Two Racetrackers Watch Pimlico From Very Different Seats

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Barbara Livingston will be honored at this year's Alibi Breakfast for this photo from last year's Preakness Stakes Barbara Livingston will be honored at this year's Alibi Breakfast for this photo from last year's Preakness Stakes

The same race card at Pimlico Race Course can look completely different to on-track workers Joe Miller and Jimmy McCue, who watch from very different places. Miller has been the track’s equine ambulance driver for the last 16 years, and McCue has been a staff photographer at the track for the last 43 years.

McCue sees the happiest people on the track—winning owners and trainers.

“I am truly amazed every time the owners and trainers come to the winner’s circle, they are as happy as can be,” McCue told The New York Times. “I don’t care if they won 1,000 races before that, they’re ecstatic about the race they just won.”

In the case of 2006 Preakness contender Barbaro, the men’s worlds collided in tragic circumstances. They both saw the horse pulled up into the first turn, and realized right away who it was. McCue began snapping photos, which he hasn’t looked at or released since, while Miller and the rescue team leapt into action. Miller said he knew from one glance the injury was a death sentence for most horses.

“If he wasn’t a Kentucky Derby winner, it would have been a done deal,” Miller said.

While McCue sees the most joyful connections on the track, Miller sees the most heartbroken if a horse pulls up, and he said it’s taken an emotional toll. He distances himself from the horses, and tries not to learn their names.

“I don’t pay attention to them. If he’s going to take his last ride, I don’t want to know who he is.”

Read more at The New York Times

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  • http://twitter.com/AskGrace Happy Harriet

    A perfect encapsulation of the highest of the highs and the lowest of the lows of horse racing.

  • Richard C

    Iconic sportswriter W.C. Heinz wrote a moving, beautiful, brutal, accurate account of a day at the races – “Death of a Racehorse” – for The (New York) Sun, which was published on July 29, 1949.

    • LongTimeEconomist

      And Pete Axthelm wrote one for the Herald-Tribune back around 1966 entitled”Death in the Hialeah Mud”

    • Lhartley

      well that’ll break your heart.

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