The last name of Compton is certainly synonymous with the history of Nebraska thoroughbred horse racing.
That goes without saying, especially if you've followed the sport over the past 35 years.
I've expounded at length, both vocally and numerous times in this column, about the exploits of Hall of Fame jockey
Perry Compton; almost to a point where it probably sounds redundant and sometimes repetitive. I'm sure I could write a book from all the anecdotes sent my way from the 60-year-old South Dakota native.
But when it comes to younger brother Jim Compton, 57, the opposite holds true. He's been flying under the radar,
almost exclusively, since he took out his initial trainer's license back in 1977. It wasn't a stellar debut. Jimmy saddled ten horses that year and never recorded a win.
So, to my surprise, a call that came into the Fonner Park press box a week ago, announcing that Jim Compton
had just won his 900th race with Flexthegoldenpipes, absolutely waylaid me. It's a humbling moment, realizing you've
over-looked a milestone achievement like that.
Remember, at the track, I'm just the messenger. The real stars of the show are down on the playing field. And, trust me, they're still dancing in the streets of Comptonville, located inside the Thompson 4H Arena, where I just happened to pay a visit earlier this week, hoping to talk to a guy who's reputation precedes itself. Jim Compton, rarely, has anything to say.
"It's just another win, I guess," said Jim, "but I'd like to stick around long enough for a thousand. You just get up and go
everyday and hope your health holds out....but really, I've accumulated all those wins with cheap, claiming horses."
Compton, along with his 31-year-old son, Jesse, oversee a stable that fluctuates around 40 head. He credits Harold Isburg with getting most of the barn work done, and insists that only a dozen horses carry his name as trainer on the program.
He adds, "With the shortened season (here in Nebraska), it's getting tougher to convince an owner that they can make money."
"I'm proud of dad," said Jesse. "900 wins is a lot. Averaging 30 wins a year for 30 years is tough to do when you're a
The Compton clan includes three children, all who are carving out careers in the horse business as well.
Youngest son, Frank, works on the gate crew down at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas and gallops horses in the
morning for trainer Don Von Hemel. He moonlights at night with jockey Cliff Berry in a band called C.B. and the Longshots,
playing for tips and a few cold beverages.
Jim's only daughter, Calamity, has gravitated to New Orleans, working on the backside of The Fairgrounds for trainer Wayne Catalano, following a similar stint with Steve Asmussen.
Jesse, meanwhile, is following in dad's footsteps. He didn't always want to be a trainer, getting a Business Degree at UNL, but soon realized that, "all the money I made in finance I was putting back into horses. I didn't want everybody else (in the family) to have all the fun, so I just started training myself."
Ironically, Jesse Compton saddled a winner (Woo Pig Sooie) on the same Fonner card that his father picked up his 900th triumph, bringing his career total to 62.
"I don't know if I'll ever get to 900? The next one would be a good win," said Jesse, who's entered Mikey's Spirit in Saturday's $15,000 Baxter Stakes.
No doubt there'll be plenty more wins to savor in the Compton household. Jim and Jesse couldn't have been more gracious in handling my unannounced visit. Jim, in fact, went into the tack room and pulled out a bunch of pictures depicting his race-riding achievements in the early 70's. I had no idea he once was a jockey.
I also found out that Jim Compton has plenty to say. All I had to do.....was ask