Tag Archives: horses

Horse Racing Journalism

The more I learn about Kurt Vonnegut, the more I love him, and I already love him a lot. Somehow, though, I had never actually heard this story before:

“In the mid 1950s, Vonnegut worked very briefly for Sports Illustrated magazine, where he was assigned to write a piece on a racehorse that had jumped a fence and attempted to run away. After staring at the blank piece of paper on his typewriter all morning, he typed, ‘The horse jumped over the fucking fence,’ and left.”

– from Wikipedia’s entry on Kurt Vonnegut.

To be fair and balanced, he really should have gotten a pull quote from the horse.

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Awkward Encounters With Famous People: George Steinbrenner

And lo I tweeteth:

Steinbrenner is gone. Once upon a time I brushed his horses. He did not care. *raises glass in toast*

The year was 1995. I was grooming horses 48 hours a week, paying $150 a month for a roach-infested hovel, and living on Taco Bell and Save-A-Lot brand soda for every meal (because I could not afford much more). I suppose it was an internship, but people in the horse biz don’t call it an internship unless they want an excuse not to pay you. I wasn’t in the fields when he came to see the horses. That came weeks later, but nobody had any truly heinous stories about him. In and of itself, that was a compliment. People with that much money are generally crazy, and they like to let the crazy fly when it comes to their “pastimes” (aka race horses). The worst thing I heard was that he was overly concerned with nicks and scuffs on some of his foals. But to people who’ve never seen so much as a chicken in the wild, there is no explaining that horses are big smelly animals with sharp hooves and that sometimes they like to use them on each other. At least, from what I hear, he didn’t throw a fit. Sometimes owners did.

My encounter with him was brief. It was when I was still answering phones in the office part-time before I moved out to the barns. He was in a track suit when he opened the door to the office, said, “I’ll be in the car,” and then went back there. I walked to the general manager’s office, said, “I’m not entirely sure, but I think that was George Steinbrenner, and he wants you to go out to his car.” Without a word, the manager got up and ran. Awk-warrrrrd, haha. I don’t remember seeing him ever move that fast in any other circumstance.

I don’t think any of Steinbrenner’s horses won a Derby. I could be wrong. Haven’t paid much attention to it for quite a few years now. Any individual who blows that much money on good horses deserves to, though.