Horse Racing / Bill Christine : Deer Were Out of the Woods, but the Leading Horse Wasn’t

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Top Booking spurted clear at once, was going along on the lead while in hand, when two deer raced across his path leaving the five-eighths pole, with Top Booking falling over the second one, and the rider landing heavily. --Daily Racing Form chart of fourth race, Turfway Park, Florence, Ky., Jan. 13.

Can you imagine the trainer of Top Booking calling the owner to explain how the 5-year-old mare lost the race?

“We got beat when a deer hit us,” he must have said.

That trainer had something as rare in racing as the sure thing--an original alibi for a defeat--but his owner probably still had to ask if he had been smoking his socks.

It was a Friday the 13th that couldn’t have been unluckier for Brian Peck, the 18-year-old jockey who rode Top Booking. The first deer escaped into the woods uninjured, and the second, the one that had collided with Top Booking, hobbled off in the same direction. Top Booking bounced up, unhurt. But Peck suffered a compound fracture of his right forearm. A pin was surgically inserted and Peck will be sidelined for 3 or 4 months.


Turfway Park, which used to be called Latonia, is just across the Ohio state line, not far from Cincinnati. Only about half of the track’s 365 acres are developed, and the rest of the property is a wooded area which, Turfway officials now know, is inhabited by deer.

The two deer apparently spent the early part of last Friday evening in the track’s infield, unobserved. When the 12-horse field in the mile race reached the midway point down the backstretch, the deer jumped the infield fence, heading for the woods.

Despite his injury, Peck was still fortunate that he wasn’t trampled by any of the trailing horses.

Peck wasn’t even supposed be riding in the race. Jack Neagle, the jockey who had been named to ride Top Booking, took off all his mounts Friday night. When the mare’s trainer came to the jockeys’ room looking for a replacement, the clerk of scales said Peck was available. The clerk of scales is Bobby Peck, the jockey’s father.

Although young Peck’s apprenticeship ended in August, his mounts earned more than $2.3 million in purses last year, which placed him first nationally among apprentices. Having won 105 races, Peck was the leading apprentice in New York.

One of Peck’s hobbies is steer roping. He might be tempted to take up deer hunting when he recovers.


When word spread at Santa Anita of the deer incident at Turfway Park, horsemen were reminded of other bizarre incidents.

Tommy Wolski, an exercise rider who also does some radio work, remembered his horse jumping an alligator in a race 20 years ago at the old Tropical Park in Florida.

“Three horses ahead of me on the backstretch had to jump him, too,” Wolski said. “It was a lot like a horse jumping a shadow, which they sometime do, except this time there was really something there. The alligator was making his way to the track’s infield when it happened.”

Another time, at Ft. Erie in Ontario, Canada, a horse jumped the fence and landed in the infield lake.

“They got the horse out all right, but they were worried about the jock,” Wolski said. “He couldn’t swim. But he made it, too.”

Steve Schuelein, the Santa Anita publicity aide, remembered another race at Ft. Erie. The track had geese in its infield lake and one of them wandered onto the backstretch during a race.


“The goose didn’t have a chance when a horse hit it,” Schuelein said. “But no one watching the race could figure out what happened for a while. It looked like a pillow exploded. There were feathers everywhere.”

It wasn’t during a race, but at Bay Meadows a horse was victimized by a fighting cock. The rooster, which belonged to a groom, got into a filly’s stall during the night and pecked her on the leg, causing severe swelling.

Trainer Mel Stute added blinkers to a young colt’s equipment in 1985. Snow Chief won the Hollywood Futurity and the next year was voted the country’s champion 3-year-old colt.

At Bay Meadows last Sunday, Stute made an adjustment in Double Quick’s blinkers--the cups were closed up--and the 3-year-old colt won the $300,000 El Camino Real Derby, ending the 7-race winning streak of Rob an Plunder, who finished second.

Stute gave Double Quick less room to see because he felt the colt was waiting for horses after taking the lead.

Despite a 5-day suspension by the Santa Anita stewards, Alex Solis was able to ride Double Quick because of California’s designated-race rule, which permits jockeys to ride in certain important stakes even though they are under suspension.


Under the same circumstances, Solis rode Stocks Up to victory last month in the Hollywood Starlet. Solis would have ridden Stocks Up, the winner of Saturday’s Bay Meadows Oaks, but because trainer Ted West didn’t decide to enter the 3-year-old filly until the last minute, Solis had already taken a call on another horse in the race. Tommy Chapman rode Stocks Up.

On Tuesday, the deadline for nominating horses for the Triple Crown races, West paid the $600 to make Stocks Up eligible. Late nominations, due by March 17, cost $3,000.

“It’s good to have her eligible, just in case,” West said. “But we’re really not thinking of running her against colts in the Kentucky Derby. The race we’d really like to win is the Kentucky Oaks, the day before the Derby.”

Not wanting to compete with the Super Bowl, Gulfstream Park will be closed Sunday. On Monday, the Miami-area track will run the I Guarantee It Stakes, which is named after the claim Joe Namath made on behalf of his New York Jets before they upset the Baltimore Colts 20 years ago.

Horse Racing Notes

Last Thursday, Willie Washington claimed 2 horses--Naked Jaybird and Notable Host--out of the same race at Santa Anita, for $12,500 apiece. Other trainers also claimed the horses, but Washington won a shake of numbered pills in order to get the horses. At the claim box, trainer Sandy Shulman, who had lost the shake for Naked Jaybird, said: “I know you got them both, Willie, but Naked Jaybird is the one you’ll really want.” Naked Jaybird, who finished fourth last week, was run back by Washington on Monday for a $16,000 claiming price and he won, paying $15.80.

Doodlin, a 4-year-old pacer who had 18 wins, 2 seconds and 4 thirds in 25 starts last year, is 2 for 2 at Los Alamitos this year. . . . It’s no typographical error--quarter horse racing’s horse of the year will be announced on Feb. 5 at 6 in the morning, Los Angeles time. The leading candidates in what is expected to be a close vote are Dash for Speed, Florentine, Merganser and Shawnes Favorite.


In 1987, Aaron Gryder’s mounts earned almost $3 million and he was one of the top apprentices in the country. This season at Santa Anita, through last weekend, Gryder had won 2 of 63 races and after today he’s going to try his luck at Bay Meadows. . . . Cutlass Reality will use the San Antonio Handicap on Feb. 12 as his prep for the $1-million Santa Anita Handicap on March 5. In the 1980s, only two horses--Bates Motel and Lord at War--have managed a San Antonio-Big ‘Cap double. . . . Winning Colors, last year’s Kentucky Derby winner, probably won’t run at the Santa Anita meeting.

Great Genes is listed at 30-1 by the Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas for the Kentucky Derby. Great Genes broke down at Del Mar last August and had to be destroyed. . . . Feraud, who broke down on Santa Anita’s turf course Saturday, was destroyed with a lethal injection Tuesday when it was determined that he couldn’t be saved for breeding.