Niagara Gazette — Like countless others, you probably remember exactly where you were Nov. 22, 1963, when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Or that night, April 4, 1968, when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered in Memphis.
On a much lighter note, I will never forget Sept. 2, 1961, when I went with my dad to the horse races at Fort Erie, Ont., near the Queen Elizabeth Way and the Peace Bridge. Sadly, the financially-strapped oval — once described as one of the most beautiful thoroughbred tracks in North America — ended its operations last month after 115 years.
That day more than 50 years ago, my dad suggested we each invest a buck on a 2-year-old horse called Puss ‘n Boots who had displayed little promise in his three previous races on a dirt track and his lone outing on the turf course. I quickly agreed on the wager since my father faithfully followed the nags and knew some savvy trainers. “I think we’ve got a winner here,” he said, scurrying off to the parimutuel windows below the grandstand. Apparently a lot of other bettors got the word too. By post time Puss ‘n Boots would go off at 2-1 odds. That wouldn’t be a big payoff, of course, but it at least it covered the bridge fare.
I never took my eyes off jockey Ronnie Behrens’ green cap from the second they left the gate. Down the backstretch, he seemed to be in full command of his mount, steadily gaining ground on the outside. Around the far turn, he kept moving up until he was in front of the pack, heading for home.
“Where are you going?” my dad demanded, surprised that I was walking away from all the action. “Down to the cashier’s window,” I hollered. “No one’s going to catch him and I’ll be first in line.” He called me back. “You’ll need this to collect,” he said, handing me the $2 win ticket.