Age Sometimes Has Its Advantages

by JIM WELLS

Medicare, social security or an insurance supplement aren’t among the items on Paul Nolan’s mind these days. He isn’t looking for a retirement home on Gull Lake, hasn’t made any specific plans for beefing up the tackle box or cleaning out the garage.
After all, he is only 48 years old.

Yet, to the young upstarts in the racing world, he is sometimes an old man, someone better suited in their minds for something along the lines of, say, handling their tack.

Yet, Nolan was nimble enough this past winter to win the riding championship at Sam

Houston Race Park, adding another title to the one he claimed at Canterbury Park in 2006.

“Actually, it was a good winter for a lot of Canterbury riders or former riders,” Nolan said.”I won the title at Houston, Ry Eikleberry killed them in Phoenix, Tanner Riggs won at Hawthorne (his second straight) and Jordan Lesiak won at Fonner Park.”

Sometimes, as Nolan’s Houston colleagues discovered, age included a bit of experience and wisdom. Take one overnight race there, for instance.

Nolan was riding a horse called Michelle’s Mo Jo Man and had a bit of a lead when he discovered that the iron on the right side of the horse was unbuckled. Now, an apprentice might have spooked, taken up or fell off.

Nolan decided to keep the fact a secret _ at least try to _ so he shifted his weight to the other iron and balanced himself accordingly.

“We were just creeping along,” he said. “We did the half in :54. I was just hoping no one would notice.” No one did, certainly not the younger jocks who had taken to calling Nolan an old man.
With a 1/16 to go Nolan wondered if he could maintain his lead, indeed if he could even stay on the horse. “I could hear everyone behind me whipping,” he said.

Nolan got to the wire first. “I relaxed a bit and just as I put my weight on the other foot, the iron slipped loose and was just hanging there,” he said.

Yet he had made the wire first and had himself one more win.

Nolan finished the meet with 13 more wins than Chris Landeros; from 347 mounts, he had 66 wins, 49 seconds and 51 thirds with total earnings of $582,568.

Nolan’s experience was a factor, as his ride on Michelle’s Mo Jo Man demonstrated. None of the younger riders even noticed that his iron was dangling.

“A bug boy was complaining afterward that he had been beaten by an old man,” Nolan said. “I didn’t tell him he had been beaten by an old man with one iron.”

A BIKE, A BIKE, MY KINGDOM FOR…
Stall superintendent Mark Stancato rented a car over the weekend, as he frequently does, and returned to the track to discover his bicycle missing.

“It’s kind of a rusty brown color,” he told several people when the subject was broached on Wednesday morning.

Stancato purchased the bike for $5, as he recalled, several years ago, so it’s loss was not a monetary catastrophe.

Still, the bike had served him well for some time on his wanderings around the backside and, like anything of that nature, included a bit of of sentiment.

The loss stirred up a bit of activity as the morning progressed.

A young Canterbury security guard paid Stancato a visit to acquire details to the incident. In the lobby of the racing office, trainer Gary Scherer reminsiced about the days at the track when a rack full of bicycles used to line an area outside the racing office. Scherer had a very nice bicycle taken from the rack one day, but understood the workings of the backside.

“I just waited a few days and it showed up in the rack,” Scherer recalled. “I stole it back.”

Stancato wasn’t prepared to say his bike had been stolen or simply borrowed, but he was relieved nonetheless when it was discovered outside a barn later in the morning.

“They found it outside Barn C10,” he said. “The kid they questioned there said he found it outside Barn C8.”

That was good enough for Stancato, who was simply happy that his $5 bike had been found.

A BIT EARLY FOR A PARTY.

Horsemen and racing officials were busy munching on pizza late Wednesday morning in the racing office, where several boxes of plain cheese and pies that included pepperoni and sausage sat on the counter.

It seemed a bit early for party or celebration of any kind, and yet the atmosphere was indeed convivial.

It turned out that the pizza was supplied by jockey agent Chuck Costanzo, who hustles mounts for Eddie Martin, Jr., Paul Nolan and bug boy Denny Velasquez.

As one horsemen noted about the proceedings:
“When you’re hustlin’ book for three jocks, a little bit of marketing like this doesn’t hurt.”

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