Jockey checks himself into wrong hospital
Once in, hard to get out
While we’re waiting for official word that the Hastings Racecourse 2014 thoroughbred season will be starting on Sunday, April 27, a lot of fond and funny memories have been running through my mind from my jockey days during an era when things were more helter-skelter than they are today.
The first time I met Ray Brody was in the late ’70s. We were riding at Santa Anita in California, arguably one of the toughest tracks in the world.
The jock’s room was loaded with legendary performers along the lines of Bill Shoemaker, Sandy Hawley, Eddie Delahoussaye, as well as a strong contingent of top Latin Americans.
To put it mildly, the competitive Brody did not take kindly to losing, particularly if a non-U.S. jockey hit the wire ahead of him.
One afternoon Brody was on a horse from the No. 10 hole in a 12-horse race and his mount was hit hard coming out of the gate.
He finished third and was furious to think that a young Latino rider named Fernando Torres would have the nerve to bump him at the start and cost him a victory.
Brody arrived back at the jocks room screaming and cursing, deciding to take matters into his own hands.
Assuming that Torres was the culprit, Brody gave him a whack on the head with his helmet, and not satisfied with just that, he declared open warfare on all the Latin riders on the premises and warned them to stay out of his way in future races.
Then along came jockey Johnny Sales who said to Brody: “Why did you hit Fernando? I was on the horse that bumped you.”
Instead of apologizing, Brody complained to the judges and left the track still in a heated state.
Later that night, rather than face the wrath of the stewards or possible legal action from the jockey, Brody called me to say he’d checked himself into a hospital and asked me to bring some fresh clothes.
Unbeknownst to Brody, he had signed into a mental institution, rather than a normal hospital.
It wasn’t until two weeks later when I got the call to pick him up and take him home.
“They won’t release me. They want to keep me in for more observations,” Brody said. “I don’t get it … why was it so easy to get into this place and so hard to get out?”
Brody eventually returned to a respectful and more complacent riding career.
Ah, those were the days …
It’s interesting to note that Burnaby’s Michael J. Fox writes in his most recent New York Times bestseller Lucky Man that his father Bill once worked at Exhibition Park, now Hastings Racecourse.
“Dad was barely five feet, six inches and thin as a rail, and considered potential jockey material,” Michael wrote. “By the time he was 16, he was earning mounts in a few races.”
Notes on a program
Congratulations to JJJ Stables on sweeping the $25,000 stakes at Fraser Downs last weekend with victories in the Miss Valentine (Keep The Dream) and Mr. Vancouver (Big N Bad) … One of the top Kentucky Derby contenders, Samraat, unbeaten in five starts, races in Saturday’s $500,000 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct in New York.