Secretariat

A Love Letter to Joan

I wrote this column on Bloodhorse.com for what I knew would be a cathartic experience and something that needed to be said. I now reprint it on Secretariat.com for our 41st anniversary on September 28. As it was then, this column is far and away the most special column I have ever written and is once again a much needed cathartic experience. For those who have read it, feel free to ignore it, but to me it needs to be in the Secretariat.com archives, just as it needed to be in the Bloodhorse.com archives as an everlasting tribute to the person without whom all else is meaningless. My mother gave me life, but Joan gave me a life, and one I never dreamed possible~ Steve Haskin

A Love Letter to Joan

By Steve Haskin

 

I can point out the exact spot. It was just as you pass the administration building at Belmont Park that I saw my wife for the first time. The only problem was that I only saw her from the back. I recognized the voice of her co-worker (who I had spoken to many times on the phone as librarian for the DRF) as they passed by me. They worked for Photocommunications, a Madison Ave. firm that handled all the publicity for the New York Racing Association, sending out photos, captions, and releases and the occasional feature.

I knew they were going to be at the track and wanted to meet me. I turned around and watched them walk away, too shy and insecure to go after them. I remember the image like it was yesterday — tall, blonde, wearing a beige raincoat and high heels. “What a jerk you are,” I said to myself. Joan’s co-worker was the one who called me more regularly, but mainly on a personal basis. I had spoken to Joan a few times, mostly for business, and felt I would be more interesting as a voice on the phone than in person. So I just kept on walking, the coward that I was.

It was the fall of 1977. Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew was on the sidelines, Forego was still going strong at age 7, and a pair of 2-year-olds named Affirmed and Alydar were establishing quite a rivalry.

As for myself, I was becoming heavily involved with European racing at the time and was making some important connections over there, having attended the Epsom Derby in 1976, Royal Ascot and the Irish Derby in 1977, and the Epsom Derby and Royal Ascot in 1978. I also was freelance writing here in the States, mostly for the Thoroughbred Record, and was writing a column for the now-defunct Sporting Chronicle in England, reporting on all the European horses who were racing in America. I was able to land that gig by presenting them with an offer they couldn’t refuse – I would work for free.

By the following summer (1978), after returning from my trip to Royal Ascot, I was hired by longtime editor Peter Towers-Clark to be the American representative for Stud & Stable magazine, the European equivalent of The Blood-Horse and Thoroughbred Record.

So, this was my existence at age 31 — single for life, whether I wanted to be or not; still shy around women, still cloistered away in the Daily Racing Form library, and having found a new outlet as a freelance writer in America and Europe. It was easy to convince myself I was content, but I still hated myself for the void I had created and the inability to fill it. Here I was a hopeless romantic with a heartful of romantic feelings suppressed by shackles of inferiority and insecurity. So I resigned myself to my fate and continued to immerse myself in racing and now freelance writing.

My low point had come that day at Belmont when I couldn’t bring myself to approach this woman, whose beauty was confined to my imagination having only seen her from behind. Just the thought of that perceived beauty being a reality sent waves of cowardice up my spineless back. So I sheepishly walked away.

Our phone conversations increased, and I was again able to be the dashing, charming person I always wanted to be and how she perceived me to be. She seemed to enjoy our talks and I was not about to jeopardize that by actually meeting her and seeing that look of disappointment on her face, especially when my bumbling attempt at conversation contradicted the voice over the phone.

Our conversations eventually expanded from the office to the home. She was starting to get to know the real me, but I dared not cross that long distance line that separated us and protected me from being exposed.

In the spring of 1978 I left for my three-week trip to England. I came to miss our conversations and sent several postcards. When I returned, we spoke for four hours catching up. This beautiful woman who I had never really seen became more beautiful than ever. It didn’t matter that it was only in my mind. I had created my dream girl in my imagination and she began to take on that persona.

I couldn’t help but think of my favorite musical, Man of La Mancha, and the passionate, but heartrending lyrics to the song Dulcinea that so aptly described what I was feeling — “I have dreamed three too long. Never seen thee or touched thee, but known thee with all of my heart.”

I knew we had reached a point where I had to meet her. A man doesn’t talk to a woman for four hours on the phone and still find ways of avoiding meeting her. Even I couldn’t be that pathetic. Actually I could, but I had run out of excuses. What made me tremble with fear was finding out she used to be a model. I had never teetered on the edge of doing what was right and normal and doing what was safe and abnormal.

To demonstrate how far apart our worlds had been in our early twenties, I was at Saratoga to see Arts and Letters win the Travers in 1969 the same day Joan was about 65 miles down the New York Thruway at Woodstock. Not only was she surely beautiful, but cool as well. There was nothing cool about taking an Adirondack Trailways bus up to Saratoga to see your favorite horse run compared to driving a graffiti-splattered Volkswagen Bug to a rock festival with hundreds of thousands of scantily clothed girls.

In preparation for our long overdue meeting, which I still had not suggested, I knew she was disgruntled with her job and was looking to get out. She was a gifted writer and photographer and well schooled in public relations. I contacted our head of advertising and got several references to give her, mostly as a crutch in order to have something to talk about. So, we decided to meet outside her office building on Madison Avenue for lunch. D–Day was June 28, 1978. Needing to give this my very best shot I wore a tie and three-piece suit even though the temperature was somewhere in the vicinity of 95 degrees. It didn’t matter. I needed every advantage I could get to assure she would not cringe in disgust or at the very least set a track record in eating lunch — “Oh, I just remembered, I have all this work I have to finish in the next half hour. Goodbye and good luck, and, oh, by the way, I’m changing my phone number.”

So, I waited outside her building, and when she came out and I realized it was her, with that long blonde hair flowing in the hot summer breeze, let’s just say I was in my mind the equivalent of a $5,000 claimer facing a grade I champion.

But we went to lunch, and despite having talked for months and learning all about each other, I no longer was a faceless voice on the telephone. I was me and not happy about that one bit. I quickly needed to come up with a sharp opening line, but Ralph Kramden had a hold of my tongue, complete with quivering jaw and a sole vocabulary of “hamanahamana.” We had so much in common on the phone and talked so openly, but now it was me and this gorgeous lady and I no longer knew her. But unfortunately I knew myself, and as predicted, I was tongue-tied, my mind had gone blank, and my palms were sweaty. I somehow was able to fight Ralph off and managed to actually speak in a semi intelligent manner: “So, how many floors in your apartment building?” Oh, my God, I was more pathetic than I thought. Did I actually say that?

Behind Joan’s beautiful smile was a “Who the heck cares? This loser is the cool guy I’ve been talking to for so many months, who I have shared intimate secrets with?”

I tried to save one last shred of dignity by giving her the names and phone numbers our advertising manager had written down for me. Actually, come to think of it, I believe she asked for it in order to steer me off the embarrassing course I had taken — “So, where’s the list?” Ouch.

So, the phone romance was over. I had been exposed. The following morning, my friend and colleague, Jack Zaraya, who was my driving companion to work every day for the one hour and 40-minute trip from Brooklyn to Hightstown, N.J., asked me how it went. He had been excited for me that I was taking this drastic step. My reply was as succinct as I could make it: “Forget it. I’m totally outclassed.”

The relationship was over. Well, at least in my mind. She actually called me again at work and I was able to crawl back into hiding, once again Mr. Cool with the sharp sense of humor; a voice of compassion, and someone who was easy to talk to. But to my utter shock, she actually still seemed interested. I figured with her having just hit the “30” furlong pole, she was, in her mind, getting a bit too far from the starting gate and her clock was ticking, feeling it’s better to catch a guppy than wait around for a marlin.

Believe it or not, she wanted to further our relationship and it was me who was reluctant. I use reluctant as a substitute for scared, gutless, and insecure. I even sank so low as to write her a letter telling her my budding writing career as American representative for a British magazine took precedence over anything else, especially romantic involvement. Every word of that was a lie. That was my inferiority complex talking. But she strongly suggested I read the book “The Thorn Birds,” and that changed my life completely and gave me the courage to follow the old adage, “Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”

I knew after reading the book I couldn’t live with myself if I blew this opportunity. I remember closing the book and feeling its effect on me. I was Father Ralph and Joan was the beautiful Meggie, who dared to attempt to penetrate the wall between them. Father Ralph finally succumbed to the siren call that had reached deep into his heart. He couldn’t suppress his feelings any longer. He couldn’t live with himself without knowing what it was like to act out one’s desire to love in the physical sense.

I was scheduled to go to Charlottesville Virginia in about a week with DRF cartoonist Pierre Bellocq and his son Remi to watch Remi ride at the Foxfield hunts. I immediately called Joan and asked her if she wanted to go. I couldn’t believe it when the words actually left my mouth. She said yes without hesitation. This was it. I had crossed the line that I’d drawn as a youth and had always been afraid to cross. If I was going to be embarrassed and exposed this would be the time, but at least I could look myself in the mirror and then safely retreat back into racing and writing.

I never did retreat. It is now 41 years later. That phantom beauty I had created in my mind, whose real beauty surpassed my imaginary figure, is still as beautiful as the day I met her.

We climbed the first plateau when Joan invited me to spend Christmas with her family in Connecticut. When everyone was asleep and we were alone watching “A Christmas Carol,” on TV it began to snow. Yes, just like in the movie “White Christmas.” We went outside and ran through the snow, throwing snowballs at the lamp post. It was like an out-of-body experience. Scenes like this only happen in the movies. A week later, we celebrated New Year’s in a magical place called Fox Hollow in the Berkshires in Massachusetts. We cross country skied, sat in front of the fireplace listening to Johnny Mathis sing “Twelfth of Never,” and took a sunset ride on a one-horse open sleigh through the snowy fields, led by a horse named Odd Job with a beautiul Husky running alongside the sleigh. As we sat close together snuggled under a blanket it hit me. I was for the first time a real person leading a real life, even though it all felt like a fantasy. That was the weekend that opened the portal to a new life.

As I progressed in my writing, which eventually led to numerous awards and finally to induction into the Racing Hall of Fame’s Media Roll of Honor, every word I wrote was inspired by Joan.

Joan went on to work as public relations coordinator for the New York Racing Association for three years. During that time, she caught the eye of DRF executive columnist Joe Hirsch, who would constantly ask her out on a date. She politely declined every invitation, including several to the swankiest spots in New York City, such as Studio 54 and Regine’s. You couldn’t get into these places unless of course you were Joe Hirsch, who roomed for years with New York’s most eligible and famous bachelor Joe Namath. Was I actually competing with Joe Hirsch? Me? One night Joe called Joan and asked her out while I was there. She told him she was involved with one his colleagues, Steve Haskin. All Joe said was, “Good man,” and that ended that.

Working for NYRA meant three glorious summers in Saratoga, where I finally proposed in 1979, with a great deal of persuasion. I guess you never completely lose the coward in you. We broke the news to her entire family at the Wishing Well restaurant that same night. The following night we were having dinner with her parents when her mother casually asked her in front of me, “So Joanie, are you sure you’re doing the right thing?” Uh, hello.

We were married in 1980 on the Connecticut shore and spent two weeks in France on our honeymoon. After a week in Paris, concluding with the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, we took an overnight train down south to Toulouse, where we rented a car, and I proceeded to drive over a thousand miles, staying in the ancient town of St. Emilion in the wine country, the historic city of Poitiers, the more modern city of Tours in the Loire Valley, visiting most of the surrounding chateaus, and finally to Bayeux, which was our base for our drives down the Normandy coast and the D-Day beaches, the American cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach, Pont du Hoc, and the town of St. Mere-Eglise, where the 101st Airborne parachuted, landing in the center of town. It was an unforgettable experience and we both kept diaries.

That was followed over the next few years by trips to the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone National Park, and Acadia National Park in Maine.

During her stay with NYRA Joan wrote the first ever feature on a young apprentice named Richard Migliore, she coordinated and put together the exhibit “That Belmont Look” at the New York Historical Society, and arranged for the city of Saratoga to proclaim “Affirmed Day” in 1979, with banners and posters all over town. She also helped bring the American-trained Grand National Steeplechase winner Ben Nevis to Saratoga in 1980, where he was brought to the lawn of the Reading Room adjacent to the track.

After Joan moved to Queens, we spent two fun years in our cozy apartment, complete with cardboard furniture in the bedroom. We then moved to New Jersey when Joan got a job as head of communications for Robert Brennan’s International Thoroughbred Breeders and was the go-to person regarding ITB’s purchase of Garden State Park. There we discovered birdwatching, going on several birding trips with the Bucks County Audubon Society.

We have shared many adventures over the years, traveling to places like Dubai, Uruguay, England, and Ireland, and all over America. We brought a beautiful and amazing daughter into the world who gave us a grandson last February. Through four decades we still are best friends.Everything I have in my life is because of Joan. In 1997, I was assigned to cover the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe for DRF, giving us an opportunity to have a second honeymoon and expose Mandy to the wonders of Paris. We even stayed in the same little boutique hotel we stayed at on our honeymoon 17 years earlier.

Together we have painted our own version of the Picture of Dorian Gray. I keep aging as Joan keeps getting younger.

Because of her inspiration I learned to believe in myself and somehow made it into the Hall of Fame, a far cry from the nerdy insecure librarian who fell in love with a princess.

To have Joan and Mandy, and our family and friends, share in that remarkable moment at the National Museum of Racing and seeing the look of pride on their faces is what made it such a special occasion.

As I get older and think back to reading “The Thorn Birds,” and how that changed my life I can’t think of beautiful Meggie without thinking of the Irish song, “Maggie,” and the words that tug at my heart every time I hear it. We are in our seventies now and married over 40 years and only the spirit and passion of my writing can shroud what I see in the mirror. But the beauty of youth still emanates from Joan as it did the first time I laid eyes on the vision that would encompass my life. As so profoundly stated in “Maggie:”

“They say that I’m feeble with age Maggie
my steps are much slower than then
my face is a well written page Maggie
and time all alone was the pen

”They say we have outlived our time Maggie
as dated as the songs that we’ve sung
but to me you’re as fair as you were Maggie
when you and I were young”

Joan has never lost that beauty that both captivated and frightened me; a beauty I had at first envisioned that day at Belmont and then set eyes on for the first time one hot afternoon in Manhattan.

I often think of that day at Harkness State Park in Connecticut, standing on the rocks, placing a ring on Joan’s finger and declaring my everlasting love. “To cherish you for all time is what I live for. To live with you for all time is what I cherish.”  It was that moment that inspired the poem I wrote to her 18 years later after we returned there for one of our many visits.

It’s as if the ocean has stood still through the passage of time
As if the clocks no longer tick and the bells no longer chime
There are no signs that 18 years have hurried by
The same waves nuzzle against the rocks; the same birds dance across the sky
Two lovers once stood upon these rocks and proclaimed before the sea
Their undying love until eternity
And those same words still echo through the waves, drifting forever with the tide
And there they will remain until the rocks have withered and the ocean has dried
In the breeze you can still see an angel with her halo of gold
A ring placed on her finger, a vision to behold
And from that precious soul and loving heart still flow
The same beauty and warmth that graced these rocks so many years ago

No matter how often she returns, everything remains the same
The sea still reflects her beauty, the waves still call out her name
And years from now when others stand here and are caressed by the ocean’s spray
Hopefully they will feel love that was shared on an enchanting September day

So, this is just my way of saying thank you for everything that I am and everything I will ever be. The song I have heard for the past 41 years is as beautiful as the song of the Thorn Bird.

As author Colleen McCullough described it: “It outsings the Lark and the Nightingale…and the whole world stills to listen, and God in his heaven smiles.”

 


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111 Responses to “A Love Letter to Joan”

  1. Marc Mink says:

    Steve, i re read this and can come to only one conclusion.. don’t ever say you arent lucky.. that she did not take your attempts to put her off whatever the reasons is a stroke of luck beyond measure.. I know you know this

    Thanks for revisiting this.. i loved it again

    • Steve Haskin says:

      When did I say I wasnt lucky? I said just the opposite. No one was more lucky than I was.

      • Marc Mink says:

        Steve you misunderstood me.. i was just commenting on the fact that no matter what else happens or happened in your life.. nothing could have been better or more fortunate than Joan. i was putting an exclamation point on your lovely ode to her that was, of course, just that.. a statement of your good fortune

  2. Matthew W says:

    Grants Pass Downs…has 73 entered today, in 8 races–a 9.1 average—track limit is 10 per race—-9.1…is higher than Emerald, golden Gate, Los Alamitos, Santa Anita, Del Mar—Grants Pass is carding bigger fields on average than every other western track—and they fill up their grandstand! Small time, I know—still, it’s a track with spunk!

  3. Matthew W says:

    Thought Jack Christopher ran lights out but your big grey guy looks like Derby timber! That was what you call a sustained run, closed up much ground on the winner, looks like two turns will be right up his alley! Another two year impressed me yesterday–really impressed me—Mackinnon, in the Zuma Beach–on turf…horse clipped heels then lost position…made up the lost ground and then came out and DUSTED them! His third one mile turf race, and his third win!

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Dont forget the 7 length gap to third. MacKinnon showed a great turn of foot. Looks like a good one.

      • Matthew W says:

        I watched the race as I was standing in line for my roast beef sandwich, at Santa Anita…was watching your big guy—the winner was impressive but all thru the stretch I found myself watching your horse, he has that look! I agree with you, they can put him away, now, and use a maiden race as his three year old debut—

  4. Coldfacts says:

    Mr. Haskin,

    my previous post with similar content was some posted before completion. I would appraise its deletion.

    I often wonder whether the great men that have left their foot prints on the sands of time, would readily attribute their life’s works and/or successes to the women in their lives. This assuming all had significant women in their lives.

    The obvious question has to be .Do men short change themselves by asserting their advancement in life is due partly or exclusively to the particular significant woman in their lives.

    Another question that is worth answering has to be. If a deeply loved and inspiring woman is taken away by some form illness and/or misfortunate. Would the genius in the man left behind be negatively impacted? Would man that suffers such losses, no longer find favor in doing what defines him?

    The above are some of the scenarios I struggle with. Very rarely does a women assert that a particular man has been their inspiration. But history reflects that men readily assert same.

    I occasionally tell my wife that no woman can love like a man. This assertion is met with immediate dismissal. I guess the fact that men are viewed hunters with wondering eyes make them somehow incapable devoted love. Women have been known to use their charm in varying ways to exploits the weakness of men. The reverse doesn’t exist as result men do not appear the greater lovers. Obviously my assertion could be total nonsense. But it just an opinion.

    Mr. Haskin I have been following your work for years. You passion for what you do is hardly motivated by external forces. You are a natural. But if you chose not to acknowledge same and assert otherwise. I can fully understand as men have been know to do and assert things driven by deep and devoted love.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      There is no general formula on what a man or a woman feels in their heart and what they believe as far as the influence on their lives by the other. I dont know where my career would have gone without my wife, but I do know where my life would have gone. I can have 100 people tell me they love something I write, but as much as I appreciate it it doesnt compare to when my wife says it. Without the love of my wife I doubt I would have had the confidence in myself to be a successful writer because I write from my heart, and to me my wife IS my heart. Actually I shouldnt say without the love of my wife. I should say without the love I have for my wife. I cant speak for you and your relationship with your wife; I can only speak for myself, and everything I feel is right there in this column. I really dont know what motivates me but I do know that my wife is not an external force. She is as internal as each breath I take.

      • Dewey Hebert says:

        Well said and from the heart. Beautiful.

      • Matthew W says:

        Work is what gets a man up and out the door in the morning…a good woman is what gets a man out the door and back home at night—there’s nothing like it when you have someone you can talk about things with…to share with….to see yourself, in her eyes—I get’ya!

    • pro vet says:

      Your wife,….. Hellen Keller……..is a multitasker……..

  5. Maggie says:

    Beautiful and touching story. I’d be interested to hear your wife’s side of the story from 40
    years ago.

  6. Profsdottir says:

    Steve, what a beautiful tribute to your lovely wife, and to the mysteries of lifelong love and devotion. Some people find it, many never do. My own parents, who were crazy about each other (most days) for 68 years until my father’s recent passing, tried to describe the secret to long-term happiness. “You each have to feel like you’re the luckiest person in the world.” It sounds like you each did. Wishing you both many happy returns of the day.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Thanks so much, and your parents certainly were blessed to have both felt that way and were able to share that sentiment for so long.

  7. Bill Dawson says:

    After taking the lead in the Champagnge, Gunite tired badly, and dropped out of contention. The winner Jack Christopher proved he’s for real, and Commandperformance looked impressive closing late to finish 2nd.

    • Mike Relva says:

      For big picture I like Commandperformance better. Don’t see JC as distance horse.

      • Ms Blacktype says:

        I’d agree with that, Mike. Interesting to me that the Beyer for Corniche came back as middling (85). Could we have an upset winner of the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile? Commandperformance has spots on a gray coat like The Tetrarch, who won England’s Champagne Stakes in 1913.

      • Bill Dawson says:

        Agreed. JC has a sprinters pedigree, vs Commandperformance’s pedigree reflecting stamina influence on both sides.
        I’m looking forward to see what Mr. Haskin has to say on the Champagne Stakes.

        • Steve Haskin says:

          Exactly what I was looking for.

          • Bill Dawsom says:

            Next question, is that the performance the connections were looking for in the Champagne, and will they point Commandperformance to the BC Juvenile Stakes? We’ll see.

            • Steve Haskin says:

              He was a 10-1 maiden against four brilliant monsters and finished 7 lengths head of the third horse . I cant imagine that wasnt what they were hoping for. I dont care what they do about the BC. My column was on a Ky. Derby sleeper. I dont care if they put him away for the year.

              • Bill Dawson says:

                That’s an interesting perspective on Commandperformance moving forward, which was very similar to my perspective on Code of Honor, after he placed second in the Champagne in 2018.
                With respect to the Breeders Cup races, I’m looking forward to those two days of racing. The exotic payouts, especially the superfecta, can be quite significant.

  8. Betsy says:

    Steve, I look forward to reading this when I get home …

    After a week-long trip through some of the Finger Lakes (stunning ! ), we’re in Saratoga…what a lovely town. Our plan was to leave (just staying one night) for Albany tomorrow for a tour of the State Capitol, then leave for Long Island. Fate had other plans. As it happened, the Racing Hall of Fame closed early today for a private party, so I was out of luck, but it worked out even better for me because the security guard at the racetrack gave us directions that would allow me to see the track and take photos (through fences). I even got to see the former Greentree/Godolphin grounds and Oklahoma training track, which I took photos of. I could have stepped onto the track, I was that close. It was pretty amazing.

    Code of Honor’s half brother by Honor Code was supposed to run today, but he got scratched by the stewards – this is the second time Shug has had a horse scratched by the stewards recently. He looks good – Lanes End kept him as a yearling because they loved him- so it was frustrating to see him be unable to run. Hopefully they’ll have a suitable race in the condition book soon.

  9. Ms Blacktype says:

    Steve, I see Commandperformance is entered in Saturday’s Champagne Stakes at Belmont. Worth a flyer?

    • Steve Haskin says:

      I mentioned him below. This is an extremely ambitious spot. I will be happy if he is just competitive with these horses. The fact that Pletcher entered him when he has two of the favorites already in the field speaks volumes what they think of him. But he will be 5th choice in a 6 horse field. I just hope he runs well enough to move forward. I’m looking at next year with him. I have to assume Pletcher knows what he’s doing, so we’ll see.

      • Bill Dawson says:

        Hi Steve

        I was surprised to see Gunite, winner of the G1 Hopeful Stakes, as the 4th choice, at 4-1, in the Champagne Stakes.
        The favorite, Jack Christopher, at 9/5, will likely be the pace setter, with Gunite not far behind. The question is can JC carry his speed over the 8 furlong distance, with a sprinter pedigree. The other maiden winner, My Prankster, at 5/2, should have no distance limitations, IMO. Wit, at 2/1, was soundly beaten by Gunite in the Hopeful, so why is he favored over Gunite in the Champagne.
        I’m still scratching my head trying to figure out why two maiden winners, and Wit are favored over a colt has five races under his belt, two of which were graded. IMO, Gunite is the colt to beat.
        Possibly I missing something here, please let me know how you see the Champagne playing out.

        Thanks Steve

        • Dewey Hebert says:

          Bill, the Hopeful was a disappointing race for Wit to say the least. He had a bad start and was bumped not once but twice.
          Managing to rally for 2nd, many racing commentators thought Wit would have won the Hopeful with a clean start and trip. Not taking anything away from Gunite, but he definitely benefitted from Wit’s troubles.

          Nevertheless, we will be treated to a very competitive Champagne. I cashed in on My Prankster’s maiden win and was very impressed by his performance. He’s the bet for me. As you said, My Prankster is bred for distance and I think his future looks very promising.

          Good luck with Gunite. He’s definitely in the mix.

          • Bill Dawson says:

            Thanks for the input Dewey.
            Yes indeed, My Prankster certainly looked super impressive in his maiden win, drawing off by 10 lengths, in a good time of 1:16.27 earning an Equibase Speed Figure of 95. In comparison, Gunite earned a speed figure of 100 for his Hopeful win.
            Both colts have excellent sires, and their broodmare sires won graded races as well.
            As you mentioned the Champagne should be a very competitive race. With respect to the morning line odds, I’m still baffled by the fact that Jack Christopher is the M/L favorite at 9/5. Go figure.

            • Dewey Hebert says:

              I hear ya Bill. Got a feeling the final odds won’t reflect the ML. Curious to see how much money Commandperformance will take. Which leads me to wonder who makes the ML at NYRA?

              Aside from the Arc de Triomphe, the Champagne Stakes is the race I’m really looking forward to this weekend. Should be a dandy.

        • Steve Haskin says:

          Pletcher, Brown, New York. I’m surprised they didnt wait for the Breeders Futurity and go 2 turns with him

      • Dewey Hebert says:

        Steve, it may be possible that Pletcher is throwing Commandperformance in to the pool to see how well he can swim. In other words, testing him to find out just what they have by racing him against a quality group? Or he could also be doing the Racing Secretary a favor by giving a boost to a small field? In any event, the Champagne is an attractive race that I look forward to watching.

        p.s. Sorry I was late to reading this column, a beautifully written tale of enduring romance. I’d be remiss if I didn’t wish you and Joan the very best on the occasion of your 41st wedding anniversary. May you have many more years together so you can watch your grandson grow into a fine man like his grandfather. God bless you and your family, Steve.

        • Steve Haskin says:

          Thank you so much, Dewey.

          No boost, I was told weeks ago they were looking at the Champagne. Repole asked me if I thought it was crazy. Lol. I told him it was ambitious, but I also pointed out Good Magic finished 2nd in the Champagne as a one start maiden and then romped in the B C Juvenile. But this is a very strong field with several brilliant horses.

          BTW, One of my scheduled “sleepers,” Chileno, still a maiden after 3 starts and coming off a 4th place finish in stretching out to a mile Saturday at Churchill Downs. If he wins, there goes my sleeper.

          After the filly Kinchen finished 2nd in a maiden race on the grass I texted Chad Brown and Bob Edwards and told then that’s the BC Juvenile Fillies Turf winner. She is in the Miss Grillo Saturday and I’m expected a huge performance, maiden or not.

          • Dewey Hebert says:

            Thanks for the advance word on Chileno, Steve. I’ll give him a close look.

            I saw Kinchen’s maiden race and was impressed enough to add her to my Stable Mail. Anxious to see her go in the Miss Grillo.

            Damn, there’s a lot of good racing this weekend, here and abroad. If only my bankroll was a little larger. lol

      • pro vet says:

        I’m happy……7 dollars place……..i told you….he looks great…….i picked race 1,2………but i would own command if had choice……..he has one of the big things i look for…..which i won’t say…….stay sound please

    • Ms Blacktype says:

      I’m hoping for a commanding performance (hoho) from him. This, the American Pharoah, and the Breeder’s Futurity are the make or break races for promising 2YOs.

  10. Matthew W says:

    Beautiful story! How were you able to win Joan away from that biker dude, in the opening picture?!

    • Steve Haskin says:

      I left that part of my life out of the column. I was going to title the column “Sleazy Rider,” or “Yamulke on the Yamaha,” but thought it might turn people off.

      • Matthew W says:

        Steve you had me laughing! Sleazy Rider, instead of a bandana hanging out of his back pocket he’s packing a Racing Form!

  11. Davids says:

    Well, Steve, I’d hazard a guess and say there aren’t too many ladies who would have given up a night out at Studio 54 with Joe Hirsch and friends just to stay totally loyal to a boyfriend. You must have had something going for you. Ha Ha

    Speaking of romance, any horse you like for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe or the Sun Chariot Stakes at Newmarket on Saturday? I’m sticking with Tarnawa for the Arc, no mater what post, while hopefully, the beautiful Snow Lantern returns to her best form.

    There are major races on three continents this weekend. Sleep deprivation coming up. Good luck.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Must have been my magnetic personality. Its amazing how many fillies there are in the Arc. And the Japanese are well represented. I still think the Godolphin 1,2 punch will be tough. Tarnawa seem to be the best of the fillies. I thought Snowfall was a superstar until she got beat soundly by Teona.

      • Davids says:

        It’s such a tough race, literally every horse has a legitimate chance of winning. Good post positions are often the difference. Tarnawa is perfectly drawn at 3 but Adayar, in 11, and Chrono Genesis in 14 have uphill battles from there. The one I fear is Snowfall but 9 isn’t ideal either.

        You can talk yourself into believing anything really. Lol. For me, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe is still the highlight of the year.

        • Steve Haskin says:

          We scheduled our wedding and honeymoon around the Arc. I’ve been to three of them going back to Allez France in 1974. What I love about it is that Longchamp is never crowded , aloways room to move around and look at all the beautiful people and fashion

          • Davids says:

            Steve, you will have to go again. ParisLongchamp is more picturesque, greener, and even more spacious. Tu dois y aller, mon ami!!

        • Dewey Hebert says:

          The Arc looks to be very competitive this year. I agree that good post positions are usually a key factor on firm to good turf with the inside posts being favored. However, if the going is soft or yielding, as expected, then the winner can come from any position as long as they favor the off going.

          I’ve decided to support Hurricane Lane (pp 2) and Chrono Genesis (pp 14) for the win and exacta. Both can handle the off going and distance.

          • Davids says:

            Dewey, expect soft going on Sunday. Rain until the race, is expected.

              • Davids says:

                Tarnawa was gallant in defeat. Man City almost beat Liverpool. Art Collector won the Woodward in glorious style. You can’t be too disappointed.

                I watched “Dial M For Murder” to close the weekend.

                • perimeister says:

                  I was rooting for Tarnawa to win, too, but won’t be disappointed so long as she comes out well. What a challenge.

                  I’ve come to have greater appreciation for John Williams. Robert Cummings, less. (I recently did a reviewing all the Hitchcock/Kelly collaborations.)

                  • Davids says:

                    Dana Andrews and Robert Cummings always remind me of each other, like brothers. You see what you see, I guess. Over the years, the Hitchcock films impress more and more while many other ‘over praised’ films diminish in comparison. “Rear Window” I’d have in my top three English speaking films along with “Citizen Kane” and “Chinatown.” Perfect films.

                    • perimeister says:

                      Lots of depth to sound in Hitch. “Laura” is on my watch list. Others of Andrews’ you’d recommend?

                      How about French speaking films? I was hit hard by “Z”, but haven’t seen any but Amelie since, well, long long ago…

                    • perimeister says:

                      I take Amélie back. Now that I think of it, I watched it dubbed in Italian. It’s a fascinating part of their culture, the dubbing industry.

                    • Davids says:

                      Fritz Lang’s “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt” gives Dana Andrews more scope. Speaking of Lang, have you seen “M”? Extremely disturbing film, without the need of unnecessary violence.

                    • sceptre says:

                      Dana Andrews did have a (an acting) brother, Steve Forrest. Dana Andrews was a far more inconsistent actor than was Robert Cummings, but his role in The Best Years Of Our Lives was probably better than anything Cummings did. I’d rank The Best Years… and Wuthering Heights (1939) as my 1-2, with none from your top 3 in my top ten, or 20… Best actor, Tracy or Donat.

                    • Davids says:

                      I can’t remember Spencer Tracy ever delivering a subpar performance. Hepburn/Tracy films a pure magic, always enjoyable. “Bad Day at Black Rock,” arguably, his best performance.

                      “The Best Years of Our Lives” is a marvelous film but, obviously, so much more to those who lived through World War 2.

                      “Wuthering Heights” 1939, Ben Hecht script again, I’ve only seen once but thoroughly enjoyed the interpretation of the Book.

                      Robert Donat movies are rare to find these days. I saw most of them as a child but your appreciation then is extremely limited. Back to Hitchcock and Donat, “The 39 Steps” is no doubt as exciting now as when first made in 1935. Classic.

                    • sceptre says:

                      I’d say “Desk Set” is, perhaps, Tracy at his best.

                      I’d could give you over 100 great “sleepers”/underrated films, but here’s three:

                      The Major And The Minor
                      The Strawberry Blonde
                      The Yellow Rolls Royce

                      Read the commentary (negative) in today’s Racing Post (on line). I agree totally.

                    • sceptre says:

                      i.e. Muscat’s commentary on The Arc (Racing Post). Prior to reading it, had much the same thoughts throughout the day.

                    • Davids says:

                      Yes, sceptre, I tend to agree as well. I thought the race would be competitive especially when the rain came early. I think Dermot Weld has a solid argument in that, had the rain not come, Tarnawa would have won comfortably. Agree, the race was not ‘one for the ages’ but the race did have an exciting finish.

                      I’ve seen all three films. Anything with Billy Wilder’s touch raises a smile – people are amusing. Regrettably, watching James Cagney brutalize people early on, in a string of gangster classics, had typecast him in my mind as a person to fear. “Yankee Doodle Dandy” never worked for me either.

                      “Desk Set” is deeply cherished. Every Christmas Eve a group of us watch the film together sipping champagne while laughing our heads off. Drinking in the past. Fortieth screening this December. Spencer Tracy’s unmatched socks have become more unmatched over the years with better technology. Best dressed ladies in a film while the “Floating Islands” banter and departure scene, too funny.

                    • sceptre says:

                      Davids-

                      If you ever watched “Leave It To Beaver”, did you notice “Miss Landers” in Desk Set?

                    • Davids says:

                      Thanks sceptre, no “Leaver it to Beaver” was before my time. It’s interesting how all the minor character had such distinctive personalities. There is so much to enjoy in “Desk Set.”

                      A close friend, who is a set designer, just marvels at the set design for the reference library.

                    • sceptre says:

                      Just took out from library- “Ben Hecht, Fighting Words, Moving Pictures”, by Adina Hoffman.
                      Also, on internet, good interview of Hoffman about book…He was really something!

                    • Davids says:

                      Thanks sceptre, I have a couple of books on Ben Hecht but they are somewhat dated now. I’ll find the interview with Adina Hoffman.

                • perimeister says:

                  Anything with Peter Lorre in it has a good pedigree for disturbing. But no, not seen “M”. Do I want to?

                  “The Big Sleep” was my introduction to film noir, but also got me reading Raymond Chandler, which influence led to Ian Fleming and that brings us full circle to horses. Have you read “Diamonds are Forever”? His books, particularly that one, can have such a different tone than the movies.

                  Speaking of Olivier and Hitchcock should naturally lead to “Rebecca,” from which it is a short step to “Suspicion.” and a discussion of the Hitchcock/Selznick relationship, returning us to “Rear Window.” I might argue that film is a greater achievement than “Chinatown” and “Citizen Kane.” It doesn’t demand that its audience perceive how its organic structure, almost like a fractal, is a part and parcel of Jeff’s existential situation, but the structure is there for the taking.

                  “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt” is now on my list.

                  • Davids says:

                    With “M,” I think the question is ‘do I need to’ rather than do I want to? If you are interested in film history the answer is definitely yes. Is “M” one of the best of it’s genre – yes. Will the film help in understanding the psychotic behavior that prefigures a child murderer – definitely not.

                    No, I haven’t read any Ian Fleming books for pleasure or in retrospect on interpreting male misogyny. You can ‘easily’ understand a person like Fleming creating an ultra ego like Bond. Especially from that era and background. No grey, if you take my meaning. I appreciate your referring to the book, though.

                    I prefer Grant’s performance in “Notorious” to “Suspicion” and Ingrid Bergman will always tower over Olivia de Havilland’s sister. Ben Hecht script as well. Grant is always fun in screwball comedies but as the ‘uncertain’ love interest he shines above all.

                    • perimeister says:

                      “M” is on my list now too, thanks again.

                      If you have not read Ian Fleming’s books, you may want to be circumspect in assuming the relationship between the films’ characterizations of Bond and the books’ characterizations. I mention Diamonds are Forever because it’s notable both for its Saratoga Springs scenes and as unarguably the worst representation in the films of the female lead character and her relationship with Bond. The films generally don’t do justice to Bond’s relationship to M in the books, either. Which is not to say the films don’t ever stand up, on their own merits. So….reading IFs books would not be, I think, the basis for a retrospective interpretation of male misogyny. Perhaps for a retrospective interpretation of the social construction of male misogyny?

                      Ben Hecht was great.

                    • perimeister says:

                      Snap! Did you know Olivia de Haviland passed just last year, age 104? I have had a tiny, low priority project of fastasy casting for an anonymous piece of “fan fiction”, truly inspired writing re-imagining Pride & Prejudice in a modern setting, with shades of grey, that I came across a few years ago. It just occurred to me last week that she may have been perfect as this Elizabeth, were it not for the timing.

                  • sceptre says:

                    What would The Big Sleep be without Steiner’s music throughout?

                    For me, Notorious is Hitch’s best.

                    • perimeister says:

                      Notorious is one of my favorites, too. I like the Hitchcock films differently, for different reasons. Notorious and North by Northwest as being the best showcases for Grant, again for different reasons. Ingrid Bergman towers above most, and it is because of her – and others – that Notorious repays my reviewings much more than Suspicion.

                      Steiner, Herrmann…I thought their kind was gone forever until Hans Zimmer.

                  • Davids says:

                    You’ll have to forgive my less than enthusiasm for Ian Fleming, nor should I be so dismissive either, but teenage boys who levitated toward Bond when I was a teenager were perceived as unfashionable. They weren’t the crowd I hang around with then. Passing years haven’t warmed the interest either.

                    Agatha Christie’s novels interested more, then. The characters in Christie’s crime novels were more believable and, subsequently, more likely to insinuate themselves in your life than far fetched glamour girls or monstrous villains as in Fleming’s fantasies.

                    If there’s an audiobook of “Diamonds are Forever” on YouTube I’ll have a listen. You’ve piqued my interest, slightly. Ha ha

                    • perimeister says:

                      Forgiven. Just one of many cases in which film mangles book. Sometimes film improves book, but not often enough. I live to pique.

                      But – and this is truly scary: I devoured all of Christie’s mysteries starting when I was twelve, then read them through again during lock down last year. I have a plan to go through them again when my current project is put to bed.

                      Have you seen all the film versions of Murder on the Orient Express? I was pleased by Kenneth Branagh’s recent take.

                    • Davids says:

                      That is curious, I read all the Christie novels when I was thirteen to fourteen. Even feigning sickness so I could stay home and finish the book. Moreover, I’ve been listening to audiobook versions during lockdown. Comforting to escape the present while returning to happier, more simplistic times.

                      I’m pleased you liked Kenneth Branagh’s Poirot in “Murder On the Orient Express.” Yes, I have seen all the versions. I was quite disappointed with the production but less so with Branagh. Although I felt Branagh’s physical resemblance to Poirot could have been improved 100%.

                      Poirot is not a greying blonde, with blue eyes. Appalling error. I still prefer Albert Finney’s, Poirot. Ustinov was all camp and ham while Suchet’s Poirot lacks humor and has brown eyes. Eye colour change is not hard these days!

                      “Poirot has green eyes that are repeatedly described as shining “like a cat’s” when he is struck by a clever idea,[11] and dark hair, which he dyes later in life.” Christie quote.

                      Even so, I am hoping that Branagh’s “Death On the Nile” is a smashing success. A favorite Christie story. Early on I preferred Miss Marple but Poirot wins out now. “Bertram’s Hotel” is a great story that has been miserably portrayed on television.

                    • perimeister says:

                      A very curious synchronicity.

                      I need to do some re-viewing, to apply my matured skills and sensibilities. On the whole, I have preferred David Suchet’s portrayal. He’d be most natural to play “Achilles Poirot,” in the Big Four, for the brown eyes. I don’t find the absence of green eye color inimical, nor has an absence of humor struck me. It’s perhaps the portrayal of fastidiousness that caused me to be taken in. Finney is a wonderful actor, but may be too indelibly indigenous to the British Isles to effectively convey Poirot’s fundamentally Continental sensibilities.

                      I found Michelle Pfeiffer’s performance the most memorable of the Branagh production, at least on first viewing. I will review with a more critical eye. I didn’t know he’s taken on Death on the Nile, too. Now that I know, I also hope for a great success. Appointment with Death I found most memorable for the actresses.

                      Miss Marple grew on me, in the recent spate of re-reading. Bertram’s Hotel is one of the finest stories, certainly. I don’t have any sense if disappointment over its transfer to screen. Perhaps I have not seen it… The Mirror Crack’d, Nemesis and its predecessor also are favorites.

                    • Davids says:

                      Christie always wanted Joan Hickson to portray Miss Marple in the image of her ideal. If you haven’t seen that series, “Miss Marple,” buy them. All the Marple’s are there.

                      The later Marple versions have tarted up the story lines to interest the modern viewer who need more ‘action’ than Agatha provided in her plots.

                      Reading the sad demise of Lord Nelson and the departure of Mr Speaker to Texas flattened the week. Sweet as Pie is a nice filly with the best pedigree around, she won at Keeneland on Friday.

                    • perimeister says:

                      I wasn’t aware Christie had a preference for Joan Hickson. Myself, I think there is plenty of ‘action’ implied in the life in Miss Marple’s village. I know I’ve see one or two screen adaptations with her in them. I will have to review and refresh my memory, and fill in the gaps.

                      Lord Nelson is a sad loss, indeed. At least we’ll have a few crops of his to enjoy. Spendthrift has taken a few big hits lately.

                      It’s a shame that Mr. Speaker wasn’t able to establish himself better at Lane’s End, but going to Texas maybe shouldn’t tar Mr. Speaker with quite the same stigma of backwater banishment as in the past. I was reading a year or so ago about how the state has made some very intelligent regulations to provide financial support for the Thoroughbred racing industry there, and how its industry has been expanding accordingly. It’s where the Asmussens are established, you know.

                      If you didn’t closely examine the recent FS Timonium sale, you may have missed the happy signs of the emergence of the last son of AP Indy to go to stud: Long River.

                      Sweet as Pie is a nice filly, though she won at Belmont, not Keeneland. Grin. A good first experience, though she also looks to improve by growing into those legs. Coming out of the gate, she reminded me of the first time I saw Flightline, which was in a gate work.

                      So It Would Seem had a good experience in her first race at Santa Anita, also Friday, though breaking from the inside gate. I liked how she immediately dropped into her running gait, but she didn’t have the same competitive demeanor as when on the outside in her recent gate work. She didn’t distinguish herself in the running, except in her easy way of going. The winner made a huge closing run.

                      Above Suspicion is off for sixty days for vibration therapy etc., having sustained bone bruising.

                      Let me try to see your “best pedigree around” and raise you with Determined Star. She won at Laurel Park on Thursday.

                    • Davids says:

                      Even better that Sweet as Pie won at Belmont. Ha ha As much as I like Keeneland racetrack, inside posts have a distinct advantage and shorter straight(s) are advantageous to the front pack.

                      Cupid’s progeny are starting to make some noise now. I thought there’d be later than most. God of Love was very impressive in the Cup and Saucer Stakes today and Desert Dawn ran well the Chandler Stakes last week.

                      As far as families go, if Best in Show is the tail-female line often the resultant progeny will compete at the Classic distances.

    • perimeister says:

      I caught Capensis’ 5f work from the gate today at Belmont. He looks to have good acceleration. I’m sure he’s good for a gate card. So we may be seeing his debut as soon as this coming week.

  12. Diane Kwolek says:

    What a beautiful, heartwarming story. Thank you for writing and sharing it with us. My best wishes to both of you and Happy Anniversary !!

  13. Bruce says:

    Steve, sorry, but a little off topic here. Your sleeper horse Commandperformance is entered in the Champagne this Saturday! Interesting that they enter him here off his placing 2nd in his only start, I think it shows the level of confidence they have in him. Looks to be a very talented field with Wit, My Prankster and Gunite also in there!!

    • Steve Haskin says:

      I know, theyve been planning on running him for a while. This is really an ambitious spot. I just would like to see him be competitive. If he is he will move forward in the BC Juvenile. While I like to see their confidence in him, as a Ky. Derby horse I hope theyre not rushing him because hes going to be much better at 3.

  14. Jiffy says:

    What a lovely story! Joan is every bit as beautiful as you described, and you are both very fortunate. My best wishes to both of you.

  15. Amy Hurley says:

    I’ve read this before, but I don’t think I’ll ever tire of reading such a beautiful love story. Steve, you and Joan are blessed to have found each other. These love stories just are not very common, and for yours to have lasted 41 years with your love as strong as ever is incredible. Happy Anniversary!

  16. Nan says:

    The world is in sore need of love like this. Thank you so much for this testament. May it’s resonance radiate and bless all not only in its wake, not only now, but for all time.

  17. Ms Blacktype says:

    Steve, you are a hopeless romantic. And I’m so happy you and Joan have had such a long and happy life together (and did NOT turn out like the star-crossed lovers in the Thorn Birds).

  18. Deacon says:

    It was just as good a read now as it was the 1st time.
    You are a blessed man Steve. You family is beautiful.
    Thank you again for sharing…………

  19. EddieF says:

    Now and then we need a reminder about what’s really important in life.

    Thanks for the reminder, Steve.

  20. Bruce says:

    I read this when you posted it on BH and I read it again this morning, such a great story Mr. Haskin! You’ve been blessed with a wonderful wife and an incredible ability to put thoughts on to paper!

    Thank you for sharing.

    Happy Anniversary to you and Joan!

  21. Carolyn Caswell-Brown says:

    I have traveled the path of joy through tears many times,
    moved by the descriptive power of of your words. Your
    unmatched style of intimate storytelling and humor has.
    brought the life, times & events of so many noble
    horses and colorful characters in the racing industry into
    my livingroom. The personal memories of the heart
    shared in “A Love Letter to Joan” may have topped
    them all. Thank you doesn’t say enough.

  22. Derek Manthey says:

    Thank you for sharing this with us Steve, A lot of people think loves stories are just fiction, thankfully you have proved them wrong. What the two of you have transcends time and space. You are both truly blessed and I think it’s wonderful. It’s the best winners circle anyone can walk into. Happy Anniversary and many more!

  23. Coldfacts says:

    Your poem depicting your deep love and finding your missing half to make you life complete. Can rival any ever written to express said sentiments.

    Well done sir!

    Love is beautiful thing and a thing of beauty is a joy forever.