by Teresa Genaro
No shortage of racing memories have been made at the track they call Old Hilltop. That hill in the infield isn’t around anymore, but there are plenty of people at Pimlico this weekend whose memories of the track and the race go back decades, and who were happy to talk to us about their memorable days here, in their own words.
Jim McCue, Pimlico track photographer. No picture of Jim, but the featured image of this post is his photo of Orb and exercise rider Jenn Patterson).
I’ve been the track photographer for 44 years; my partner Jerry, who I worked with for 32 years, passed away eight years ago. He was the greatest; he taught me everything about the game.
Before that I was a US Army photographer, but Jerry knew me from the races. My parents owned some horses, not a lot, just for fun, and we always used to come. I’d skip high school and come down here, and to Laurel and Bowie.
I love the action [of taking pictures of horses and races]. I’m always striving to make it something different. I also love the people; I’ve bonded with so many people—they’re family. And there aren’t many of us left. I look back through old programs and I see the people who used to be here, and I think, “My goodness!”
The Preakness, naturally, is the biggest. I love Secretariat; he’s my all-time favorite. I got to see three Triple Crown winners, and now they haven’t had one in more than 30 years.
I think Orb will win; I think he’s awesome. He has a presence and a confidence about him. You can really tell from being around him for a while, and it’s really neat.
Tony Marino, usher
I’ve lived in Baltimore all my life, not too far away from here for 40 years. I’ve been out in Randallstown for 48 years. I’ve worked here for about 30 years. I could kick myself in the rear end for not doing this a long time ago. I came here because I got laid off at Bethlehem Steel on Key Highway, and I needed a job.
So there was a guy that owned the Stable Boy tip sheet, and he needed someone for Timonium, so I went to work for him selling tip sheets at Timonium. I sold tip sheets for eight or nine years.
I originally got a job as an usher, but they don’t need ushers any more. Now, I work the Sports Palace, I sell programs, I work the pass gate, I work the $3 gate–anything they tell me to do.
The Preakness is the only time I’m an usher now. Ushers is a gone thing. You don’t carry them crowds no more, throughout the entire year. It’s just Preakness, Breeders’ Cup, Maryland Millions, special days that they have a decent crowd.
This has been the best job I’ve ever had. I make a good salary, I do what I’m supposed to do, I love the tips. And I’m going on 88.
My favorite race is the one between War Admiral and Seabiscuit–I saw it on TV. I remember that as if it was yesterday.
And then yesterday, I was working the Sports Palace yesterday and a guy came in in a wheelchair. I had just read an article in the Sun paper about a jockey named Ronnie Turcotte, and this guy came in a wheelchair, and we were talking.
He was there with several other people, and they were looking at the pictures on the walls, and he said something that made me know that he was Ronnie Turcotte.
I said, “Sir, you wouldn’t happen to be Ronnie Turcotte?” He said, “Yes, I am.” After about a half hour of talking, I said, “Can you do me a favor?” and he wrote on a piece of paper, “To my friend Tony, with many thanks, Ronnie Turcotte.”
I met Ronnie Turcotte. That and the race between War Admiral and Seabiscuit stand out.
Linda and Lacey Gaudet, mother and daughter, trainers
Linda: I’ve been here for 40 years and you can see even with my bum leg, I’m going to make Preakness. It’s the highlight of our year in Maryland. Not that a lot of our horses are competitive on that day, but it’s a fun day. You see people that you’ve missed for a couple of years, great horses come in to run, and they do a great job. Every year it’s getting better.
I give them credit. The whole atmosphere—they changed the atmosphere of the infield, and they took a lot of grief for that, but I think it’s a decision they had to make because it was getting a little out of control–less festive, more debauchery. It was pretty bad.
Now there are great bands and great entertainment, great things for everybody to do.
I was here 40 years with Secretariat—that was my first Preakness. I stood right here [in the winner’s circle], and after he won, I walked across: there was no security. I touched his tail, and I thought, “I’m going to be on national television–he’s going to kick me in the head.”
We ran in the Preakness two years ago with Concealed Identity. We had said that if he won the Tesio, we were going to go. [Gaudet’s husband] Ed has been training for 60 years, or 70 years, and it might be the first and only opportunity to do it.
That’s when I hurt my foot. I broke my foot that morning, and I’m finally getting it fixed two years later. I was in pain all day, but you do the traditional walk over, and I did it. I was lagging behind, and Lacey kept saying, “Come on, Mom!” and I was in tears, I was in such pain.
Lacey: Having Concealed Identity in the Preakness two years ago was great. I know the Derby is the place you want to be, but I was born and raised in Maryland, so it was definitely great to run in it, and to have two wins going into it.
We were thrilled, and he only got beat 10 lengths so we were pleased with it. We had a good day. So far, that’s the memory that’s going to stick out in my mind.
[On whether it’s disappointing when the Kentucky Derby winner doesn’t win the Preakness]
Lacey: Yes! At least it gives you three more weeks to hope that we’re getting there.
Linda: Hopefully Orb gets a good trip and he has the opportunity—because these people have been doing this for 100 years. If there’s anybody more deserving, I don’t’ know who it is. And this is a good horse, so he would be the kind that would be deserving of a Triple Crown winner. I hope it all works out.