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THOROUGHBRED RACING / BILL CHRISTINE : These Fans Go All Out to Earn a Permanent Spot Near Track

Horse tales:

The wife of Harry Tendler, the 85-year-old press box steward at Gulfstream Park, died earlier this year. Janice Tendler’s ashes were scattered in the track winner’s circle.

“She wanted to go out a winner, because that’s what she was,” Tendler said. “She left the instructions in her will. I’ve got the same instructions in my will.”

It’s not that uncommon for horsemen and racing fans to request that their ashes be spread over a racetrack. The ashes of Eric Guerin, the Hall of Fame jockey, were scattered at Calder Race Course, not far from Gulfstream, last year.

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At one track in the Midwest, there have been numerous requests for funeral services accompanied by a scattering of the deceased’s ashes. So many requests, in fact, that the track superintendent noticed that some of the ashes were blowing onto the turf course, killing the grass.

“We still do the services, but there’s been one change,” the superintendent said. “We simulate the ashes with regular dirt, so we can protect the turf course.”

Asked where the real ashes go, he said: “We dump them about a mile from here, on the highway.”

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After his retirement, jockey Sammy Renick became one of the first racing telecasters, and in the late 1950s he came to California to play a small part in a movie.

The movie was called “Wind Across the Everglades,” and there could hardly have been a more diverse cast. Besides Renick there were Burl Ives, Christopher Plummer, Gypsy Rose Lee, Two Ton Tony Galento, Emmett Kelly, MacKinlay Kantor and Peter Falk, making his film debut.

Several days before production started, Budd Schulberg, who wrote and directed the film, happened across Renick in the studio barber shop, about to get his goatee shaved off. Schulberg believed that the short beard fit Renick perfectly, and argued that Renick should keep it.

“I left it on,” Renick said. “They paid me an extra $200 a day not to get it shaved off.”

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Renick’s big scene was a mud-bath fight with Galento, the former heavyweight who outweighed him by more than 2 to 1. At the end of the fight, Galento was supposed to pick up Renick and throw him to the left of the camera. Off camera, a 6-foot-5 weightlifter-type would catch Renick.

Instead, Galento lifted Renick and heaved him to the right by mistake. Renick bounced off of a fence, crumpled to the ground and came up cursing. “You . . .,” he said to Galento. “Why the hell didn’t you throw me where you were supposed to?”

“Jeez,” Galento stammered. “I never could tell my left from my right.”

“Well you sure knew the difference when you were getting hit by Joe Louis,” Renick said.

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In the spring of 1987, Bet Twice and No More Flowers, a couple of 3-year-olds who had been battling in Florida, were being flown to Lexington, Ky., for their final Kentucky Derby prep races.

Happy Alter, the trainer of No More Flowers, was unaccountably tardy. Tex Sutton, whose company had arranged the charter, fumed as two hours passed.

Finally, a van pulled up with No More Flowers, a second Alter horse, a 14-foot sofa, a table and chair and 21 large sacks of feed. But no Alter. The instructions were to load all of this on the plane.

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“Happy could buy the same stuff in Kentucky,” said one of the loaders of the feed.

Sutton concluded that the plane was too crowded and too heavy. Out came the furniture and the plane left with Alter’s things sitting on the runway.

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Years ago, when Chick Lang was general manager of Pimlico, trainer Bryan Webb and a female friend visited Lang in his office.

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“The woman had one of those big draw-string purses,” Lang said. “She turned it upside down on my desk and money kept falling out.”

Webb asked Lang if he would keep the cash in the track’s safe.

“I can’t trust myself (betting) with all that money,” Webb said. “No matter what, don’t give it to me until the meet’s over.”

Lang was reluctant to be Webb’s private banker, but finally agreed to secure the money. They counted it, about $27,000, mostly in small denominations, and packaged it in envelopes.

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“I’ve got this to get me through,” said Webb, pulling a small bankroll from his pants pocket.

A couple of days later, Webb came back to Lang, asking for the money in the safe.

“I’m not giving it to you,” Lang said.

“But I need it, Chick,” Webb said.

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“I don’t care,” Lang said. “We made a deal, and I’m not giving it to you.”

“Come on, Chick.”

“Nothing doing, Bryan.”

“Chick. . . . “

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“No, sir. It stays in the safe.”

And that’s where it stayed until the meet ended. Webb never used Lang as a banker again.


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