Horses in the Bible: Will You Ride the White Horse?

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Horses are mentioned in the Bible at least 188 times. However, reviews are mixed.

The Hebrews, usually on foot fought enemies on horses and in chariots. King David was said to have hamstrung his enemy’s horses. Yet horses sometimes saved them and were an important part of the reign of David’s son, King Solomon, who built Jerusalem Holy Temple. Elijah, one of two persons in the Bible who never died, was taken to heaven in a fiery chariot drawn by horses “of fire” (2 Kings 2:11).

A favorite Bible horse story is in the book of Esther. Haman, who hated the Jews, convinced King Aharuerus to write an edict giving his army the authority to kill all the Jews. The Jewish Esther risked her life by asking the king to save her people. He sent an edict out giving the Jewish nation permission to fight, something they did with amazing success. The story is celebrated annually as the Jewish holiday, Purim. The kicker is recorded in Esther 8:10 “And he wrote in the name of King Ahasuerus, sealed it with the king’s signet ring, and sent letters by couriers on horseback, riding on royal horses bred from swift steeds.”

We know that King Solomon, perhaps the wisest person to live, was an active horse breeder. I Kings 4:26 said he had 40,000 stalls of horses for his chariots and 12,000 horsemen. 2 Chron. 9:25, written much later, says he had “4,000 stalls for horses and chariots and 12,000 horsemen. Both numbers could be correct if, as some theorize, the second verse meant that each of the 4,000 stalls were spaces to house chariots, and each had 10 stalls for the horses, something not unlikely.

Solomon used horses imported from Egypt and Kue (likely Cilicia) to control the trade routes between Asia Minor, Mesopotamia, and Egypt, (1 Kings 10:28-29), roads on which he exacted tolls. He stationed groups of horses and chariots in strategic cities, including Megiddo, where archeologists discovered stables for 450 horses and 150 chariots dating to the era of Solomon. Oddly, Cilicia is a province in southeast Turkey, a country that today has an active Thoroughbred breeding program.

Many scholars believe the Book of Job was written during the time of Solomon (1200 BC) and some believe Solomon wrote it. I believe it contains the most accurate verses on warhorses, something I think any Thoroughbred handler would say as true. In Chapter 39, Job has weathered his trials and concludes the power of God with rhetorical questions.
(Vs. 19-24)
Have you (God) given the horse strength?
Have you clothed his neck with thunder?
Can you frighten him like a locust?
His majestic snorting strikes terror.
He paws in the valley, and rejoices in his strength;
He gallops into the clash of arms.
He mocks at fear, and is not frightened;
Nor does he turn back from the sword.
The quiver rattles against him,
The glittering spear and javelin.
He devours the distance with fierceness and rage;
Nor does he come to a halt because the trumpet has sounded.
At the blast of the trumpet he says, ‘Aha!’
He smells the battle from afar,
The thunder of captains and shouting.

Powerful. Yet, other verses warn us to never make horses our God.
Ps 20:7 (NIV) Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
Ps 33:17 (NIV) A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save.
Isa 31:1 (NIV) Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, who rely on horses, who trust in the multitude of their chariots and in the great strength of their horsemen, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel, or seek help from the Lord.

And of course Jesus was and will be a rider. He rode an “unbroken colt”, a donkey, into Jerusalem while the crowd praised him and lay out palm fronds only to be crucified a week later. (John 12:14). And he will ride again in an end-time prophesy, an area in which horses play the important role of warning of coming judgment. The so called Four Horses of the Apocalypse are in Rev 6 1-8, prophesied in Zechariah 1 6-8 and described in Rev. 9:17-18 as ridden by angels of hell sent out to kill a third of mankind. But not to worry, Jesus shows up in one of my favorite passages, Rev. 19-11-17. He rides a pure white stallion back to earth as a warrior to defeat the forces of evil. Best of all, the “armies of heaven,” who many theologians believe are those who know Jesus as the Messiah, follow him on white horses. It’s a battle to which I look forward. I and many of you,will ride white horses across heaven.

Shadows of Angels

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Shadows of Angels
A woman stopped me in the hallway of a hospital where I work as a chaplain to thank me for visiting her aging mother who she said died in peace. She added that at the moment of her mother’s death she saw “shadows of angels.”

Do angels normally attend the deaths of Christians? As a hospital and hospice chaplain who has attended the deaths of several score persons, I offer an opinion here.

Angels are mentioned in the Bible some 700 times doing a variety of things that involve humans. The “Lord” and two angels came by to have lunch with Abraham and tell him his aging wife Sarah would have a child (Genesis 18). A single angel slew 185,000 Assyrians in a single night to assure they lost a war against Israel. (II Kings 19) Angels set the apostles Paul and Silas free from a Philippian jail cell so they could continue preaching to Gospel in places it had never been preached. All important stuff. But it’s likely several million Christians die in any given year. So it is preposterous to think angels have so much time on their hands that they show up at each Christian death

There are thousands of modern stories of angels showing up to help humans. Billy Graham always maintained that each of us has two angels around to help, based on Psalm 91:11, “For He will give His ANGELS over you (All who have made the Lord their refuge). And why: (Vs 12 “To keep you in all His ways.” Now get this, “In their hands they shall bear you up. Lest you dash your foot against as stone.”

Jesus in Luke 16 tells a story about Lazarus, a poor beggar with a slew of sores, is escorted to heaven, (Vs.22) “So it was the beggar died and was carried by THE ANGELS to Abraham’s Bosom.” Lazarus was so poor the only healing available was dogs licking the sores on his legs. Yet he was important enough to be escorted to heaven by two angels. Why are not the rest of us to know Christ as Savior?

I was with a dying Christian who devoted his life to others as a school teacher dying in a hospital bed. I was praying with him when he took his final breath, then was quickly called outside by a nurse. At the door, I turned to look and I caught a glimpse of two angels on either side of him ascending through the wall and ceiling. They were “bearing him up.”
Like the woman who stopped me in a hospital hallway, I believe I saw shadows of angels.

Book Excerpt: “Ride the White Horse.” Chapter 15: A Life Changing Race

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Book is available on Amazon for $12.16 with Kindle Version $3.99 or for a very limited buy a personally autographed copy on PayPal for $10.95 (Link on home page).

On Oct. 16, 1974, at Suffolk Downs, jockey Eddie Donnally made the worst decision of his life, one that put him on the outs with both sides of the law. Below is an excerpt about the incident from Donnally’s book “Ride the White Horse: A Checkered Jockey’s Story of Racing, Rage, and Redemption.”

A chilling wind blows sleeting rain in from Broad Sound as I stand just inside a shabby Suffolk Downs barn and consider why I haven’t left for Florida. I half-listen to trainer Jeanne Patterson talk about Society Boy, a horse she trains and I’m listed to ride that afternoon. I never suspect that before the day ends I will take part in an event that will alter my life in ways I can never imagine.
I’d finished fourth aboard the horse in his last start at Rockingham Park as the favorite and doubt he has much chance today. My windbreaker and jeans are wet and muddy from working out horses that morning on a sloppy track. As Jeanne talks and the wind howls, my mind wanders to Florida. In a few weeks, I’ll be living in Crystal Beach, driving my boat down a canal and into the Gulf, fishing poles tilting up like dual antennas.

Jeanne clears her throat. “It’s raining and I don’t think he’ll like the track,” she says. “I wanted to scratch him from the race because of the mud, but the racing secretary promised he’d write a race that fits him better if I stayed in today. But if he can’t handle the mud, give him a sanitary, and we’ll wait for a fast track.”

I nod my head and hold off a grin. The 4-year-old apparently dislikes all kinds of track surfaces. He had no excuse in his last race when he was beaten nearly ten lengths by similar company. In 38 previous races, he had won only once and in three years of racing had earned only several thousand dollars. His owner has spent far more in training bills than jockey fees.
While not the most kosher pickle in the deli, giving a horse a “sanitary,” or easy race, on a surface it dislikes is more humane than illegal, and often done. Any bettor who could read the Daily Racing Form would realize the horse had little chance on any surface. Only a grandmother betting on jockey’s colors or a New Ager doing numerology would bet on this horse.

In most cases, trainers are far closer to the horses they train than the jockeys who ride them. I’ll spend 10 minutes in the post parade and then race the same animal they’ve spent weeks and even months preparing. In the end, all their work depends on a series of decisions made in little more than a minute by a 110-pound guy who wears a size six hat trainers sometimes call “pinheads.”

And then there is the betting public. This group of abstract faces fuels the pari-mutuel machines that turn the clogs and grease the wheels inside the giant horse racing industry. I guess on some level I know that without them it all grinds to a wheezing halt. Yet at the time they seem far removed from my life. Those same nameless persons have taunted me with insults when I’m hot, dirty, and pock-marked by flying dirt and just risked my life trying to get a half-ton racehorse into a shrinking space moving as fast as my mount. They also seem to have an affinity for cheering and jeering when a racehorse gets loose and charges pell-mell down the track in front of the grandstand. That the panicked horse can kill itself or someone else seems as far removed from their sentiments as my sentiment is removed from theirs. To me, they are not only irreverent but irrelevant.

It’s all about politics, I stand there thinking. Run your horse in a race he can’t win in order to fill a race and save the racing secretary from canceling it and trying to get enough entrants to fill another, so he’ll card a race that perfectly fits this or another of the trainers’ horses. So I hear Jeanne loud and clear. Go get a race into her horse to help him get fit enough to perform better the next time he is in a race with company as weak as himself. I would get the chance to ride him in his next start. Quid pro quo − it’s what makes the world and racehorses go around.

Riding a horse worth less than a ten-year-old used car in chilling sleet for a winning fee that won’t pay for two nights in a decent motel makes Florida dreaming addictive. Weeks earlier, I’d finished the summer meeting at Rockingham Park in Salem, New Hampshire, 60 miles north, as the fourth-leading rider. I have a pocketful of money and am just killing time before Debbie and I head south. The cold wind haunting the track just outside Boston is beginning to kick up sleet. Snow will not be far behind.

It’s nearly 10 a.m. The track has closed for training, and I walk away wondering if I should go home for a nap or go to the jockeys’ room because we’re living near Rockingham Park. A rider I hardly know falls in beside me. “You got a minute?” he asks.

I stop, and he looks around to see if anyone is nearby. We’re standing on a concrete apron between two barns. Grooms are in their horses’ stalls by now, doing them up in bandages and medications to help their all-important legs. I know the rider, but not well.

“This horse you’re on in the third race . . . you know much about him?”

My ears prick. I sense what is coming. “The trainer said he won’t like the track. Not much stock to begin with. Why?”

“You want to make some money today? Some real money?”

“How?”

The rider, older and with a wrinkled face as if his best days are behind him, pulls a wad of $100 bills from his jeans. “I got eight hundred if you can make sure he finishes worse than third.”

This time I take a look around and do some quick math. The purse is a whopping $2,500, meaning the winning horse gets $1,500, and my 10 percent is $150 before I pay my valet and the IRS. I am far from a saint, but I had turned down bribes before, one a few weeks earlier at Rockingham. I have never taken part in race fixing. The decision to abstain has little to do with those abstract faces in the crowd. I’d worked with trainers to help them put their horse’s worst foot forward, so to speak, in a race or two. Then when the horse was ready and in a field we were confident the animal could beat, we’d make significant bets. I worked out horses at 5 a.m. before the track officially opened and the clockers arrived. I worked young horses that hadn’t yet raced, at speeds below their potential in order to heighten the potential payoff when they made their first starts. But to deliberately cheat a trainer I’m working for is a line I have not yet crossed.

The trainer said she wanted to scratch the horse from the race because of track conditions and all, and told me to give him an easy race. Besides, on his best day, the horse couldn’t run as fast as a man with gout. And why hadn’t they given her the money? She didn’t own the horse, and her commission for winning would be the same as mine. There were subtle things she could have done to make sure the horse didn’t perform well. Or perhaps they had paid her. Maybe the $800 they wanted to give me was merely the fixers’ purchasing insurance.

I take a final glance around and open my hand. He plants the bills in my palm and walks away. Easy money, I think, remembering an old racetrack expression that speaks to the chicanery present in horse racing, yet applies to every other form of commerce that involves people and money. It doesn’t turn out to be easy. The decision is the worst of my entire life.

In the post parade, Society Boy warms up like he’d rather be in his dry stall. He is so calm his trainer doesn’t hire a pony and rider to accompany us to the starting gate. It’s still chilly and drizzling. The track is wet but still officially listed as fast. Beneath my silks is a plastic rain jacket. My riding breeches are plastic and on my helmet are four sets of goggles for the one-mile race. At this point, I’ve been riding races for 13 years and the fact that I lived through it and can still compete on a middle-level grade gives some degree of testimony to my ability. I have some idea of how to help and how to hinder a horse’s performance. Rain pelts my helmet and I line Society Boy up with the rest of the field and walk toward the starting gate that sits in front of the grandstand. Among the couple of thousand people in the aging grandstand could there be any who paid me to lose?

I’d heard the stories about New England racing and its influence by reputed mob boss Raymond Patriarca of Providence, Rhode Island. A rider who rides each summer at the lowly New England fairs bragged that so many races were fixed he had to reserve one well in advance. He said he once had two groups of gangsters fix the same race and collected double. I heard a story of a mob member who came to a trainer’s barn after the man had claimed one of their horses running at a higher level than the horse could handle and was being set up for a bet. When the trainer refused to sell the horse back, he was kidnapped and put in the back of a car as they held a gun to his head. The trainer changed his mind. Despite my mount’s lack of ability, his apparent dislike for the mud, I wished I could change mine.

In reality, fixing a race by picking out one horse to win is far from a sure thing. The horse weighs over 1,000 pounds, the jockey little more than 100. If his mount is superior, the rider would have to stand in the irons and muscle the horse down so strongly the track stewards watching each race would be sure to see it. Even then, if the horse was that much the best, he’d still win. During the morning gallops, horses often run off and go a full race pace with dead-fit 145-pound exercise riders struggling to slow them down.
Also, four cameras mounted in towers film the race from separate angles. Patrol judges watch with binoculars from several strategically placed stands along the outside rail. Three stewards high up in the grandstand watch the race with binoculars and on monitors and take instant reports from the patrol judges. If it’s obvious a jockey deliberately keeps a horse from winning, suspensions can range up to a lifetime.
The nearly black Society Boy has the one post on the rail in the eight-horse field, something I think is good. I can bury him early behind the field and the massive amount of mud being hurled in his face will remove any inkling of courage he might have. In a race on a wet track, the kickback stings your face as if a man three feet away were hurling mud into it.

The four goggles I wear can also be used to an advantage. Behind horses during a race, the flying mud makes the top pair opaque within a quarter mile and must be gently removed. On horseback, in the middle of a pack of horses going nearly 40 mph and racing inches apart, removing them from the top layer down is no mean feat. A clumsy move and they all come tumbling to your chest. Putting them back up is impossible. If I have to, I can pull all of them down, rise on the horse and pull him to the outside, something the stewards would likely forgive given the wet track.
An assistant starter walks up and puts a thin leather lead through the bridle’s chinstrap. He leads us into the first stall and leaves. I consider gigging the horse with my heels to get him excited, something that might give him a lousy start, be he stands there as if he’s asleep. I decide to leave him alone.

The seven horses outside me load quickly, and the starter squeezes a pair of prongs that break the electric circuit that keeps the front doors closed. They spring open and off we go into the rain and mud. As we enter the first turn, less than an eighth mile from the gate, we’re fourth. Mud hits us like we’re inside a car wash. Oddly, Society Boy doesn’t seem to mind. He has his head down and is firmly into the bit. Horses have an extra covering over their eyes that allow them to keep them open even when a wall of water is ripping into their faces. I’m not worried. Not yet.

As the field straightens into the backstretch, a space opens in front of us, and he literally drags me through it. He’s fourth. The three in front of me are staggered and wide apart. No mud is hitting us. I decide to give the reins slack, thus depriving the horse of the support my firm hold is providing. I cautiously move my hands up his neck, not to signal for more speed but to let him flounder a bit on the muddy track. This I believe will discourage him.
To my dismay the early leader slows, and I and another horse pass him. I’m still fourth but in the clear and only about four lengths off the lead. I pull him behind horses again, but instead of slowing, he’s gaining. I’m nervous now. I realize that … other horses are being held, and I know the entire field is running slowly, even for bargain-basement $2,000 claimers.

As we approach the final turn, I have an idea. Horses race with one of their front legs leading. On the backstretch and in the homestretch, that normally is their right leg. To properly negotiate a turn, they must switch to the left lead. I decide to keep Society Boy on the wrong lead, something I think will force him to race wide and lose valuable ground.

To induce a horse to change leads entering the turn, the rider shifts his weight to the left or inside, while gently pulling the right rein to the outside. I do the opposite, shifting my weight outside while putting pressure on the left rein. Society Boy ignores my leaning and shifts perfectly to his left lead. I decide to keep him wide. He’s on the outside, but still moves into third. The two leaders are racing head to head with me alone in third. I’m getting the perfect trip, damn it. In a near panic, I tighten the reins.

Society Boy sees it as a sign to accelerate and despite my strong hold moves into second at the top of the stretch with less than a quarter-mile remaining. The only horse in front of me is starting to tire. I can jump off or muzzle him back so hard the stewards can’t help but notice and likely finish second. The only other option is to win. Jumping off a perfectly good racehorse is like jumping out of a perfectly good plane. Without a parachute. Behind me are a half-dozen racehorses. If I keep a stranglehold, I’ll draw the attention of the stewards, who might rule me off for years. Even worse, they’d investigate the race and interview its riders. It would not only put a lot of heat on me, but on the people that were fixing the race.

There’s a point in nearly every race at which a jockey is sure he’s going to win. Because it hasn’t happened yet, that moment is more thrilling than even going under the wire in front. I never heard the roaring crowd because my every fiber is overwhelmed by a sense-numbing moment when the horse and I melt into a single purpose. The line where I end and the horse begins is blurred. For a few brief seconds it ceases to exist.

It’s the reason riders come back from near-crippling injuries to again climb aboard a Thoroughbred. It’s why they return from retirement and hang on long after their best days, tamping down the naturally recurring fear that crops up in the frontal lobe like davits on a golf course. That singular, silver sliver of a split second is something I still dream about.

To make this horse finish worse than third in front of three track stewards and a battery of cameras would not shoot my career in the foot but the temple. No more silver sliver moments. My fellow jockeys in the race will have to answer questions that might also end their careers. I don’t know what the race fixers would do. I am sure what the track stewards and the racing commission will do.

I decide to win.

With less than a furlong to go, I cock my whip, give Society Boy a reminding tap, and start hand riding. He wins by a length and a half.
We walk into the winner’s circle and Jeanne is there, happy and carefree. I don’t think she knew what was going down. The race’s final time for a mile is 1:44 2/5, at lease three seconds or 15 lengths slower than normal even for $2,000 claimers. This is the only race Society Boy will win in 24 starts that year. Nearly three weeks later I ride him over the wet track at a distance only 70 yards farther and in a cheaper $1,500 claiming race. He is never closer than sixth, and in a field of eight finishes seventh. This time I try hard. His 101-race career ends at age ten with total earnings of $19,308.

But on this day Society Boy is the winner. As I walk back to the jockeys’ room covered from head to toe with mud, I look again into the nearly empty grandstand, half expecting a crazed Italian to run down the steps and start shooting.

I know there will be retribution. I just don’t know what it will look like.

While Reviews are Great, the Book’s Best Review Came from God.

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I wrestled long and hard with God about writing “Ride the White Horse.” My past was past and the Lord had put me in a meaningful hospice and hospital chaplaincy. Why look back, I reasoned. It would be painful and not worth it. Yet, I felt the Holy Spirit’s prompting, and finally said to God, “If you can put in my heart that one person will go to heaven through this book, I’ll write it.” God did and I spend three years writing it.

Recently, working as a hospice chaplain, a team member told me about a long time racetracker I’ll call Jimmy who was near death but didn’t want to see a chaplain. I called and was surprised to learn someone had sent him a copy of my book. He told me come by, but warned he wasn’t religious. During the visit, he sounded intrigued by my book, cited a long-past relationship with the church and asked questions. The visit ended with him saying he knew Jesus was God and in a prayer asked Christ for forgiveness. He found the spiritual peace the book invited. Three days later, Jimmy died.

No odds maker could compute the odds on Jimmy having my book. That one person in heaven I felt God had promised could not be mistaken.

*****
Again, while working as a hospice chaplain, a widow, whose husband died in hospice care, called and asked me to stop by. Once there, she talked about the recent death of her husband, my previous visits and thanked me for my book, which she purchased after a hospice nurse told her about it. It seems her husband had a hard time believing God could forgive his many sins. But she said after reading about my dark sinful life that Christ’s grace changed so radically it was now spent in bringing comfort to the dying, he was convinced—as the book said—that “Christ is willing to forgive any and all of our sins.” My forgiven sins had helped him understand that his too could be forgiven.
“We read it together the last few weeks of his life.” she said as tears filled our eyes, “Because of the book, I know that one day I’ll be with him in heaven.”

Electric Jockeys and How to Forever Rid Horse Racing of “Machines”

A typical machine
It’s the day before Seattle Slew will win the Kentucky Derby and start his successful trek to a Triple Crown victory. At Churchill Downs, some 47,000 fans watch as an assistant starter leads my mount Jubilist Jude around and around behind the starting gate in what seems like endless circles. The gate is parked at the sixteenth pole directly in front of the grandstand. In my right hand are a rein and a machine.

Machines, joints, batteries, buzzers are tiny two-pronged hand-held electrical devices designed to deliver an attention-getting shock to a Thoroughbred in the midst of a race. In my book, Ride the White Horse: A Checkered Jockey’s Story of Racing, Rage and Redemption, I admit to using a machine in at least 50 races. It is not a fact of which I am proud. But it is a fact. In this era of allegations of wholesale horse abuse by PETA and a gaggle of misinformation regarding machines, I felt compelled to talk about their use, something I know first-hand.

On this day, I’d watched my horse spit out his tongue-tie as he approached the gate and realized I was being exposed to a five-year or more suspension. At the time in Kentucky, only a trainer could retie one, and the track announcer had asked the trainer to come to the starting gate. A tongue tie is designed to keep a horse from swallowing its tongue during a race and the lump swelling in my throat caused me to repeatedly swallow.

While the machine was hidden in my hand, I feared a fan’s “harmless” photo would show the small portion housing the prongs that stuck out of my hand’s bottom. I had a vision of the blown-up photo sitting on a table before a trio of track stewards as I explained that what they saw protruding from the bottom of my hand was an optical illusion. As machine horses go, this one was the real thing. He’s a grandson of the great Citation, with decent conformation and was healthy and fit. But he’s extremely lazy. Suspecting as much, I’d ridden him in a workout, and without the trainer knowing it, touched him once with the machine. He’d responded with a burst of new speed. His previous start came at lowly Beulah Park. I’d bet $800, believing his odds would be high.

I flash back to the Jockeys’ Room at the then Florida Downs a few years earlier. Two Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau agents approached my locker, and I realized I was about to be searched. I was about to use a machine on my next mount. They escorted me and another jockey I picked to be my witness—a legality in those days—upstairs to the sleeping room. There, I completely disrobed, proving I had no machine on my body. A search of my locker proved fruitless. Had they searched me 10 minutes later, they would have found my machine. By then, I would have retrieved it from between the springs of one of the sleeping room beds—a few feet from where I had been searched.

I’d considered swearing off machines that day and now fear again crawled up my spine with the subtlety of a desert scorpion. By the time the trainer showed up, my hair was sweat-wet, and I couldn’t stop my hands from shaking. I’d ridden 16 years, broken a dozen bones, thrown up over 10,000 times and watched some five tons of my sweat run down the drains of some 54 Jockeys’ Room “hot boxes.” I wasn’t a top stakes race rider and knew I’d never be one. Five years on the ground and my riding career was as dead as Man O War. By this time, I’d sold articles to virtually every major newspaper east of the Mississippi. Go out this way and no newspaper was going to hire me as a writer. Instead, I’d support my kids throwing them on people’s porches.

I was never so happy to be loaded into a starting gate. The horse won. Though no one except my wife knew I carried a machine, Jubilist Jude payed only $10.80 for a $2 bet. My $400 win and $400 show bet earned me about $2,200, not counting the $260 I received for winning the $4,000 purse.

This time, I vowed to never again use a machine. A vow I kept.

Machines: Fact and Fiction

I was a strong left-handed rider, knew how to snap the whip at the end of the swing and could lay stripes. But some horses, probably less than one half of one percent, learn to ignore the whip and loaf. This made those few powerful betting tools. Leave off the machine and ride hard, use the whip even, and the horse still runs poorly. Light him up at the top of the stretch with a little electricity, and he finds new life.
Thus, the life of the rare “machine rider,” consists of meeting and testing many of those suspected under-achievers during morning workouts. Riders not first testing a horse and “hitting” him for the first time in a race are subject to their mounts sulking, bucking or even running into another horse or bolting over a rail. No rider without a death wish is going to habitually “hit” horses for the first time in their races. If a rider has not ridden a horse in a workout, it’s unlikely that rider will use a machine in a race. Every true machine horse I encountered was an older, well experienced, calm male. For me, two year olds, fillies, and very nervous horses weren’t even candidates for a morning test. Simply too unpredictable. This testing means a rider will often have a machine in his or her possession on the backstretch, a place where a body search is well within the purview of racing officials, so that rare animal automatically enhances the possibility of being caught.

I don’t want to cast trainers in a bad light because hundreds of them hired me. Almost that many fired me. Yet, I noted that many did not understand the basics of a machine and believed a lot of horses would improve with one. I actually knew one rider who had a fake machine, incapable of shocking a horse. He would take it into the saddling paddock, stand close to the trainer and quickly pull back the top of his riding pant’s top, flashing it.

I agree with severe penalties for riders caught with a machine in their possession, but not because I agree with PETA’s assertion that machine use is inhuman. I simply know a true machine horse is a gambler’s dream, creating an opportunity to cheat the betting public.

Machines: My Best Practices

While writing for the Dallas Morning News in the 1980s, I penned the article, “Electric Jockeys and their Juice Machines.” In it, I quoted anonymously a rider who knew far more than me about machines and taught me much of what I had learned. Many readers thought this person was actually me, but it was not. I detail best practices here not as an incentive for other riders because I’ve already said, the reward does not justify the risk. Instead, I want racing authorities to know what to look for.

A machine administers a light but highly surprising shock. I used to practice on one of my arms or the heel of my palm so I wouldn’t be shy about handling one when it counted. If I knew it was coming, the shock was only mildly uncomfortable. Yet, it is something entirely foreign to a racehorse, and I am convinced it is the surprise and not the shock that causes the horse to react. When I used a machine in a race, I only touched their neck once or twice. Keep applying it, the surprise disappears, and it becomes useless. If I were a racehorse, I would much prefer to be touched with a machine than hit repeatedly with a whip.

I never stored a machine in my locker but found safe places where it was not likely to be detected and could be retrieved after weighing out and before leaving the Jockeys’ Room for the paddock. I never had anyone pass it to me, such as a pony rider in the post parade or a trainer in the paddock. Too risky and easy to fumble. I kept it in the top of my jockey strap, prongs out and took it out during the post parade. I could do this without an accompanying pony rider even noticing. I never dropped it to the track after a race. That too can be seen, and when track maintenance workers find it, it could contain my fingerprints.

When I stood in the saddle after a race I used the normal move to pull down my goggles but continued my hand movement to my pants, used my pinky finger to make a space at the top and deftly dropped it inside. If stewards want to look for an identifying move to store a machine in a safe place after a race, this is it. When dropped inside my pants it was safely out of sight. I stung the back of my thigh once in the winners’ circle and fought to not grimace. Once back in the Jockeys’ Room, I would go inside a bathroom stall and privately retrieve it, store it away from my locker and get it only when I was about to leave for the day. If anything looked suspicious, it stayed in the Jockeys’ Room that night. Rarely did anyone but my wife and I know I was going to use it. Too easy, as they say, to “drop a dime.”

Once at Keeneland, a rider forgot he’d put his machine in his helmet after a race. Disgusted at losing, he threw his helmet into his open locker space. The machine bounced off the locker’s back wall and slid across the Jockeys Room floor, stopping a few feet behind the Clerk of Scales who was weighing riders out for the next race. In retrieving it, the rider moved faster than his losing mount.

I’ve read in recent articles stories of riders hiding their machines in blinkers or under their saddle towels. This would not only be an unreliable place to plant one, it would also require a movement that would be far too obvious. A rider with a machine in his hand does not want to attract attention of any kind. Still, there was a case in the 1980s when a rider was searched behind the gate for a machine. When nothing was found, he supposedly chastised the agents searching him, causing a disgruntled assistant starter to tell the agents that the machine had been neatly wrapped inside the knot riders always tie to shorten the excess reins.

I had the opportunity to buy a whip with an electrical device imbedded inside the handle. During the post parade, the rider took two tiny metal cylinders from his mouth and stuck them into the handle where they made contact with the coil generating the shock. I wasn’t interested. I was so afraid of getting caught that the night before I used a machine was often sleepless. Knowing that laying inside my Jockeys’ Room locker was a device that if discovered would have removed my paycheck for at least five years would have made all nights sleepless.

Track Stewards: How Savvy are They?

I was amazed that stewards could seriously consider that Jose Santos used a machine in the 2003 Kentucky Derby aboard winner Funny Cide or Luis Saez used one on Will Take Charge in last year’s Travers Stakes. Jockeys are pretty handy on the backs of racing Thoroughbreds, but they are not magicians. In the latter race, I watched the tapes and was sure Saez was innocent and said so on Facebook. In the heat of the investigation, Bill Finley of ESPN.com called and asked why I was so sure.

First, it was reported that Saez had never been on the back of Will Take Charge before the race. For a jockey to “plug in” a horse he had never before ridden—even in a morning workout—in a $1 million race seemed ludicrous. The rider has no way of knowing how the horse will react or even if it will help. When I saw Saez switch sticks from his right to his left hand at the top of the stretch and then hand ride, (something Santos also did on Funny Cide), I was convinced he was innocent.

Virtually all riders switch whip hands the same way. When going from right to left— a common practice—the rider uses his left hand underhanded to lift the stick from the right hand holding the whip. This requires the rider hold the crossed reins with his right hand while using the left to lift the whip with the opposite hand. If a machine is in the rider’s right hand, he would also hold the crossed reins in his right hand, along with the stick. Conversely, if the machine is in the rider’s left hand when he switches the whip to that hand, he would have to reach for the stick underhanded with a machine in his palm.

If the rider then used the whip in his left hand, he would have to do it while holding the machine in the same hand, something I never came close to accomplishing. When the rider goes to a hand ride, as is typical during the finish, the rider with the whip and machine in his left hand would have to again grasp the left rein. Again, all three would be in the same hand. So in any scenario, the rider at some point would have to hold a rein, the whip and the machine in the same hand. A machine is at least the size of a roll of dimes and jockeys do not have giant hands. It is my considered opinion that to hold all three at the same time as well as change whip hands with a machine in either hand is virtually impossible.

And the question begs: If a rider risks using a machine, the rider must consider it a worthwhile source of motivation. So even if holding all three in the same hand while race riding were possible, why would the rider even go to the trouble of switching whip hands if using the machine would be easier and more effective? I, and all machine riders I encountered in nearly 20 years of race riding, always kept a machine in the same hand throughout the race and gently touched the horse’s neck with it, usually while whipping with the other hand to make any sudden acceleration seem caused by the whip. This, in itself, requires practice and dexterity.

I apologize in my book for my actions and I do the same here. Yet, I cannot change what happened. However, I can let racing officials know what I learned about machines in hopes that it will help keep racing free of machines. I am not opposed to a lifetime ban for riders caught with a machine on their person. And to riders, I ask them to compare the amount of money they will lose with a five-year or more suspension with what they may gain by using a machine. I believe that probably 98 or 99 percent of riders complete their careers without even seeing a machine.

How to Eliminate Machines

Perhaps I’m naive, but I think I have a simple way to forever rid the sport of machines. It’s my understanding that all license holders are subject to having their body, barn, and auto searched any time that person is on track property. While likely not invented when I rode, seeing a member of track security, either in the backsretch or the Jockeys Room, carrying a metal detecting wand—like those used by TSA agents inside airports—would have scared me straight.

Every machine I saw consisted of a battery, either triple AAA or several stacked hearing aid batteries, connected to a copper coil with two prongs at the bottom and generally wrapped with flesh colored tape. One prong is a ground and the other is built to retract when pressed against a solid object, such as a horse’s neck, completing contact between the coil and the actual battery, producing an electric current. I don’t think a shock can be administered without a metal coil, always copper in the machines I used. The battery itself contains metal. These, I am convinced, would be detectable with a metal detecting wand.

Rev. Eddie Donnally today

During a recent book signing at Tampa Bay Downs, a track security agent bought my book. I joked that the purchase price should be tax-deducible as a “Training Manual.” One book reviewer on Amazon, a vet at the New York tracks, wrote that my book should be required reading for aspiring jockeys. I made virtually all the mistakes and recorded them. Had I the opportunity for a do-over, I would never have touched a machine. But, alas I do not. However, through the grace of God I have changed. I have been in full time ministry for the past 17 years and am a professional hospital and hospice chaplain. Much of my life today is spent encouraging others to avoid the mistakes I made. That’s true of my use of machines.

Being outside racing has given me outside eyes. My training as a type of counselor (I hold a Doctorate in Ministry with a minor in counseling) has caused me to understand that a patient’s perception of their illness is their reality. Correct or incorrect in medical terms, perception has the power to affect their health. Right or wrong, good or bad, PETA has changed the world’s perception of Thoroughbred racing and that perception has damaged its health. Sadly, the perception of sickness will remain no matter how many racing writers insist the patient’s diagnosis is not so dim after all. I always said there is nothing worse than a reformed reformer, but here I go. I believe racing must return to the “Hay, Oats and Water” mentality of a past era if it is to return to its past glory or even survive into the next century.

I hope this article forever ends the use of machines. I acknowledged the mistakes I made. I changed for the better. I pray racing will also.

Jerry Bailey: The Death of Terminal Uniqueness

Jerry on the right with wife, Suzee and their son, Justin

Jerry on the right with wife, Suzee and their son, Justin

By Eddie Donnally, Author: “Ride the White Horse.”

When Hall of Fame Jockey Jerry Bailey is living in South Florida don’t dare call him on a Thursday evening.

He’s at his home meeting. Only it isn’t at home, but takes place in a building with about 125 other alcoholics. Never mind that he’s easily one of the best race riders of modern times or that he’s become the nation’s face for jockeys when his impish smile, tucked in below a non-existent hair line, lights up the NBC airwaves from coast to coast. On Thursdays, you get voice mail.

His battle was chronicled in an insightful and totally transparent autobiography entitled “Against the Odds: Riding for my Life,” which he co-authored in 2006 with USA Today’s Tom Pedulla. Eight years later his saga continues. Recovery is like a racetrack. It doesn’t have an end.

Insidious disease

Bailey’s upbringing as the son of a successful El Paso, Texas, dentist with two older sisters and a stay-at-home mom rings of Leave it to Beaver. He grew up riding his own pony, and for a time, his dad owned Thoroughbreds and hustled his mounts. At age 17 in 1974, Bailey won two of his first three races at nearby Sunland Park. Hardly the stuff one supposes would lead to alcoholism.

“I am thoroughly convinced that the disease of alcoholism or drug addiction does not discriminate,” he said recently from his home in Davie, Florida. “It doesn’t care if you have a degree from Harvard and a hundred million dollars in the bank, or if you didn’t get out of eighth grade and have ten cents. It doesn’t matter.”

Drinking beer with friends at 15 quickly eventually segued into partying at bars with other jockeys. His blond hair stretched to his neck, his bell bottoms stretched to his platform shoes, and his drinking stretched into the next morning.

“When I came around in the early 70s, it was a game that not only accepted alcohol but encouraged it to a degree,” he recalls. “The more fearless you were from the gate to the wire and the crazier you were, the more people thought of you as a rider. So it was a career and atmosphere that really fostered addictive personalities. I was mired in mediocrity … sure I could reach tremendous heights, but wasn’t willing to put in the work to do it. My priority was not my business but monkey business.”

He won his first stakes at Ak-Sar-Ben a year after he started riding, bought a new red Cadillac from an uncle, and soon dangling over his rear-view mirror was a pair of fluffy red dice. The dice rolled. He lost. Beer become vodka.

“(Vodka) is insidious,” he would write years later. “It creeps up on you like a thief in the night, and I never saw it approaching. I drank vodka and 7-Up, vodka and orange juice, vodka and damn near anything.”

Yet, Bailey was a success. In 1977 he won four $100,000 stakes at Gulfstream Park. In 1982 he topped the money won standings at Keeneland and a few weeks later rode his first Derby mount, finishing 17th aboard New Discovery. The next year, he arrived on the Hialeah backstretch to work Grade 1 winner Tap Shoes for trainer Horatio Luro after a long night of using his elbows to hold down a bar. His windbreaker was inside out.

The following spring at the same Florida track he spotted a beauty named Suzee Chulick making her way through the grandstands, followed by a camera crew. Minutes away from riding Time for A Change in the Flamingo Stakes, he ogled the tall blond with a cover girl face and figure. Always smart, Bailey knew she’d be interviewing the winner. Riding as if his life was on the line—and as it turned out, it may have been—he won by a head.

He returned to the jock’s room with her telephone number in hand, waving it over his head like a winning lottery ticket. They dated, with Bailey even visiting while she taught a religious school class. But his trophy mentality reigned and when he finally asked her to marry him with the condition she sign a prenup, she ran off like a riderless racehorse.

Months of apologies left on her answering machine somehow restored the relationship. A Long Island Catholic monsignor agreed to perform the marriage ceremony and they set the date, December 17, 1985—a Tuesday—so Bailey wouldn’t have to miss a day of racing. (Inauspiciously, at his bachelor’s party he became so inebriated he at one point belligerently refused to relinquish his car keys to his future father-in-law.) Suzee, who that week had turned down a lucrative Boston news casting job, chose to go through with the wedding anyway; Bailey rewarded her confidence by spending much of their Aruba honeymoon drinking.

The summer before, he had been riding for trainer Mack Miller and the powerful Rokeby Stable. Bailey swept the Metropolitan, Suburban and Brooklyn Handicaps with Rokeby’s Fit to Fight—a Grade I triple play that took his career to a new level. His ego grew along with it and he began informing trainers of his losing Belmont mounts that their horses belonged upstate at Finger Lakes. Consumed with partying in bars (with what he called “yes men”), Bailey’s life was becoming a bottle cork bobbing along on a river of vodka. Yet, to talk to others about his problem was to admit he had one. He was afflicted with what he called “terminal uniqueness.”

“Most difficult for me was the thought that nobody understood. In my mind, I was so unique, no one would understand me, so why even try talking about my problem? Nobody like me had my problem, so how could I expect anybody to understand me? And if I couldn’t expect anybody to understand, why bother trying to talk to them about my problem? It was the way my alcoholic mind worked.”

Marriage did not stop his drinking and as his mind fogged, his body slowed. Though Miller had become a valued mentor, he was, as are most good trainers, an astute observer. In 1986 when two of Bailey’s mounts for Miller were disqualified in major races, Miller began using other jockeys. Bailey quickly hooked up with trainer John Veitch and, for a while, his career never missed a beat. Yet, like many alcoholics, he continued to tell himself a lie that only he could believe. His “terminal uniqueness” had become full blown denial.

“Why would anyone get up at 6:00 a.m. and start drinking—cause all kinds of personal problems, do things that will ruin their career—and wake up the next day and do it all over again if they were thinking clearly? They wouldn’t. As an alcoholic I didn’t think right,” he admits now. “It’s a disease that tells you, you don’t have a disease.”

With Suzee, he became verbally abusive, demanding dinner be on the table when he walked in the door, telling her she was getting too fat or too skinny—too this or too that—and sometimes blowing up and throwing things in her direction. Nothing seemed to please him.

“I had reached the point where drinking wasn’t fun anymore. It was a lot of fun when I started out. Now it was painful, a beat down. I was losing my marriage, losing my career … and my self-respect was next to go.”

At one point Suzee left and went to her brother’s house in St. Petersburg, something Jerry described as fine because he could now drink without being hassled. But as weeks stretched on, he admitted to himself, perhaps for the first time, he might have a problem. Yet, he worried that reports of rehab might damage his career. He promised Suzee he’d stop drinking and she returned home, but during a picnic outing soon after, he verbally lit into her in front of others. When she checked his glass, supposedly filled with soda … she found straight vodka. Bailey’s “terminal uniqueness” was getting a headache.
Yet Suzee stayed.

“It was an emotional roller coaster that I’m sure most who are married to addictive people will understand,” she recently explained. “Those times when they are feeling guilty about how they acted—or what they can remember of how they acted—the sweet day-after behavior can be golden and reminiscent of the real person behind the alcoholic. That golden part keeps you coming back … makes you hang in there.”

“Suzee tried to tell me, but I didn’t listen,” Bailey added. “I lost mount after mount, trainer after trainer, and it wasn’t until I was going to lose Suzee that I took it seriously. And even then I wasn’t sure I could stop.”

In the fall of 1987 Bailey visited a Long Island priest who suggested he attend the aforementioned church AA meeting. He sat in the far back and when members began describing how alcohol destroyed their lives, he left. His “terminal uniqueness” was by now in intensive care, and he spent several weeks telling Suzee he was attending meetings when, in fact, he was drinking in bars. Yet … something had happened at that first meeting.

“I got to the door and they were all laughing and having a good time. I remember thinking—‘I don’t want to stop drinking, but I want to be happy like those people.’ It stuck in my mind even though I left. Again, that’s the mind of an alcoholic. But there was enough of a seed planted that I saw some kind of hope.”

The bottom was approaching as fast as the sidewalk below the ten-story building he had jumped from. Yet on the way down, he was considering a parachute. Determined not to drink during a December skiing vacation in Colorado and later in the Cayman Islands, he failed miserably. Suzee tried to talk him into rehab, but Bailey continued to fear for his career. She left at Christmas to visit her parents, only to return to find him passed out on a couch, the gin bottle she had marked to check on his drinking, filled with water. His “terminal uniqueness” had entered hospice.

Help on the way

At long last, he decided to get help. A friend suggested a six-week outpatient program run by Terry Grant. Bailey stayed three months.

“Hi, I’m Jerry and I’m an alcoholic,” he would say. It was that simple, yet that difficult. He learned to take a scathing look inside his soul … to unload the burden of perfection and take up what he called “good enough.” His “terminal uniqueness” at long last passed away. The unpredictable, ego-challenging messiness of life would no longer be a reason to get numb.

It wasn’t easy. When the three first met, Grant informed Suzee that she, too, would have to recover, and he recommended she attend Al-Anon, a program for spouses of addicts. The woman whose profound faith had kept her hanging in there for so long, abruptly took off to sort it all out.

“I drank a bit but never even smoked a joint,” she said. “I was thinking, ‘I’ve lived a relatively clean life, and now I have to go to meetings?’ I wanted to leave. I had skid marks, so I headed to California.”

“There’s actually a good reason why spouses need a program,” Bailey explained. “I’d inflicted damage on Suzee and everybody close to me. They have to recover as well. For them it doesn’t involve drinking, but they still have to recover.”

Suzie returned and entered Al-anon, and that same year Bailey won his first million-dollar race on the prophetically named Home at Last in Louisiana Downs’ Super Derby. Celebrating with a drink was not an option. Terrified of slipping, he insisted Suzie travel with him to major races. In addition to regular AA meetings, the Baileys began attending Mass.

“I am not a Bible thumper,” Bailey says, “but I’d tried to quit drinking on my own and couldn’t. When I turned my life over to God, all of a sudden I quit. That was enough for me.”

Suzee termed her husband’s recovery “a miracle.” At the same time, they prayed that God had another one in his back pocket. “For me, after years of marriage, we were not only dealing with Jerry’s drinking but with infertility. It was like bam! Bam! Either one of those could try a relationship.”

Asked in his program to name his greatest fear, Bailey wrote: “Never being able to father a child.” They tried fertility drugs. Nothing. They prayed and even had a friend visiting Rome arrange for a novena, a set of special prayers, to be said there. He returned with a blessed set of rosary beads. Bailey carried them everywhere. On November 22, 1992, their son, Justin Daniel Bailey was born, and Suzee had her second “miracle.”

No longer bearing the weight of alcohol and arrogance, but girded with a confidence born of dedication to the craft, a fledging faith, and a loving family waiting for him after work, Bailey’s career soared during the 1990s.

In the 15 years between 1974 through 1988, his mounts won $36.1 million. During his first four seasons without alcohol, Bailey’s mounts banked $38.5-million. From 1990 through 2005, horses he rode earned $251.7-million. There were two scores in each of the three Triple Crown races, a record 15 Breeders’ Cup victories, 16 consecutive wins aboard the great Cigar, triumphs in four of the first 10 Dubai World Cups, and a record seven Eclipse Awards as outstanding rider.

Bailey served as Jockeys’ Guild President; his fellow riders honored him with the prestigious George Woolf Award; and in 1995 he slipped on the green jacket worn by Racing Hall of Fame inductees. He retired from a legendary race-riding career in 2006 with his mounts earning $295-million, second all-time only to Pat Day’s $298-million. His single-season earnings record of $23.5-million established in 2003 was not surpassed until 2012—when Ramon Dominquez required 1,398 races to do so compared to Bailey’s 776.

Then, as smoothly as Bailey had climbed aboard champion racehorses, he climbed into the broadcast booth.

These days the Baileys live a comfortable life, six months in South Florida and the same in Saratoga. Both do charitable work. She has been active with child welfare programs, including playing an instrumental role in developing the Belmont Park daycare facility “Anna’s House.” He has been involved with the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund, and is also readily available to speak in confidence to those in the Thoroughbred industry battling addiction.

“The only way I keep it is to give it away,” he’ll tell you. “The only way I can stay sober is to reach out and try to help another alcoholic. To help others and to talk about my own alcoholism helps me.

“At meetings, I remember what it was like when I did drink. People usually relapse when they stop going. You stop hearing the things you need to hear in terms of pain, suffering, and the sickness of the disease from others who just came in. If I can remember 20 years ago when I had to take a drink to survive, then there’s a good chance I’m not going to drink … at least not today. It’s a daily reprieve.”

So, if it’s Thursday, Bailey is in Davie and you want to talk to him, you’ll have to visit AA.
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Left Handed Warriors

HOW LEFT-HANDED WARRIORS BECOME WOUNDED HEALERS.

By Rev/Dr. Eddie Donnally

Can the deeply wounded actually become God’s most effective agents for healing?

Judges 20:16 mentions 700 “select men,” among 26,000 Benjamite warriors who were left handed. “Every one would sling a stone at a hair’s breadth and not miss.” In a dead run on horseback, they could sling a round stone at over 100 mph and place it in the middle of a foe’s forehead. They were the most deadly warriors of their day. The Bible typically depicts being left-handed as less than desirable and many theologians surmise that these fighters used their left hand because they had been wounded on the right side. Though they had to adjust and use their left hand, they were the elite.

All of us to some degree have been wounded, body, soul and spirit. Some wounds are inflicted by those we trust the most; friends, parents, our spouses or other relatives. For me, my mom died of cancer when I was five. My grandmother took over raising me but died when I was twelve. When I moved in with my new stepfamily, I was sexually traumatized by a relative.

Though I pushed my anger from my conscious thoughts, became a professional jockey, married and had children, it was still there. God made us in his image and we have God’s same yearning to rectify evil. Later, my relative was not available to hate and my rage found a natural outlet atop a half-ton Thoroughbred racing at 40 mph.

After 20 years of racing, I became a successful, workaholic newspaper writer and underwent a divorce. As is often the case, my adolescent behavior hit me like a running racehorse decades after it occurred. I suddenly acted out through same-sex promiscuity. I knew it was dangerous, yet couldn’t stop. My hate for my stepbrother had turned inward, becoming self hate. That self hate was fed by my behaviors which generated more self loathing which gave me more reason to hate myself. On and on it went.

In gaining my Doctorate of Ministry, I learned that the unfulfilled rage of abused persons often perpetuates this same deadly cycle. It’s why many abused females become prostitutes and males battle same-sex attraction. We act out the things we hate as a way to hurt ourselves and pay penitence for the guilt we feel for past and current behaviors. My drugs and alcohol abuse became another way to kill myself and on some level enjoy the process.

Yes, for some of us our deepest wounds are self inflicted.

A suicide attempt, a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, anti-depressant medication and two stays in psyche wards followed my divorce and a descent into behaviors I abhorred but couldn’t stop. I was caught in the cycle of self hate. I was like a caged gerbil on an exercise wheel, running like crazy but remaining caged. After I hit my girlfriend and wound up detoxing in jail, my mind became clear enough to realize my rage was going to do more damage to others and destroy me.

Christ’s redemption comes in different ways for different people, but come it does if we genuinely seek it. Mine came in a large courtroom holding cell when a fellow inmate read James 1: 1-2 from a tiny Gideon New Testament given to me by a prison chaplain. The holding cell filled with a golden sparkling, music filled, smoky-blue haze I am convinced was the Shekinah Glory. All the prisoners had tear-filled eyes. We formed a circle of hands and asked Christ to change our lives. Though I had been in only one Pentecostal church service and thought it strange, I was given the gift of tongues, something I use in voice or silently every day.

Several things happened that day, December 16, 1996. II Cor. 5:17 says we become a “new creation,” when we come to Christ. I believe God rearranged my DNA. I first cried because of the misery I was in, then cried because I realized the misery I had created in others, and then I cried because God had forgiven me. In that was the bondage-breaking power to forgive my abuser. And I have.

Yet as a manifestation of God, my diving healing is, was, and is to come. I was, am and will continue to heal. God is no respecter of persons and why my redemption was so dramatic I don’t know, except God gave me the passion and perhaps ability to tell others about it.

The antidote for self hate is self love. That comes when we begin to wrap our minds around the fact that God the Father send God the Son, who lived as a human just like us and died a horrible death so we can be forgiven and have eternal life. If we are important to enough to have God die for me, how dare we hate ourselves. The antidote for rage is forgiveness and when we consider the extent of our forgiven sins, how dare we not forgive others. (Matt 18:21-35, Luke 7:41-48)

Salvation is the greatest healing miracle of all. Within it is not only personal healing but a passion to become an agent in other’s healing. That’s why I went back to school in my 60s, earned a doctorate, spent 16 months in a hospital resident chaplain program and now minister as a hospital and hospice chaplain. With my personal pain came an understanding of the depths of pain in others. That understanding empowered by the Holy Spirit becomes compassion

Repentance means to make a 180 degree turn and it does just that. Once our pain becomes compassion we act out Christ’s love for us just as we once acted out the Satan propagated hate for ourselves. That love ends the cycle of self hate becoming guilt-ridden, self punishing behaviors that only generate more self hate. Now, helping others heal helps us heal, and that healing generates a passion to help more heal, which additionally helps us heal. Christ’s grace has not only halted but reversed the cycle, 180 degrees. II Cor.1: 3-4 is a key. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”

This is how left-handed warriors become wounded healers. We don’t adjust. Christ’s love does it for us. Through the realization of His grace and the power of the Holy Spirit working in us, we wounded become God’s warring agents for healing, as accurate and potent as the 700 elite Benjamites.

GOD’S FIX WAS IN: JAY RICHARDS

RidephotoJay_edited-3

On the morning of October 1, 1987, Jay Richards shook off the remnants of a constant hangover and left his Las Vegas apartment with a singular purpose: making bets on a fixed horse race.

Those in recovery have a time when they hit bottom. Jay never knew it, but his was on the way.

The well known horse racing writer, successful radio show host and experienced track publicity director was addicted to alcohol. The previous day Gary Tropp, a now deceased former roommate and harness horse driver at New Jersey’s now defunct Garden State Park, called. Tropp said he had bribed four other drivers in a race and he would restrain his horse. He asked Jay to box Quinella wagers, which require picking the top two finishers in any order, on the remaining live horses at the city’s many race books. In those days, Vegas race books didn’t mingle their bets with tracks and each had a separate pool that often provided higher payoffs than tracks.

Richards was about to become a “beard,” a word devised by criminal race fixers who use known gamblers to place bets on fixed races. He wrote and handicapped races for the Las Vegas Review-Journal and was a frequent bettor. “I’d probably unknowingly been betting on fixed horse races all the time.” he said. “I gave in to greed.”

The race went as planned. One race book’s Quinellas paid a whopping $192 for a $2 bet. Yet he immediately noticed that at Garden State Park, which did not have Quinella wagering, their Exacta, a harder wager to win, paid far less than expected. “This was not good,” he said. “I knew they (the track’s drivers who knew about the fixed race) had gotten greedy and bet big at the track. This would bring heat on the race.”

Still, all but a few race books cashed their winning tickets and eventually all did. Richard’s life of writing, handicapping, betting and drinking heavily continued. “I figured we got the money and I didn’t think anyone would find out.”

But the following summer, he learned the New Jersey State Police had arrested Tropp for the fixed race. Tropp called, saying he had admitted to the felony and in turn would avoid prison. “He told me to also cooperate, and that I would get the same deal. He said the New Jersey State Police would soon be paying me a visit. I knew I was in serious trouble.”

As soon as the state police interviewed Richards and he admitted to placing the bets, they notified the Nevada Gaming Control Board who contacted the newspaper. He job was gone. “The bottom fell out,” he said. “I had a clear prior record, but there I was. I learned what it is like to be sitting at home and watching the evening news and they are talking about you being suspended from your job because of race fixing. I went from being a well-know and accepted individual to a pariah (social outcast) overnight.”

“I literally wanted to die,” he later wrote for the Las Vegas Christian Chronicle. “Recurring thoughts of suicide were alternately pondered and rejected. I dealt with my agonizing pain and misery the only way I knew how. I drank.” His losing 10-year-old battle with alcohol morphed into drinking a quart of Canadian bourbon each day. Trying to quite his shaking hands, he smoked three packs a day. In May 1989, a New Jersey grand jury indicted him for one count of “Conspiracy to rig a publicly exhibited event,” a New Jersey felony.

He feared going to jail and knew his alcoholism was potentially fatal. Yet he didn’t consider God an option. A self-admitted skeptic, he had all the intellectual reason why, “All this God stuff was just something man had invented, ‘the opiate of the masses’ as Karl Marx had penned.’”

God had other plans. Broke and out of work, he moved to Southern California for a fresh start. There, he renewed his friendship with Andre Martel, a former C & W singer, then an associate pastor at an Orange County Calvary Chapel Church. Persistent in his witness, Martel finally told Richards that “in Christ you can have a brand new life.”

On February 1, 1990 Richards finally understood his tenuous life was out of control, yet he couldn’t stop living a lifestyle he hated. That night in his tiny apartment, he realized that, “To accept or reject Christ was one of the few real choices I had left. I gave up.” He fell to his knees and called out to God. “I let go of everything I’d been holding on to for so many years,” he wrote. “Most notably my foolish pride.”

He confessed his faults, asked Christ to forgive him and become Lord of his life. He challenged Christ, telling him if he were real, he’d help him stop drinking and find a job. The next morning he awoke with no desire to drink. He immersed himself into the Bible and was soon teaching it twice a week to a group of 30 mentally handicapped adults, something he described as “greatly blessing me.”

The next year he got a call out of nowhere from Rodd Stowell, then the program director for the Las Vegas based Sports Entertainment Network (later purchased by ESPN). Stowell offered him a four-hour sports talk show on coast to coast satellite radio. He returned to Las Vegas and the following year got a call from Jim Fossum, the Review-Journal sports editor, asking if he’d like his old job back.

“God’s fingerprints were all over that,’ he said. “It was impossible. A friend told me that God’s greatest miracle for me was not taking away my desire for alcohol, but the newspaper hiring me back. God showed me the extent of his power in turning lives around. “

In his first column, Richards sited one of his key verses, one he noted is often used by Christian Hall of Fame former jockey, Pat Day “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose,” (Romans 8:28 NKJ).

He retired from the paper in 1998 as a nationally recognized handicapper, cementing his reputation by selecting for the paper, Sea Hero, 30-1 long shot 1993 Kentucky Derby winner. Richards wanted to concentrate on his demanding work as a comprehensive video race analyst for a computerized betting team in Hong Kong, all legal and above board.

Yet, he no longer wagers and will soon celebrate 24 years sober. A member of a local church, he gives generously to Christian causes, counsels others in Christian principles and writes seminary graduate level articles defending the faith for Christian periodicals

Richards remains passionate about intelligently defending his beliefs and telling others about his love for God and His miracles. “Eternity will not be long enough for me to tell God how much I thank Him. I tell the Lord every day that all I want to be is a blessing to other and a delight to You. Until you’ve been healed from a disease yourself, it’s hard to understand that with God nothing is impossible. I went from picking winners, to telling others about a sure thing.”

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HOLLYWOOD PARK: THE QUEEN WHO DIED OF ALZHEIMERS

By Eddie Donnally

Hollywood Park has died the death of a queen with Alzheimer’s: lengthy and slow, with past glories shadows across the mind, fading like twilight into an undeniable darkness, hard to watch by those who shared her past.

I have my own memories, of course. The Prairie Avenue Palace is home to one of my mind tingling highs, a singular low that still hurts to remember, and an end to an era in my life, one that allowed me to say a melancholy goodbye before she took her final breath.

The first time I saw the track was when I arrived by air in November 1984, checked into the nearby Marriott and got ready to cover the first Breeders’ Cup Series for the Dallas Morning News. Looking for a home town angle, I walked onto the backstretch and interviewed Vince Timphony, who trained a jet black colt owned chiefly by Texans. Though his owners had put up $360,000 to run in the first $3 million race, Wild Again’s morning line odds were 30 to one.

Timphony, a former New Orleans bar owner who grew up across the street from the Fair Grounds, empathetically told me the horse would beat the likes of Slew O Gold, Gate Dancer and Precisionist. I had my doubts. Yet I picked the horse in my newspaper selections and made a considerable wager. On Classic Eve I attended a gala at HP’s new Cary Grant Pavilion (now a casino).At the party were Grant, Elizabeth Taylor and Frank Sinatra. And in what may be one of the best races ever, Pat Day got the horse to the wire by the length of the colt’s head then held off a charge by a team of stewards who entertained a foul claim. The objection not allowed, Wild Again, paid $64.60 for a $2 bet. I went home with a fist full of Franklins. The Dallas bettors thought I could walk on water.

In October 1996, I came back. This time I stayed in a sleazy Prairie Ave. motel and arrived from Houston in an old hatchback, the third gradually depreciating vehicle I’d owned in seven months. That was the time it took me to go from hosting my own horse racing TV show and writing for the Austin American-Statesman to calling Hall of Fame trainer Jack Van Berg and asking him for a job grooming horses. This, from the only former jockey to win an Eclipse Award for newspaper writing as well as a TV show host and handicapper of considerable reputation. The culprit most obvious was an addiction to crack cocaine. Beneath that lay adolescent sexual trauma, two divorces, a suicide attempt, stays in two psyche wards, years spent taking psychotropic medication and a battle with same-sex promiscuity.

That first night, three persons were dealing crack cocaine in the motel. I wanted to get high so badly I lay down on my room’s linoleum floor and went into a cold sweat. I got up, went to my car, got out my Bible and flat out told God, I didn’t want to die addicted and begged him to show me a verse. The Bible fell open to Isaiah 43 and my eyes fell to verse 19. “Behold I will do you a new thing. Now it will spring forth. Shall you not know it? I will even make you a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert”

At 4:00 a.m. the next morning I met Van Berg at the stable gate and spend most of the next year living in a second floor cement sleeping room above a barn full of horses. Furniture included a dented black metal trunk, a plastic chair and baling wire strung from corner to corner to hold my clothes. My window cranked open to a muck pit a few feet below. I took my meals in the track kitchen. Though I never again touched the drug, it took months for my bent mind to straighten and my numbed soul to feel anything like emotion. After six months, I went from grooming to exercising, with Christian trainer Mike Mitchell giving me my first chance. But I was so lonely; I once took a roll of quarters to a row of outside phone booths in a driving rain at midnight and started dialing, desperate to hear the sound of a familiar voice.

I met a woman who owned a marketing company and after a green two-year-old bucked me onto one of the barn’s concrete-hard shedrows, I moved in with her. My bottom finally came on December 16, 1996 when God lit up my large courtroom holding cell in nearby San Pedro with what I believe was the Shekinah Glory. It changed my life forever.

My healing was so startling that in less than five years I was a licensed minister and the director of development for the Race Track Chaplaincy of America. And where would God put my office but in Hollywood Park’s former money room. The same one that legend says Timphony and Wild Again’s Texas owners walked out of following the first Classic with piles of winning bets stored in huge purses their wives intentionally brought to the track. I had a good run at RTCA, but on Halloween Day 2008, my tenure with the ministry ended on good terms, I packed up my desk and drove to my apartment in nearby Culver City.

I turned the page on a new era, oddly one that allowed me to be Timphony’s chaplain when he died in Arcadia’s Methodist Hospital in 2010. Today, my wife Sandi and I live in Clearwater, FL where I minister as a hospice and hospital chaplain.

I suppose the exact spots that Wild Again eked out his Classic victory could soon hold a picnic table in the proposed housing development’s park. The shedrow where I broke ribs and my cement walled room where I went to sleep smelling horse manure may become real bedrooms, including adjacent bathrooms. And my office in the grandstand’s money room will perhaps be the play area in a clubhouse where children will slide quarters into pin ball machines, totally unaware of where they stand.

The requiem for this racetrack is a eulogy for a queen dead from Alzheimer’s. For many and for me, Hollywood Park holds chisel-sharp memories of past glories, rare melancholy musings of how it might have been different, and a goodbye that in the end means nothing more than moving on to something better.

Rev. Eddie Donnally DMin.
eddreamcenter
Cell: (818) 653-3711

Cot Campbell: Things Important

By Eddie Donnally: Ride the White Horse

 Cot

When Japanese planes attacked Pearl Harbor and set off WW II, President FDR declared December 7, 1941 the “Day of Infamy.” Exactly 16 years later, W. Cothran (Cot) Campbell had his own day of infamy.

That day the man who pioneered Thoroughbred partnerships with Dogwood Stables, raced 1992 Preakness Stakes winner Summer Squall and this year’s Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice walked out of Atlanta’s Georgia Terrace Hotel and into a twilight of misting rain. Somewhere between drunk and sober, he stood in the gathering darkness and watched the downtown crowd walk about totting bulging shopping bags as they paused to look at holiday window displays. A talented ad agency junior executive, he had met that morning with his boss who coolly informed him that if he didn’t stop drinking he would be fired.

“I’d been drinking five days,” he said. “I looked at the Christmas shoppers and realized what a poor life I’d been leading. I said to myself, ‘I cannot give myself this kind of beating anymore.’”

Among his escapades  detailed in his book, “Rascals and Racehorses: A Sporting Man’s Life,” is losing three cars parked near three bars in three days and tarrying at a New Orleans bar so long one Sunday morning, a ham he was cooking for a live TV show, burned so badly it nearly set his apartment on fire. Campbell is a clever writer and the stories are comical.

Yet after over a half century of sobriety, he is quick to talk about an alcoholism that was anything but funny. “I’d done some horrible things,” he says. “I’d been in many jails, and I have no shame in talking about my drinking. Some of the best people I’ve known in my life are alcoholics. I started at age 13 to give me an identity and add a little glamour to my life. I liked it. I liked the feeling it gave me. I liked the people I drank with and the places where I drank. I didn’t know what it was like to not drink. That was not an option until I arrived at the point I couldn’t take it anymore. That day something finally clicked inside his head and I realized any kind of life was better than the one I was living.”

Like Clark Kent changing into his Superman outfit, Campbell found a phone booth, looked up the number and called Alcoholics Anonymous. “I walked the six blocks to the place, drank coffee and talked until midnight. I went to a meeting the next day. I immersed myself in AA.”

When his boss threatened his firing, Campbell told him, “I wouldn’t blame you if you did, but if you don’t you’re going to be glad the rest of your life.”  Within a year, Campbell rose to become vice president and was being groomed to become president when he left to start his own ad agency. Today, he occasionally attends an AA meeting, usually to speak and give hope to others. “I’m lucky enough to say that once I embraced AA I never again had an inclination to take a drink.”

How can a recovering alcoholic maintain sobriety in a world of high pressure horse trading, celebration parties, and long hours spent digesting the bitter pill of defeat?

“Entertainment is part of the job,” he says. “You would not know the hours, the days, the weeks and the number of years that I was where people drank. But I didn’t go live into a cave somewhere. I’ve thought from time to time that today would be a good day to take a drink but I have no more seriously considered taking a drink of alcohol that I have of taking a drink of arsenic.”

Cot’s message to those who relapse is to keep trying. “But in the end you have to be personally ready and can’t do it because your wife or mother thought it was a good idea. You have to do it because you owe it to yourself.  You have to give up, surrender.  Know that you can’t do this anymore. Know, I’m going to kill myself and anything is better than this.”

“Talking about it helped me. With me not having to drink was such a revelation that I quickly became proud of myself and discovered I had respect for myself. I saw other people’s reactions and realized that people are anxious to see you make a comeback. Once they see you’re trying they’ll put their hand out.”

Celebrating his 86th birthday in September, Campbell has made putting out his own hand part of a lasting legacy. In a sport as famous for its characters as it horses, he ranks among racing’s most storied bon vivants and raconteurs. If the long gone Damon Runyon had met him, a tweed-hat-wearing Cot Campbell would have wound up in “Guys and Dolls.”

Operating out of his Aiken S.C. base, he is known as an “old school hay and oats” horseman. He and wife Anne have made a lifestyle out of supporting and promoting racing’s charities. Gracing his resume is The John Galbreath Award for entrepreneurial excellence in racing, induction into South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame and the 2012 Eclipse Award of Merit. Riding a high and perhaps ending strongly, Palace Malice is in the thick of the battle for champion 3-year-old and after a Jim Dandy victory is heading for Saratoga’s $1 million Travers Stakes on August 24.

Yet, throughout his career, throwing a lifeline to those treading the treacherous waters of sobriety has remained a singular purpose. “I’ve helped many persons personally and I’ve gotten a kick out of that,” he says. “I’ve gotten letters from wives and children who have read my books or heard me speak and wrote that those things helped change their lives. I’ve not done much of importance in my life, but that is important.”

End