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Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Dream in Sloth

Poking around the Daily Racing Form archives available online via the Kentuckiana Digital Library (a joint project between Keeneland and the University of Kentucky), I happened across some priceless post-race form comments you couldn’t imagine a chart caller writing these days. In fact, some remind me of Radar O’Reilly’s attempts at writing reports while taking a correspondence course from the Famous Las Vegas Writers School—run by Ethel Hemingway, Jerry Steinbeck and Eunice O’Neill, naturally.

Written for races held coast-to-coast between 1896 and 1898, these gems include some rather curious (and even indelicate) observations on jockey and horse performances, such as:

  • “Lillian E could not outrun a fat man.”
  • “He left his field as though they were cart horses.”
  • “The race was a farce and not worth tabbing as to the participants.”
  • “Summer Coon ran like a rudderless ship sails the sea.”
  • “He ran a good race under bad handling.”
  • “Lambent hadn’t the speed of a cow.”
  • “The Cripple has got to be an insane horse.”
  • “The race will screw him up.”
  • “Headlight went to pieces in the stretch. He is a coward.”
  • “Interference at the start cooked San Carlo’s goose.”
  • “St. Leo moved in turtle fashion.”
  • “Vanessa’s performance was a dream in sloth.”
Oh, what simplistic poetry! Strange, isn’t it, that in an era before film the race charts were rather sparse while today’s Equibase charts are downright wordy by comparison?