Is it my imagination or is the American cowboy making a comeback? No, not the faux, metro sexual version so popularly epitomized by Brad Pitt, Heath Ledger, and Colin Farrell, but the Robert Duvall, Tommy Lee Jones, Clint Eastwood type—a salt of the earth sort, rough around the edges but nevertheless good-hearted.
Over the past month we’ve enjoyed the story of little gelding Mine That Bird and his connections, particularly his trainer Chip Woolley, who continued to demonstrate his nice guy side by visiting the children at Belmont’s Anna House last Friday. Isn’t it refreshing to not have to “love the horse, but hate the trainer”? No Rick Dutrow, no Jeff Mullins to temper the pleasure of seeing good horses run well. First Woolley, and then Tim Ice who appears a nice enough guy, equally as stunned by his success so early in his training career. How nice to see true emotional reactions and realize that those who work really hard do reap the rewards of their toil.
It’s got me thinking, is this the end of the era of the “corporate” super-trainers? Oh, Steve Asmussen and Todd Pletcher will continue to win large numbers of races as long as deep-pocket owners send them quality horses, but personally I’m more excited to see what more hands-on trainers like Woolley, Ice, Helen Pitts, Jimmy Jerkins, Hal Wiggins, Derek Ryan, Carla Gaines and Chad Brown can do with fewer horses. It’s just nice to root for the “little guy” for a change, especially if they are worthy of such regard.
And speaking of the return of the cowboy, how about 23-year-old South Dakota rancher Neal Wanless who just won $232.1 million in the PowerBall lottery? You got to love a cowboy who talks to his horse, especially when she's named Eleanor.