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Columns

September 10, 2008

His ears must have been ringing

The racehorse Big Brown took America by storm this year. In the process, a little rain fell on Jackie from Chicago.

Jackie was in the East for the last few days of the Saratoga Race Course meet. One of his dear friends in the Midwest is a filly named Gloria, who by all accounts is quite the thoroughbred, herself.

Like millions of other race fans this year, she fell in love with Big Brown, the brawny three-year-old who'd won all his races by historic margins going into the last leg of the coveted Triple Crown, the grueling Belmont Stakes.

At the Belmont, some supernatural force seemed to pull on the reins of Big Brown, making him look like an also-ran. No one knows even now what that force was that day that turned the next Secretariat into a maiden claimer.

Still, even with that desultory performance soiling his previously unassailable record, the adulation of some afficionados remains unabated.

One of those aficionados is Leigh Anderson, a friend of Jackie's who one day last fall in Las Vega bet a wad of money on Big Brown at 175 to 1 to win the Kentucky Derby in May. For that prescience, Leigh was rewarded with $11,000, which, the day after the Derby, was delivered to him in his Vegas hotel room in a satchel full of $100 bills neatly bound in large lots.

Another is Gloria.

So when Jackie came to Saratoga, he had two goals: to win enough money to move the track into bankruptcy and to buy a picture of Big Brown that he'd then ask Big Brown's jockey, Kent Desormeaux, to inscribe with an autograph inscribed "To Gloria." He even stopped at a drug store on the way to the track to find just the right marker that wouldn't smudge or skip on a potentially slick surface.

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