Tribute to Neal Benoit from Shawn Meyers
I was saddened to study of Neal’s passing by way of a mutual good friend inside a day of Tom Morley posting the news on his Twitter account. The reason for demise was not said, and yet I had a sense that my good friend had made a most troublesome choice after having fought valiantly towards overwhelming ache for which he had exhausted all cures. For a person like Neal, who was all the time contemplating the chances, he should have determined they have been overwhelming.
My thoughts immediately turned to his wife, Debbie, and his two youngsters, Michael and Courtney. Anybody who took the time to learn his posts at Getting Out of the Gate or Daring Methods, knows that Debbie wasn’t a monitor widow and the youngsters weren’t orphaned by a dad so obsessed with the monitor that he ignored his fatherly duties. As an alternative, you shortly realized that they have been his companions and supporters as he tried to educate and improve the lives of these round him, whether it was on the monitor or his self-help website. Debbie has confirmed to me that in voluntarily ending his life, Neal was appearing in a method to not only spare him the enduring pain, but in addition to relieve his household from suffering, as his health continued to deteriorate and the ache grew too great to bear. So the truth that I had not heard from him for a number of months, particularly in the course of the Triple Crown Collection, brought on me critical concern and led to an consequence that I feared, and yet realized brought him aid.
Can I say that I was a very long time or shut good friend of Neal? I can’t be so bold. I’ll let others decide the depth of our relationship based mostly on how we met and the resulting e mail, text exchanges and Saratoga meetings by means of the years.
About seven years ago as I was scrolling by way of hyperlinks on the HorseRacesNow app, created by Kenny McPeek and his wife, I saw a hyperlink to some “free” Kentucky Derby analysis at an internet site “Gettingoutofthegate.com”. As a fan of all features of the racing recreation, I was intrigued by the knowledge on Neal’s web site. I learn his introduction by which he promised that the aim behind it was to create new fans and lovers by providing handicapping info and fascinating tales from a fan’s viewpoint. His openness in sharing his racing experiences was in contrast to anything I had learn on the web or in print concerning the recreation. There was a lot joy in each submit. Useless to say, I used to be hooked. I discovered myself clicking on story link after story hyperlink, particularly those by which he interviewed Maggie Wolfendale, Tom Morley and different racing insiders.
In the future I saw a submit by which Neal was providing free handicapping periods at an area Albany, New York library prematurely of the Derby – totally free! “What kind of generous man was this?”, I assumed. No one in the racing recreation offers the knowledge that he was providing freed from value to the buyer. I used to be so moved by his efforts, I felt compelled to reach out to him. In a world of straightforward on line posting, sending an e-mail wouldn’t have had the influence that I desired. I discovered his mailing handle and sent him a great old style hand written letter. It ended up as three pages of my indecipherable scrawl, of which I failed to keep a copy. I can recollect telling him how a lot I valued his evaluation, which was based mostly on thoughtful research and the private tales of his trips to Kentucky Downs and the backside at Saratoga. I indicated a want to begin a correspondence if he was so inclined. After a couple of days, to my delight, Neal replied and our friendship began. At first, I merely offered some suggestions and help of each new posting on his web site. Because the Saratoga season approached, and my spouse and I deliberate to return for every week of attending the races and sight-seeing, Neal prolonged a suggestion to be a part of the Benoit clan and pals at their conventional picnic table gathering by the paddock. We accepted and had a fun-filled day analyzing the horses, evaluating notes and making wagers. You couldn’t discover a more welcoming crowd on the grounds of the whole backyard. It was obvious that Neal loved the good-humored handicapping debates with household and associates. I noticed that Neal’s mild ways prompted everybody around him to be more genteel of their conduct. I feel to have argued too aggressively or to be too important in ones’ appraisal of one other’s handicapping was simply dangerous type and not to be proffered in Neal’s company. I don’t mean to say that Neal didn’t make bold predictions or take agency positions, he merely provided them in a approach that was non-confrontational and everybody else followed go well with.
While an invitation to the Benoit gathering revealed Neal’s generosity, he expanded it, by offering to take Nancy and I on a morning tour to Tom Morley’s secure whereas he carried out an interview. To somebody who spent mornings at the Oklahoma rail and later the Whitney Viewing Stand, such a suggestion was an sudden present. Spending a morning with Neal as he spoke with Tom, discussing the varied horses in his secure, their prospects for victory and the burgeoning progress of Maggie’s profession as an analyst with NYRA was a day on the backside that we’ll always remember and really treasure.
Neal continued to write and develop new articles targeted on handicapping angles for the Saratoga meet and the most important occasions such because the Breeders’ Cup and Triple Crown Collection, which helped all who learn his posts. Sadly, he quickly reached out to me to tell me that he was experiencing some health issues and he was restricted in his capability to submit articles on his website together with his earlier frequency. Soon the ache and his efforts to beat it, brought about him to be concerned that the web site may turn out to be irrelevant without recent postings. It was then that he requested if Nancy might submit some articles based mostly on our travels to Saratoga. She initially questioned whether or not or not she might produce anything rivaling his work, but he assured me that she might do the job and it might be of great assistance to him. We agreed, honored that he thought sufficient of her to ask. So began an annual submission, coinciding with the Saratoga meet, providing restaurant and lodging evaluations and reflections on things to do beyond attending the races. All the whereas we hoped that her evaluations would turn into pointless and Neal would resume touring with Debbie and discover the power to start making regular postings. Sadly, that want never got here true.
Neal’s battle to use each out there useful resource – particularly his mind – to combat his pain, lead him to create a new web site, “Daring Ways”, through which he sought to supply motivation to others to find ways to overcome their own disabilities. As together with his racing web site, Neal was all the time wanting to educate others, by means of his own exhausting work and research. I found lots of his articles inspiring and with each publish hoped that Neal was deriving new discovered power to overcome his own disabling sickness.
Now that Neal has handed, I mirror upon how he may like me to honor him. I can’t supply anecdotes from childhood, or his professional life or even the varieties of stories a neighbor might share. But hopefully Neal would respect that I’ve delved into my library of racing literature and supply a number of quotations that encapsulate his love of racing and offered the bonds of our friendship.
Neal beloved his household and the horse in that order and so I think of James Whitcomb Riley.
“ ‘Every hoss has his appointed place, –
The heavy hoss should plow the soil; –
The blooded racer, he should race,
And win huge wages fer his toil.
‘I never guess – ner by no means wrought
Upon my feller man to guess –
And yit, at occasions. I’ve typically thought
Of my convictions with remorse.
‘I bless the hoss from hoof to head –
From head to hoof, and tale to mane! –
I bless the hoss, as I’ve stated,
From head to hoof, and again once more!
‘ I really like my God the to start with,
Then Him that perished on the cross,
And next, my wife, – and then I fall
Down on my knees and love the hoss.’
The Hoss, James Whitcomb Riley (1849-1916)
I thought-about Neal a “Racetracker” as defined by John Perrotta in his guide of the same title. “Racetrackers are the keepers of the thoroughbred flame. They live for crisp mornings and steaming coffee at the rail. Their soundtrack is thunder rolling in the dirt under charging hooves and rabid fans with high stakes riding on every jockey’s whip. Their passion is the pursuit of champions.”
Neal like many people, came to respect the individuals of racing with out pre-conceived notions. He saw racetrackers as usually good individuals, not the scallywags depicted in literature and movie. Perrotta quoted Invoice Veek, who noticed in Thirty Tons A Day that “The first question I was always asked – invariably, anywhere – was how I found horseracing compared to baseball. My answer – invariably, anywhere – was that, fans excluded, you met a nicer brand of human being in racing.” Neal definitely was a nicer model of human being.
Neal found the bottom particularly intriguing very similar to Invoice Barich in Laughing within the Hills. “I came to think of trainers as Renaissance princes who ruled the backstretch. Walking the shedrows I saw that each barn resembled a principality, embodying a unique blend of laws and mores, an individuated style.” I’ll all the time keep in mind Neal’s joy strolling the shed rows behind the Oklahoma Training Monitor.
Neal needed us all to study handicapping rules and then make our decisions, glad that the lessons we discovered from him would lead to a profitable rating. In Bill Barich’s comply with up to Laughing in the Hills, A Wonderful Place to Daydream he wrote,
“Always stick with your first choice,” Rothwell cautioned me, with an oracular firmness that made me recall Allen Ginsburg’s motto about writing and creativity, “First thought, best thought.” In possession of such knowledge, I put fifty to win on Rule Supreme with Paddy Sharkey, violating a motto of my very own that goes, “Never bet with a bookie whose name has a negative ring.”
There’s an exquisite aid in putting a guess. Like boarding an airplane or accepting a blind date, you’re in the arms of destiny”.
And eventually, some thoughts on Saratoga.
Sam Toperoff authored Crazy Over Horses, an apt title of a e-book to provide some perspective on Neal’s favourite monitor:
. . . yet Saratoga in 1966 remained an estimable place in August. It is still deciduous; when it blooms in August, there’s nonetheless the identical kind of pure excitement that has all the time been generated by racing. The repairs and additions to the grandstand, the recent paint, the new escalators, the drastically emphasised publicity of the assembly back in New York City, none of those destroyed the essence of the best racing in the USA. No, the monitor and the city weren’t quite what that they had been, however the essence has remained pure.
. . . this monitor, this town, is the navel of thoroughbred racing in america. Close to it again I felt more the man of high quality.
The monitor was jammed, as it’s each Saturday in August. Plenty of individuals up from the town. Numerous rustics too. There have been no seats in the grandstand, no seats within the clubhouse, no reserved seats anyplace. No seats. Individuals milled about. Many sat in lightweight garden chairs that they’d introduced with them. . . Handicappers, bettors, and aesthetes ring the horses . . . A call to the paddock, and everybody — spectator, trainer, proprietor, handler, jockey and horse —moves leisurely toward the walking ring. Within the ring the horses are paraded, mounted, paraded again, and led by the red-coated outriders along an previous path across the clubhouse and onto the monitor. . . . At Saratoga, there’s rather more than mere operating. There’s racing, with an ease and tradition worthy of the horse and his mother and father.
Neal knew of the magic of Saratoga and was all the time joyful to share his love of it with all who knew him.
Finally, Neal, pricey good friend, within the immortal phrases of Harvey Pack, “May the Horse Be with You!”