill Keedy: A Newport native, Keedy attended Arkansas State University and is still a member of the radio broadcast team for Red Wolf football games. Keedy had a successful run as the head football coach at Paragould High School in the early 1970s. Following the 1975 season, he went to Sylvan Hills. After just one season as the head coach there, Keedy returned to his hometown of Newport in 1977. He compiled a 175-48-3 record at Newport before retiring. His overall record as a high school head coach was 199-55-4.

Keedy was the district coach of the year 17 times, and his teams reached the playoffs 19 times. Newport won state championships under his leadership in 1981 and 1991. Greyhound teams also reached the championship games of 1988 and 1989. Newport made it as far as the semifinals eight times.

Keedy, who was a member of the high school all-star coaching staff 10 times, was later inducted into the Arkansas High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

– Lee Mayberry: Nolan Richardson recruited Mayberry out of Will Rogers High School at Tulsa, where he had led his team to the 1988 state championship. Mayberry would wind up scoring 1,940 points during his college career at Arkansas.

Mayberry, one of the best point guards in school history, was an All-Southwest Conference selection in 1990 and 1991 and an All-Southeastern Conference selection in 1992. The four teams Mayberry played on at Arkansas had a combined record of 115-24 and made the NCAA Tournament all four seasons. The Razorbacks were 25-7 his freshman season, 30-5 his sophomore year, 34-4 his junior year and 26-8 his senior season.

Mayberry was selected in the first round of the 1992 NBA draft by the Milwaukee Bucks. He played from 1992-96 for the Bucks and from 1996-99 for the Vancouver Grizzlies.

– U.S. Reed: If Thurman made the most famous shot in Razorback basketball history, the second most famous shot was almost certainly made by U.S. Reed. He hit a shot from just past the half-court line at the horn in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in Austin in 1981 as the Razorbacks defeated the defending national champions from Louisville, 74-73.

I was sitting at courtside that afternoon in Austin, covering the game for Arkadelphia’s Daily Siftings Herald. I’ll never forget it. Abe Lemons, then the head basketball coach at the University of Texas, came out of his office after the game and led the Arkansas pep band in calling the Hogs. What a day.

You can still watch the shot (and hear Paul Eells’ radio call of “Arkansas did it, Arkansas did it, Arkansas did it”) by going to YouTube.

Arkansas lost its next game in the tournament to LSU at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans (I was at that game also), but Reed’s shot in Austin will always live in Razorback lore.

Reed had helped lead Pine Bluff High School to a state championship in 1977 and was part of the Razorback team that made it to the 1978 Final Four. Reed, a guard, was a starter by his sophomore year. The Razorbacks made the regional finals of the NCAA Tournament in 1979, losing to an Indiana State team led by Larry Bird.

In 1979, Reed also played on the U.S. team that won a gold medal at the World University Games. The four Razorback teams on which Reed played went 32-4, 25-5, 21-9 and 24-8, making the NCAA Tournament all four seasons.

We’ll take a look at the other members of the Class of 2012 in a later post.

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Archarch. . . ouch! (John Ed understands)

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

Hopes were so high for Bob Yagos and his wife, Val, of Jacksonville going into last Saturday’s Kentucky Derby.

Their 3-year-old thoroughbred, Archarcharch, had won the Arkansas Derby just three weeks earlier and now was being touted by many racing analysts as a longshot worth keeping an eye on in Louisville.

Meanwhile, extensive media attention had focused on 70-year-old trainer Jinks Fires of Hot Springs, who has been in the business for five decades and finally had a horse in the Kentucky Derby.

Not only that, the jockey was his son-in-law, a 50-year-old veteran rider named Jon Court.

Thoroughbred racing can bring owners, trainers and jockeys alike to the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.

Saturday, April 16, in Hot Springs had been the highest of highs for Bob and Val Yagos, Jinks Fires and Jon Court.

On the first Saturday in May in Kentucky, it was a different story.

Archarcharch stumbled coming out of the No. 1 post position and was never a factor in the race. The horse pulled up lame just after the finish. Those across the country who were watching the race on NBC had a sickening feeling as they saw Archarcharch being loaded into an ambulance.

X-rays revealed a fracture in the left front leg, and it was announced that Archarcharch would be retired from racing.

It could, of course, have been even worse.

Ruffian. Go For Wand. Charismatic. Swale. Holy Bull. Barbaro.

The list of great horses who had career and even life-ending injuries is long.

Arkansan John Ed Anthony understands.

In May 1993, the chairman of Anthony Timberlands Inc. stood at the top of the sport of kings. He had joined Harry Payne Whitney and the famed Calumet Farm of Kentucky that year in being the only 20th-century owners to win the Preakness Stakes in back-to-back years.

The highest of highs.

In June 1993, however, things began to change for Anthony, a 2001 inductee into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame.

Prairie Bayou, who had been the runner-up in the Kentucky Derby and the winner of the Preakness, shattered a leg in the Belmont Stakes.

“The horse was strong and sound, had never had any physical problems, was on one of the safest tracks in America, just galloping along at the back of the pack, not even extended, and took a step and shattered his leg,” Anthony later told The Baltimore Sun. “More than anything, the emotion I felt was absolute astonishment.”

The lowest of lows.

John Eisenberg would describe it this way in the Sun: “Wild-eyed, unable to stand, the horse was taken by ambulance from the track to the Loblolly barn. After conferring with veterinarians, Anthony reluctantly agreed to have the horse euthanized a half-hour after the race. He is still haunted by his decision.”

“They kept telling me no horse had recovered from such an injury,” Anthony told the Sun. “I kept saying, ‘Death is always an option, but why do we have to do it now?’ They finally convinced me the situation just wasn’t going to change. But I have often wondered if it wasn’t the right time to try some of the radical procedures that are out there. The horse was a classic champion.”

Condolence letters poured in from around the world.

A year later, none of Anthony’s 37 3-year-olds proved worthy of running in the Triple Crown races. The best of the 1994 crop, Bayou Bartholomew, had been injured in the Arkansas Derby and retired.

Thus John Ed Anthony never had the chance to do what others in the 20th century could not do — win the Preakness three consecutive times.

Whitney had won with Bostonian in 1927 and Victorian in 1928, but Beacon Hill finished fifth in 1929.

Calumet won with Faultless in 1947 and Citation in 1948, but Kentucky Derby winner Ponder ran fifth in the 1949 Preakness.

Anthony had started Loblolly Stable with his wife Mary Lynn in 1975.

Loblolly began gaining attention as Cox’s Ridge won important races in 1977 and 1978. Then came Temperence Hill’s 1980 Belmont Stakes victory along with the Preakness victories of Pine Bluff in 1992 and Prairie Bayou in 1993.

John Ed and Mary Lynn divorced in 1988 after almost 28 years of marriage but continued for several more years as the co-owners of Loblolly.

“You divorce your husband, but you don’t divorce your friend,” Mary Lynn once said.

Mary Lynn married Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Robert Dudley, and Anthony also remarried.

In 1994, though, John Ed and Mary Lynn decided to desolve Loblly.

“If you want to blame someone, blame me,” Mary Lynn told the Sun that year. “John Ed and I have worked together well on Loblolly, but I have a new life, and it was getting harder to fit racing into it. And then Prairie Bayou was so devastating. I realized I had reached the point where the highs didn’t make up for the lows.”

Loblolly’s mares, yearlings and weanlings were sold at auctions in Lexington, Ky.

John Ed Anthony, however, wasn’t about to leave the racing game he had so come to love. He quickly created Shortleaf Stable.

“The name is symbolic,” Eisenberg wrote. “The shortleaf is a species of pine, a smaller, higher-quality species than the loblobby, which is more common in Arkansas.”

Shortleaf Stable would be smaller than Loblolly had been, but there would be quality.

Anthony, a Bearden native, was born in February 1939 and graduated in 1961 from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. He briefly enrolled in law school but returned home when his father died. He knew the family timber business in the vast pine woods of south Arkansas was his calling and wanted to help his grandfather operate that business.

Anthony’s ancestors had settled the area in the 1840s. In 1907, his grandfather, Garland Anthony, began operating a small sawmill near Bearden. By the 1930s, the man affectionately known across the Gulf Coastal Plain as Mr. Garland had built one of the largest timber operations in the South.

From its headquarters in Bearden — just three miles from the original mill –Anthony Timberlands operates sawmills and other wood products businesses across south Arkansas.

Mr. Garland died in 1982 at age 97. John Ed Anthony’s grandchildren are the seventh generation of their family to work in those forests.

“We believe the seven generations of heritage invested in our lands, plants and communities require a higher standard than simply operating for a profit,” Anthony says. “Each succeeding generation is challenged to leave a better forest and a better company than when they arrived.”

Anthony, who recently completed a term on the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees, stresses quality in both his timber and racing operations. He has used some of the best trainers in the business — D. Wayne Lukas, John Veitch, Shug McGaughey, Joe Cantey.

The emphasis on quality extends to other areas.

In September 2006, the $5.8 million Anthony Chapel complex opened at Garvan Woodland Gardens in Hot Springs following a major donation by John Ed Anthony and his wife, Isabel Burton Anthony. There’s a six-story, wood-and-glass chapel that’s an architectural wonder along with a bride’s hall, a groom’s quarters and the 57-foot Anthony Family Carillon, an electric bell tower. The complex was designed by Fayetteville architects Maurice Jennings and David McKee.

“I think horses have to be secondary toward some higher purpose in life,” Anthony once told Mike Downey of the Los Angeles Times. “Except maybe if you’re in the Pony Express and the Indians are chasing you, how fast a horse can run is not really very important in the whole grand scheme of things.”

Anthony, though, will long be remembered as having been among the greatest American thoroughbred owners of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

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A Derby Day to remember

Monday, April 18th, 2011

Red Smith has long been recognized as one of the greatest sportswriters in American history.

He spent more than four decades writing columns, first for the New York Herald Tribune and later for The New York Times.

Smith, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1976 for distinguished commentary, once said: “There are more stories per square foot at the racetrack than anywhere else in sports. If there are 80 horses running today, there are at least 80 stories, most of them more interesting than who won or lost a ballgame.”

I thought of Red Smith’s words as I drove down Central Avenue shortly after 2 p.m. Saturday.

It was Derby Day at Oaklawn, and the town was hopping. There were so many potential stories here, I thought to myself, thinking yet again like the newspaper editor I once was.

I was late arriving at the track — the gates had opened at 10 a.m. and the first of 12 races had exited the starting gate at 12:05 p.m. — because I had spent the morning attending the 70th annual meeting of the Arkansas Historical Association in Little Rock.

Perhaps it was better this way. I avoided the morning traffic jam, I still arrived in plenty of time for the Arkansas Derby and I was able to contemplate the magnitude of this event as I looked at the parking lots, the yards and the side streets filled with cars.

Following the deadly storms of Thursday night and the cold winds of Friday, the weather Saturday could not have been more beautiful. A crowd of 62,364 — numbers surpassed in this state only by a Razorback football game in Fayetteville — turned out to watch a long shot with Arkansas owners win the Arkansas Derby.

I have a hard time remembering a better day at the track. It’s not about winning money for me. I can have a fine time without ever placing a bet. It’s about people watching, visiting with friends, eating and soaking in the unique atmosphere of Derby Day.

When you think about it, you realize that thoroughbred racing is the only professional sport in which our state is in the major leagues.

We don’t have a major league baseball team.

We don’t have an NBA, NFL or NHL team.

But we do have Oaklawn. With the success of the 3-year-olds that have competed in this race in recent years, the Arkansas Derby certainly has solidified its standing as a leading Triple Crown prep race.

It was good to see that the state’s top two sports columnists — Wally Hall and Harry King — were at Oaklawn on Saturday. Frankly, it amazes me that Little Rock television stations will lead their sportscasts with what in essence is a glorified football practice rather than one of the top events in American racing.

Oh well.

My print bias is showing.

In the introduction to a collection of stories on thoroughbred racing titled “Finished Lines,” Frank Scatoni writes: “There is an old saying, often attributed to Sir Winston Churchill, that adequately sums up man’s relationship with the horse: ‘There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.’

“Anyone, from the smallest child to the most wizened old curmudgeon, who has ever seen a horse run — unfettered, graceful and with the look of eagles in his eyes — knows this saying to be true. Men, women and children alike find their affections running deep for the thoroughbred.

“Unlike any other sport (with the possible exception of baseball), horse racing has been a breeding ground for quality literature. Talented writers have found the grace, beauty and sheer athleticism of the thoroughbred the inspiration for which to wax poetic about the sport, the animal and, most important, man’s relation — physical, spiritual and psychological — to this near-perfect creature and the races it runs.

“William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway wrote about the sport: Faulkner about the 1955 Kentucky Derby showdown between Swaps and Nashua; Hemingway — in ‘A False Spring’ — about attending the jump races in France, penniless and in dire need of a long shot.

“Hunter S. Thompson, offbeat chronicler of America’s political traditions, spent a week at Churchill Downs covering the 1970 Kentucky Derby, won by 15-1 shot Dust Commander. Humorist A.J. Liebling, who spent many a year penning columns for The New Yorker, was a huge fan of the sport and wrote about it regularly for that bastion of literary tradition. Sports Illustrated hit the newsstands in 1954 to give us almost 50 years of sophisticated racing coverage with Whitney Tower and William Nack.”

Indeed, Saturday was the kind of day that invites colorful prose. I’ll try to spare you my own feeble attempts to write eloquently on the subject of a Derby Day held on a perfect April afternoon in Hot Springs with the exception of these observations:

– I was glad to see Charles Cella’s thoroughbred, Uncle Brent, win The Northern Spur stakes race. Arkansas is fortunate to have one of the few family-owned tracks remaining in the country, especially since the man known around the track as CJC has raised his own children to share his love for the sport and for Hot Springs.

The Cellas bring a touch of class to Oaklawn, never allowing the gaming aspect to overcome the color and tradition of thoroughbred racing.

“People waste countless hours debating whether thoroughbred racing is a sport or a form of gambling, when the answer is simple and obvious: It’s both,” Daily Racing Form editor Steven Crist wrote in ”Finished Lines.” “Without wagering, which ultimately provides all of the economic fuel for the racing game, only a few wealthy eccentrics would raise horses, as if they were champion orchids or poodles. Without the emotional impact of the sport that surrounds the gambling, racing would be no more compelling than jai-alai or slot machines, a way of generating numbers and payoffs.”

For the Cellas, this family tradition is about more than generating numbers.

– I like the addition of the corporate tents on the infield for the Racing Festival of the South. It gives the Arkansas Derby the feel of a Triple Crown race and introduces new people to the sport.

– I noticed more hats on ladies than ever before this year. Hats have always been de rigueur for the Kentucky Derby. Now, the trend seems to be growing for the Arkansas Derby. It’s a welcome trend. Go ahead, ladies. Start shopping for the perfect hat for next year’s Arkansas Derby.

– Thanks for keeping me on your list to receive an Arkansas Derby tie, Mr. Cella and Eric Jackson. Those silk ties from Italy are another outstanding tradition (there’s a well-written story on that tradition in the April issue of Arkansas Life magazine). The 2011 tie is especially beautiful. I wore it to the track on Saturday, and I wore it again today. Heck, Harry King and I still wear Arkansas Derby ties from the early 1980s.

Melissa — my wife of almost 22 years who I hauled to both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness infields shortly after we were engaged in 1989 — and I stayed until the end on Saturday. As the crowd cleared out and the sun began to set, we stood along the rail to watch the marathon (a mile and three quarters) known as The Trails End, a race that didn’t begin until almost 7 p.m.

The traffic remained gridlocked on Central Avenue even after that 12th race, so we stepped into Stubby’s so I could indulge in some ribs.

A man at the next table — a fellow who obviously attends big races across the country — was talking on his cell phone to a friend.

“I’ll see you in Kentucky,” he said. “I wish you could have been here today. It’s not Santa Anita, but I like it down here.”

So do we.

For me, Arkansas Derby Day is a special day on my calendar — marked annually along with events such as the Grady Fish Fry, the Battle of the Ravine, the first day of dove season and the Slovak Oyster Supper.

I saw old friend Kelley Bass on the infield Saturday. He was attending his 32nd consecutive Arkansas Derby.

I can claim no such record. But since I’ve placed eating an Oaklawn burger on the infield on Arkansas Derby Day among the entries on the Natural State bucket list, it was fitting that I had two Oaklawn burgers in my hand at the time.

One for me.

One for Melissa.

Yes, I still left room for those Stubby’s ribs. By 8:15 p.m., the traffic on Central Avenue was moving again. We got in the car and said so long to live racing for another year.

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