Rick Dutrow, Jr. has had a hard life. Nearly all his struggles in life, he’ll tell you, came from himself. The son of a successful horse trainer, he grew up to be a high school dropout, drug addict, and ne’er-do-well living in one of the barns at Aqueduct as recently as a decade ago. His girlfriend (and fellow addict) had been murdered in a robbery, leaving him with their young child.
Now he’s known as a wildly successful horse trainer, guiding Big Brown to the Belmont Stakes with the chance to secure the first Triple Crown in what seems like umpteen years. He’s independently wealthy and has come to relish the fame that comes from being on top again.
The hard livin’ man never fully left the savvy professional, though. That’s why we get colorful stories about him laying $100,000 of his own money on Big Brown in the Belmont and his recent comment that no one would dare intentionally block Big Brown from winning the Triple Crown because “… if someone did something like that they might get assassinated after the race.”
We recently had a discussion with a fellow blogger about the seemingly minor importance of the Kentucky Derby to most Americans these days. We flip on the race each year out of habit, peer through our fingers to avoid seeing another ankle snap, and then finish our mint julep and flip on baseball again.
We posed the question, “What would we miss if the Derby just went away?” We wondered what would really be wrong with that, considering the abuse on the horses and jockeys. We didn’t come up with a great answer, though we did consider this preservation of some shard of Southern culture to possibly have some meaning.
But we have a better answer today: Rick Dutrow, Jr. We don’t mean that horse racing acted as his salvation; we don’t really know if that’s true. However, without horse racing, we wouldn’t know he existed and we wouldn’t have many colorful characters like him. Those edges have been smoothed off most of our ‘major’ sports, so we need these fringe sports to bring us fringe characters.
Still… uhm, Rick? Maybe a little less with the “that’s a lovely horse; I’d hate to see anything happen to it if you know what I mean”? Thanks.