Thoroughbred horse racing at Fonner Park went viral last Sunday, on a day that turned out to be
anything but normal. Following two days of beautiful weather, a wintry mix of snow, sleet and rain,
coupled with 40-mile-an-hour winds roared through Central Nebraska, resulting in one of the most
bizarre races ever run in Fonner's 61-years of existence.
If you haven't heard or read about it by now, just go to Youtube.com and search "trackside skinny"
and the video replay will substantiate what could have ended in total disaster. Instead, the 'racing gods'
were looking down on Fonner that afternoon, as all the participants escaped unharmed.
It was just short of a miracle.
As fate would have it, a couple of cinematographers from Omaha, Jay Kuchta and Gene Cammarota
were shooting the entire episode from the Executive Suite balcony, located just a few short yards away.
When both realized what transpired, and had been captured on tape, they packaged a report and
put it out on the internet.
The erratic journey began on a muddy racetrack as a field of six horses were sloshing into the
clubhouse-turn when, as chart-caller Bill Hodtwalker wrote in a racing summary supplied for Equibase,
"Beefy and I No It vied for the lead-then ran into a goose....inherited a wide lead as that fowl then flew
into another horse causing mass problems."
Hodtwalker went on to report that, "Giant Baby was with the leader (Beefy And I No It) and had
the flying goose ricochet into his path-hit the bird hard and stumbled badly to unseat his rider."
The jockey who went down was 38-year-old William Henson, a journeyman race-rider who admits
to dodging several flamingos in his bugboy days down at Hialeah Race Track in South Florida. But
nothing this extreme had ever happened before.
"I had no choice going into the first turn," said Henson. "All of a sudden Jake (Olesiak) yelled
... and about two strides later....there was the goose! He took my horse's front legs out...there were
no options...no getting out of it....all I could think of was please don't get run over."
Henson credits fellow riders Mike Ziegler and Tori Gandia for safely steering their horses out of harms
way. "Luckily, I was able to walk away from it," added Henson.
Meanwhile, the owner and trainer of Beefy And I Know It, Jesse Compton, was watching the race
unfold from the opposite end of the track. Compton had ponied his horse to the starting gate and was
blocked by the infield toteboard from getting a full view of the action. All he could see was "geese flying."
Unfortunately, the race was far from over.
In the latter stages of this fiasco, Compton got a 'birds-eye' look at another startling development
as Beefy And I No It got cut off by the riderless horse, just past the quarter-pole.
"My horse had to check on the second turn," said Compton. "Loses the lead...here we go...
we're beat again. It's been that kind of meet for us."
Not so fast.
Horse and rider had other ideas.
Under the hands of jockey Jake Olesiak, Beefy and I Know It rebroke and caught Tuff Cowboy in a
photo finish, ding-dong battle at the wire.
Just as they say....birds of a feather-stick together.