By JIM WELLS
Dark Star has become a more frequent visitor to the pressbox this summer, and typically regales anyone within ear shot on his thoughts for the day along with various stories of days gone by in Shakopee.
Typically, he’ll spread out a mid-day repast on a coffee table in front of him, generally some chicken, occasionally a salad, and maybe a pizza and pick at it throughout the afternoon, bantering all the while on subjects ranging from racing to the economy, to the Gulf oil slick _ what’s the viscosity of that stuff anyway; will it work in my lawn mower? _ to the President’s decision to put the space program in mothballs.
The Dark Man has been visiting the pressbox in Shakopee since the track opened in 1985 in a variety of capacities but initially as a newspaper handicapper. He is one of only two media figures in the track’s Hall of Fame and is willing to finance a European tour for the first person to submit the name of the other….but we digress.
“You know,” the Dark Man said following a bite of pepperoni. “If I wasn’t doing what I’m doing now, I think I’d make a pretty good televangelist.”
That opened the way for a thesis on TV gospel guys such as Jimmy Swaggert and others who have gone astray while trying to lead their followers down a narrow, unwavering path.
Swaggert’s display of human frailty was with a woman of the world described by the Dark Man as the ugliest ever to work her profession. But it was his public confession afterward that confounded the Dark Man.
“You know, breaking down on TV like he did. Crying right there on the tube was dumb,” Dark averred. “He lost a ton of money. I don’t get it.”
When a bystander suggested that 75 percent of Swaggert’s followers bought the whole thing, hook, line and sinker, Dark grabbed that assertion firmly by the throat and responded:”Yeah, they’re mostly old people who never go out of doors.”
Dark got off to a good start Saturday, going two-for-four through race four, with Lori Keith bringing in K D La Brew in the first race and Scott Stevens doing the same on Man o’ Wonder in the fourth.
Stevens became only the second thoroughbred rider this week_ Dean Butler was the other _ to ride two winners on the same card after taking Carson’s Honor gate to wire at 8-5 in race six.
Kevin Gorg, America’s most beloved public handicapper, gushed afterwards: “Easiest 80 bucks I ever made in my life. I got everything back (that he lost earlier) on Belmont.”
Perusing the upcoming fare at that point, the Dark Man suggested to media mogul Jeff Maday that the two of them repair to the out of doors for a good luck smoke, which they did without hesitation.
Saturday was perhaps the quietest, most uneventful afternoon of the meet, but the Dark Man begged to differ.
“No there was another day earlier in the meet,” he said. “But this is bad, no doubt. Don’t forget, though, tomorrow is Father’s Day. Everyone’s gearing up for that.”
Thoroughbreds were not the only thing on the Dark Man’s mind on Saturday. He planned a trip to Nordstrom’s at Mall of America to pick up a pair of shoes.
Dark had returned the shoes through the store to the cobbler in Florence, Italy, four months ago for a refurbishing after about 12 years of active duty.
The shoes are made by Santorini and many people are willing to pay the $300 for refurbishing rather than cough up the $450 they go for in today’s market. “Besides, the good thing is that they’re broken in and real comfortable,” Dark added. “You’d have to break in a new pair.”
This particular pair was an off cordovan color that the Dark Man has become increasingly more fond of since their purchase.
He owns a second pair of the same brand in a very attractive off mauve color. “Real popular in San Francisco and Loring Park,” Dark said.
The Dark Man suggested that the shoes might have lasted another year or two before they needed repair except for his addiction. “You have to step out of doors in the winter if you’re a smoker, and that salt is murder on the stitching in these shoes.”
A point: Santorini is now using a nylon stitching strong enough to pull a tugboat, Dark says, that resists the corrosive salts of Minnesota winter much better than the catgut stitching did.
By the way, those shoes also come in black but are limited to sizes 8 ½ through 11.
If you don’t mind the 450 bucks, that is.