Thursday, April 3, 2014

HRN: Ponies of the Track - Skippy: Jinks Fires' Trusty Steed

Each time I post a new article on my Horse Racing Nation blog, I post a notice on this blogThese notices include an excerpt from the beginning of that article and a link to the piece. My latest Horse Racing Nation article is. . .

Ponies of the Track - Skippy: Jinks Fires' Trusty Steed

There are many forgotten heroes at the racetrack of the human variety: grooms, hotwalkers, EMTs, veterinarians, and jockey valets among them. But there are also equine heroes outside of the obvious racehorses: the outrider horses and lead ponies. They are kicked, they are bit, they are slammed into, and they are pushed around. They tolerate the immature two-year-old, the testy mare, and the lazy gelding. Their riders often endure the same difficulties. But these horses also provide guidance and comfort for many racehorses, as well as a best friend for many young children and loyal racetrackers that visit the track.

For racing enthusiasts that frequently watch racing on television or visit the track regularly, a pony horse may become familiar in appearance, but it is rather unusual for a pony horse’s name to be known. The name of the racehorse alongside the pony is in the program, on the television monitor, and in pedigree databases, but the pony is largely anonymous. But for hours upon hours – whether it be in the morning or afternoon – the pony works tirelessly, often encountering unruly racehorses and unpredictable weather. It is time to shine a light upon these hard workers.

Please enjoy the newest installment of a my series featuring these horses, called “Ponies of the Track.”

Skippy: Jinks Fires' Trusty Steed

It was the late 1950s. William “Jinks” Fires, a rodeo cowboy, was competing at the Mid-South Fair and Rodeo in Memphis, Tennessee. When he won the bull riding, a prominent racehorse owner and trainer took notice of him. The man wanted so badly to bring Fires into the world of horse racing that he sent his chauffer to pick up Fires so that he may present him with this offer. Only a few rodeos remained in the season, so Fires agreed to it. According to Fires, other than two years spent in the Army, he has “been here ever since.”

An Arkansas native, Fires is based at Oaklawn Park and Churchill Downs. In his training career, Fires has conditioned the likes of Archarcharch – the 2011 Arkansas Derby (gr. I) winner who became Fires’ first Kentucky Derby starter – and several other the stakes winners, including She’s Our Annie, Spotsgone, and Wildcat Shoes. However, racehorses are not the only horses that have made an impact on Fires during his career as a trainer; many pony horses have been a part of Fires’ racing stable. But one pony in particular stands out: Skippy. . ."

Click here to read the rest of my newest Horse Racing Nation article.

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