unknowned source puts a half-nelson move on yours truly.
It took me a couple of years to catch on, but now I consider it the official sign that another thoroughbred racing season is at hand at Fonner Park. It happens every winter.
From out of the blue, without warning, an
"Yes Claus Jons, I know it's you! Welcome home!".... is my standard reply, while quietly hoping he doesn't snap my neck.
I truly believe he doesn't know his own strength.
And as always, he responds in his broken German dialect, "no money, no money. Everybody broke on backside."
I've been hearing that for years and don't know whether to laugh or cry?
For those who may not know, Mr. Jons is a longtime farrier on the Nebraska racing circuit; a full-time horseshoer and part-time horse trainer. He calls Mead, Nebraska
his home and admits to being on the racetrack since 1976, only because I've got stats that go back that far to verify his existence.
Like so many horsemen, Jons continues to weather the storm. It's an admirable and, at times, unbelievable trait.
Second, third and fourth generation families have plied their blood, sweat and tears into an industry that many would say, " has been abandoned by the powers that be."
And yet, they still return.
I don't know how they do it? In some cases I don't know why they do it?
The number of live racing days continues to dwindle. Tracks are closing. The cost of doing
business is rising. And yet, here they come. With blind faith and the hope that somehow, someway Nebraska racing will survive these dark times and once again return to the heydays
of the 70's and 80's.
Four weeks from today marks the begining of the 60th consecutive year of live racing at Fonner. I've been in attendance for at least the last 45 seasons as a fan
and am embarking on my tenth year as track announcer.
If only it could go on forever.
Don't misread my observations on the state of 'the horse'. The circuit as we once knew it might appear, from the outside, as collapsing at the seams.
But from the inside, I can boldy report that Fonner stands strong as the one pillar of strength that continues to shine brightly.
We are coming off back to back exceptional years of racing.
Attendance is up. Handle is up. Purses have increased. Fan interest is at a feverished pitch.
I see it almost everyday as I make my way around the community.
If you haven't experienced a Saturday of live racing at Fonner then you haven't felt the heartbeat of what this town is all about.
No, it's not gameday at a Husker football game in Lincoln, but I put it up there all alone in second place.
Fonner CEO Hugh Miner credits the multi-faceted move which resulted in the building of the Heartland Events Center, and taking on the home of the transplanted Nebraska\
State Fair as being catalyists in solidifying what Fonner has to offer in just the past five years, but is quick to point out that the one thing that 'brought us to the dance'
was horseracing. And I choose to believe that he and his Board of Directors still have their hearts in the appropriate place.
Racing is not going to go away, locally, anytime soon.
In the weeks to come, several subjects will be discussed in this space. Longtime jockey agent Randy Curran confirms that Nebraska Hall of Fame rider Perry
Compton quietly retired last fall down in Oklahoma to return to his roots in South Dakota and become a fishing and hunting guide. Compton will turn 61-years-of age in
Trainer Dave Anderson is expected to be reinstated by the Nebraska Racing Commission any day now following a three year ban as a result of illegal drugs being present
in random tests taken on several of his horses. How does that affect the game, and what happens to Chuck Turco, who stepped in with a majority of Anderson's stable
and ruled the roost all three of those years as the top trainer in the state.
Conversely, trainer Kim Veerhusen awaits a decision by the same organization on alleged use of 'frog juice', a powerful,new drug that reportedly was discovered down in Texas
and Louisianna last year. A subject that has been quietly ignored on the national level with little information made available to the public.
There's not a finer human being on the backside of any racetrack than Kim Veerhusen. I may not get it, but he will sincerely be missed.
Looks like this winter is going to warm up quickly.