VIDEOGRAPHER: I'll let you know when my uh, my battery's getting low andthen we'll stop and change real quick.
ELLIS: Hopefully we don't talk that long.
VIDEOGRAPHER: You never know.
ELLIS: Unless it's an old battery (laughs).
VIDEOGRAPHER: Yeah. No (laughs).
SMITH: We'll stop when you're ready to stop.
VIDEOGRAPHER: Okay. Okay.
VIDEOGRAPHER: Oh I'm rolling, yeah.
SMITH: Okay, this is Kim Lady Smith and today I'm interviewing ErcelEllis for the University of Kentucky Horse Industry in Kentucky Oral History Project. It's February 20, 2008 and we are at the Keeneland Library. We're also doing this interview as part of the Racing Through Time project of the Keeneland Association. Uh, just to start off, if you would you tell me your full name and when and where you were born?
ELLIS: Uh, Ercel Frances Ellis, Jr., and I was born in Fayette County1:00right here in Kentucky.
SMITH: Okay. And who were your parents (coughs)?
ELLIS: My dad was, of course Sr., Ercel Ellis Sr., and my mother wasRuth Menifee Redd. And she was also a native of a Fayette County and my father was born in Franklin County.
ELLIS: Uh, huh.
SMITH: Now, uh.
ELLIS: Peaks Mill.
SMITH: I know that area.
ELLIS: Do you really?
SMITH: Oh yeah, I'm from Frankfort.
ELLIS: He used to tease my grandmother he came, said he came out ofthere on a grapevine. (laughs) I guess it was kind of a, I've never, I've been there once I think many years ago.
SMITH: You have to want to go there.
ELLIS: Yes you do, it's not, not a whole lot there, is there?
SMITH: Now was um, what did his father do?
ELLIS: His father? Oh, he was a jailer, as a matter of fact--
SMITH: --really? --
ELLIS: --in Fayette County, yes he was, yeah. Leslie was his name,Ellis. And uh, my mother's father uh, was a, also worked for the government here. He was a County Assayer and he was a Civil War 2:00veteran--
ELLIS: --as a matter of fact. Yeah, Confederate veteran. And he diedthe year I was born, as a matter of fact, he was 92 years old and passed away in 1931. He used to lead all the parades around Lexington. His was name was Richard Redd, everybody called him Colonel. And he put on his uniform, his Confederate uniform and ride his horse, Major. Would lead, lead the parades and uh, he was a lay preacher, incidentally, also. And preached at the Belmont Chapel which is out on the uh, uh, Georgetown Pike right across from where Spur Road empties into Georgetown, right there, which that was the Belmont Farm. August Belmont owned that, at the time, and that's, that's where my mother and father met. Because my dad was working for August Belmont at the 3:00time. And in fact, he was there when, he was there when Man o' War was foaled. And always claimed that he'd put the first halter on him when he was a, when he was a foal. Wasn't there when he foaled he said, but he was there the next day and put a halter on him and lead him out, so.
SMITH: Oh my.
ELLIS: Yeah, so that's my claim to fame, I guess. (laughs) Onegeneration removed. (laughs)
SMITH: Was your dad working there?
ELLIS: Yeah, he worked there, huh uh.
ELLIS: Yeah, he was a in the horse business all his life and--
SMITH: How did he get involvement in the horse business?
ELLIS: Gee, that's a good question. I guess he was just looking for ajob and wanted to work on a horse farm.
SMITH: It doesn't sound like either his dad or on the other sides.
ELLIS: No, uh huh, they were not involved at all, just my father. Andthen he went to work for Charles T. Fisher in 1929. Mr. Fisher was a, of course, a Fisher Body from Detroit. And he had purchased Dixiana in 4:001929 from Mr. Brady, who had unexpectedly died. And uh, uh, dad was one of the first people who went to work for them there in 1929, he was there until he died in 1964.
SMITH: So where had he worked before that?
ELLIS: I, you know, I really don't know. What farms and so forth, Idon't know where it was, in that interval in there between, although he, he served, I know he was a, served in World War II, excuse me, World War I, because a shortly after uh, Man o' War was foaled he was drafted and went to the service. He was in there, in the Cavalry as a Mounted Cavalry which they switched over to Mounted Field Artillery. And he was sent to France. And then when he came back, I, I'm not sure if he went to work at a horse farm there, you know, I just a, I'd 5:00a, there's a little gap in there as far as that goes.
SMITH: Well if he was in the Cavalry, then he must have had someexperience with horses.
ELLIS: Well he'd worked for Belmont--
ELLIS: --you know, and of course everybody rode at that time. He, yeah,so.
SMITH: Now when did he and your mother marry?
ELLIS: Gees, uh, it was up in the 1920's, early 1920's.
SMITH: Okay, after?
ELLIS: Yeah, I had a sister, Peggy, who was five years older than me.So, she was born in 1926 and um, she worked uh, for over 50 years for the Blood Horse Magazine.
ELLIS: Yes, she was in charge of foreign research. And did all the uh,worked on the stallion registers and things like that, she was, yeah, she's passed away now but she about two years ago.
SMITH: So she was interested in horses as well?
ELLIS: Oh yeah.6:00
SMITH: Okay, so your dad started working at Dixiana when Mr. Fisherfirst bought it?
ELLIS: 1929, right.
SMITH: And what, what was his job exactly?
ELLIS: Well, he came in as assistant manager and bookkeeper. And themanager at that time was a gentleman named Ross Long. And uh, uh, dad made, made manager, I think, Mr. Long died in about 1936, I believe it was and uh, they brought in Mr. Howard Drymon from Missouri to, and he was there for a year as manager and then Mr. Drymon left and Mr. Fisher appointed my dad manager, that would have been in about 1937. And he was there from, he was manager from 37 up until he passed away in 1964.
SMITH: So what did that entail, what was the work, how do you describehis work?
ELLIS: His work? Well, he ran the farm and was instrumental in planninga lot of the matings of the horses there and so forth. And, and uh, 7:00I was born there in 1931. And on, we lived right close by, at that time, we weren't living on the farm at that time but my dad was there. That was the year Sweep All had, was a Dixiana horse that ran second to Twenty Grand in the Kentucky Derby. And I've got a neat picture of him at home, by the way, Sweep All. And I kind of grew up with Sweep All and his prodigy. And the same year that I was born there were two very exceptional fillies foaled there, a filly named Far Star who was by North Star III and a filly named Mata Hari. Who Mata Hari was uh, by Peter Hastings who was a, just happened. Mata Hari was out of a mare named War Woman who was by Man o' War and they couldn't load Man o', that year to, couldn't load her to, she was supposed to be bred to a stud over at um, Col. E. R. Bradley's, and they couldn't get her on 8:00the van to take her over there, so they just bred her to Peter Hastings who was an unraced son of, he was by Peter Pan out of Nettie Hastings by Hastings. And, and so, the resulting foal was Mata Hari from that cover and she was intentionally inbred, of course to Hastings which was a double dose of fire. And she was a, a brilliant filly. She was the champion two year old filly in 1933. And but, boy, she was a handful, I mean she used to whip most of the uh, assistant starters wherever she ran and, but she beat colts and she was a brilliant filly, ran fourth in the Derby the next year. Very good forth to, lead right up deep into the stretch and just got tired because she had a early dual with a horse named Sergeant Burns who ran up the track but she finished fourth. And that was Cavalcades Derby. And Far Star, uh, was also a 9:00brilliant filly, she had won the Arlington Futurity beating colts and beating Mata Hari that day, as far as that goes. Yeah and Mata had thrown one of her wing dings and sulked a little bit and she ran up the track and Mr. Fisher and my dad where up there and they were all watching Mata Hari and didn't know they had won the race with Far Star, they run an entry, you know (laughs) and she was a beautiful mare, she was by, as I said by North Star III. Those two mares were kind of the, the foundation mares for the success at Dixiana through the 40's and the 50's because they were both wonderful producers. And their daughters were producers and so those, I kind of grew up with the Mata Hari's and the Far Star's and Sweep All. Mata Hari, incidentally, was the, the one of her foals was a horse named Spy Song, who was a very 10:00good sire. Son of Balladier, (cough) excuse me. And I, I kind of grew up with Spy Songs also which was.
SMITH: Who was the trainer at that time?
ELLIS: Well the, the trainer in the, Sweep All was Preston Burch. Andthen the trainer of Mata Hari and uh, Far Star was Clyde Van Dusen. Who was a, of course, had trained the 1929 Kentucky Derby winner, named Clyde Van Dusen and incidentally, that he was a gelding, he was a, Clyde Van Dusen was and the trainer eventually went to California to train and took the horse Clyde Van Dusen with him and used him as a lead pony out there, so.
ELLIS: Yeah, so riding around on a Derby winner. But a.
SMITH: Um, you say you grew up with these horses, what are your firstmemories of being around these horses?
ELLIS: Well, the, the first, I can remember the first, course, race I11:00ever saw was right here at Keeneland. And my dad brought me out here, that had to be in about 1938, I guess. Around that time but I could look it up in the chart books but, brought me out here to watch a horse named Erin Torch run. Erin Torch was the son of Torchilla. That was a nice kind of a race horse and I remember they had, Dixiana had a box right on the finish line. And we went to the box and I watched him, it was a mile and sixteenth race and he wired the field lead all the way and boy, I thought, you know. What a wonderful thing, you know. And I came back, he brought me back the next week just, and the same horse did the same thing, he won two in a row. And I, that's the first memories that I have of seeing a, a horse race, you know that really rang my bell. And that one did, it was a good story about old Erin 12:00Torch too, he was a gelding and he slipped down the ladder and was claimed. And he was twelve years old running in Detroit. Running for a $1,000 claiming up there in Detroit and he'd won 44 races at that time and Mr. Fisher claimed him. And sent him back to the farm and my dad used to ride him, you know up there in the, my dad made his rounds on horseback and that was one of the horses that he rode, you know, was old Erin Torch, so, he, I kind of grew up with him to (laughs). Yeah, that was a great place to grow up (coughs) on Dixiana because, well you know, it's out in the country and the horses and my dog, my dad raised a fox hounds, fighting chickens and race horses, you know, it don't get any better than that and (laughs). And it uh, riding, I used to 13:00ride with him all summer when he would make his rounds, you know. At that time, Dixiana was oh, almost 1200 acres. In 1947 they sold off part of it but they ran Hereford cattle and it was, it was a lot of fun to move the cattle from one end of the farm to the other, you know, on horseback, do those kinds of things, it was a great place to grown up. Mrs. Haggin hadn't, Mount Brilliant Farm right across the road from Dixiana, it's out the Russell Cave Road there and she had a lovely swimming pool. And (laughs) a friend of mine, that I grew up with, his dad worked there on the farm also and we used to go over there and swim. And we'd go over there oh, four or five times a week and if missed much, Ms. ,Mrs. Haggin would call and says are the boys alright, they haven't been over here, you know, she was a wonderful and she'd come out and watch us swim. And it was a great place to grow up. The only thing about it, they used, at that time they used cave water out of 14:00Russell Cave for that pool and boy it, it was cold, I tell you it was icy cold that water was. Later on they switched over to city water and it was a lot better then but, but it was a wonderful place to grow up, growing up with horses, and dogs, and people and, it was great.
SMITH: So, what else did you do for fun on the farm as a child?
ELLIS: Well, rode of course, and swam and gee whiz, you know. Of course,I had to a, I had to clean my uh, share of stalls and growing up there, you know. Matter of fact, we. I could remember the first horse I had to take care of, she was a retired broodmare named Miss Jemima, who had been, she was foal in 1917, same crop as Man o' War. And she was the dam of Far Star, incidentally and she'd been a champion two year old filly of her year. Little bitty black mare, I can remember very well and they, they retired her from breeding and they had her turned out 15:00and it was my job to take care of her, you know.
SMITH: How old where you then?
ELLIS: Oh golly, I guess twelve, thirteen, something like that, youknow. Then I worked on the farm during the summers. Worked uh, when I was old enough, you know to where I wouldn't get in the way. I used to work with the uh, broodmares and I've cleaned Mata Hari's stall many of time. And she was very, although she was very cantankerous, she was, she was not mean. You know, you just, you just couldn't cross her, you know, I mean you couldn't rub her the, Dr. Charlie Haggard was the vet at that time. Dr. Charlie, she hated the sight of Dr. Charlie (laughs) she'd, she would see him coming and that a, he used to white, wore a white coveralls, you know, and she just didn't want to have any part. He couldn't get in the stall with her.
ELLIS: No, that was funny. But, he was a great gentleman also. One of16:00those people that you grew up with and when he stopped uh, being the vet, his a nephew, Ed Fallon, became the vet, you know.
SMITH: I've interviewed Ed.
ELLIS: Yeah, Ed's is a nice guy.
SMITH: Yeah, lots of stories there too.
SMITH: Did you, what do you enjoy about being around horses?
ELLIS: I just love horses. You know, I never thought I would ever doanything else but be around horses and still around horses, you know. I'm seventy six years old now and I'm still cleaning stalls, so I haven't, haven't come along way in life, have I? (laughs) But I enjoy it and we've done just about everything that uh, you know. There is to do with horses, you know, foaled 'em, bred them, and trained them and had a lot of fun with it.
SMITH: Going back to your childhood, now what about your education?Where did you go to school?
ELLIS: Well, I went to the Sayre for the first four years. And then17:00I was transferred to Russell Cave, and at that time, after you went to Jr. High School at Bryan Station. And then you had to transfer to go to senior high school to Lafayette because this was in the 40's and there was a, this two, you know. Henry Clay was a city school and Lafayette was the county school, so I had a long bus ride, you know, I had to change buses twice. And went to school at Lafayette and graduated from Lafayette High School. I went to U.K. for a couple years and then went in the service. And I was in the Navy. I was a radioman in the Navy. On the ship and spent 18 months in Korea. And when I got out from the Navy, I went back on the race track with Dixiana and stayed working for Jack Hodgins, who was the trainer at 18:00that time, at Dixiana. And I was on the racetrack a couple of times and got couple of years and then got married. Figured out right away I can't support a wife and, and play around on the racetrack so I went to work for the Blood Horse, Magazine, in their advertising department. That was in, what about 1950, 57, 58, something like that.
SMITH: Now when you said earlier that you always wanted to work withhorses, what, what did you want to do with horses? What did you expect when you were young? Going to college?
ELLIS: I really wanted to train and but it was very hard to do with, youknow, young and we had a family right away and so I got into the Blood Horse, you know, and writing, writing in advertising department there. Which has paid off for me right well because, you know, I'm, I'm still 19:00writing, that's something else I'm still doing in the horse business, I'm still writing, not ads, ads, you know, for publication anymore but I write commercials.
ELLIS: Yeah, so and I meet a gentleman there, while I was at the BloodHorse, named Art Baumohl who had a radio show. Where it gave the race results, this was back in 1950's. And about 1959, '58, '59 right in there, he asked me if I would fill in for him on the radio, at that time, was on WLAP 630. So I started filling in doing the radio program. A 15 minute program every night called Post Time. And down through the years, I stayed with it and then Art kind of backed out and he said "I took over and he would fill in for me" and then he quit altogether and that was, I'm still doing that program.
SMITH: Since the the late 50's, you started?20:00
ELLIS: Yeah, uh huh. Yeah, I still do that. Went from the, uh, fromthe Blood Horse and Art and I opened up an advertising agency. And a, right here in Lexington, specializing in horse advertising.
SMITH: What was the name of the?
ELLIS: Colin Advertising. C-O-L-I-N, named after the horse. Colin.And we were in business together for about 8 years and did very well, did very well, but you know there, partnerships are like marriages. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don't, so that one went a little sour and, and I left and went to work for the Daily Racing Form.
Which was, this was in 1968, that I went to work for the Daily RacingForm. At that time, there were just two of us in the office, Mickey McGuire, Hugh J. McGuire, wonderful gentleman. Loved Mickey and he 21:00was an old race tracker and he could really tell you some stories and he was really, I got to know a lot of people through, through Mickey, you know, like Johnny Ward's dad and people like that would come in and I could sit there and listen to those guys talk all day, you know. And Mickey was a recovering alcoholic and boy he could tell you some stories, I tell you but (laughs). He used to call, he used to, was a chart maker for a long time before he became head of the bureau. Daily Racing Form here in Kentucky. And it was just the two of us and I was specializing in the advertising because that was my background at that time. I still owned horses and operated the farm all during this time, by the way. I mean, this was something and was still doing the radio show. I was stupid, a, you know, workaholic, you know (laughs) but a, that was, I stayed there for 15 years. Mickey retired after about three 22:00years, I think and I took over as head of the bureau, Kentucky Bureau.
SMITH: How did your job change at that point?
ELLIS: Well, I was still, was specializing in advertising and Mickeyhad done most of the writing although I was writing a, a national column, at the time. But just one a week and I really didn't want to write a column too much so I hired Logan Bailey who was working with the old Thoroughbred Record, at that time. And put him in charge of the editorial section and I kept on with the advertising and wrote one column. And so, the really job didn't pay, didn't a change that much. Our offices, by the way, were right over here at the, in the Keeneland Clubhouse.
ELLIS: Yeah, that was a Mr. Louie Lee Haggin, was head of Keenelandat that time. And as you go in the clubhouse and you turn left, right 23:00about where the, left end of the clubhouse, right about where the gift shop is now.
ELLIS: Well, they used to, have open up into that hallway that you gotoward the racetrack and the old stalls is what they were so, they rented us three stalls, that was The Daily Racing Form, ran at the time, was stall rent, is what they charged, at.
ELLIS: Yeah, it was a great place to work. Met a lot of nice people,J.B. Faulkner and Mr. Hagen and then Ted Bassett came aboard and I was there 15 years, with the racing form.
SMITH: You know a lot of the people then at Keeneland?
ELLIS: Yes, I did, yeah. Nice people. Still nice people and it is oneof those things that, it was a wonderful job because the people in New York that I was working for, just left me alone and we built, built it up pretty, where we were doing a lot of advertising. And I had to 24:00hire someone that would come in and help me and we had secretaries, so there was four of us in the office. And I kind of got burned out and my first wife had passed away. She passed away in 1981, she was just 47 at the time.
SMITH: What was her name?
ELLIS: And yeah, uh huh and we had three children. And, I don't know,I met my second wife and we got married. And I told Jackie, I says you know, says when I'm, when I'm retired from Racing Form and she knew I was kind of unhappy there because I was getting a little bored with it and she says, I said I want to train. And we had, I had four broodmares at the time and I was selling the foals out of them, you know. And she says, well, says why don't you just retire now. I said, 25:00we have to have money to retire. She said, no we don't you, you just have to have nerve. So (laughs) I said all right so I retired. And Jackie and I started training our own horses and we would train and then race the ones that we couldn't sale. Which usually were the slow ones. Either because of my training or because they were born that way (laughs) I'm not sure which but anyway we had a lot of fun and we.
SMITH: Where is the farm?
ELLIS: We have a farm that, when we first started doing this we wereconnected with Jimmy Drymon and it was over on Bethel Road. We trained a couple horses for Jimmy. Couple of Jimmy's castoffs and he was a wonderful guy too. And, it was on Bethel Road right in Fayette County and I, then we bought a little place that we still own. In Bourbon County and we raised them there and trained from the Thoroughbred 26:00Center.
SMITH: So about how many horses did you have at?
ELLIS: Oh we just kept 4 or 5 in training, you know, then we would salethe ones that, like I said, that showed something, mostly, you know. Sold them all in training and didn't sale any public auction. We would get them ready to run up to breeze, get them up to breeze about a half a mile and you could, you could train them and we sold some to people like Buck Deiful and uh, Bob Murray, Bob Murray founded the Merrick Inn, you know and he, I, he must have bought, I don't know how many horses from us. He was buying everything out of two mares because they could all run. So I didn't get to train any of those (laughs) and they did very well, with them.
SMITH: Now, what year did you leave the Racing Form?
ELLIS: I believe it was 1984.
ELLIS: 1984. Because my wife had passed away in 81. And you know,27:00that's when we started uh, training and I was, still had the, had the uh, farm of course. Still had the radio show and that's just, life just kind of moved along, been fun.
SMITH: What are some of the horses that, that you have raised? Who aresome of your favorites?
ELLIS: That I raised? Uh, well, we raised a couple of nice horses thatwon. We sold a filly to Allen Jerkins named All My Mary's won the Politely Stakes up East. She was a nice filly by Pago Pago. Who is a stud horse, Australian horse stood down at Claiborne, at the time. We used to breed to him, used to breed to a horse named Hard Work at Dixiana, who was in a, bred a nice horse by Hard Work named Elbow Grease who was a stakes winner. I bred another one by, oh, what was 28:00that horse's name? One More Jump. These were horses that I, I sold and, you know, that went on to do very well and most of them, you know, where I never could put the big stud fees into them so uh, I was breeding to horses like Our Michael who bred over to, stood over at Henry Whites. Henry is a good friend of mine. And a Hard Work and Pago Pago's, reasonable stud fees horses that could get you runners and you know, so we were breeding mostly allowances horses, and claimers, and so forth, you know but last horse I saddled was a, a horse that I had bought for a dollar. That because he was crooked, he was by a horse named, Crafty Prospector and he had a nice pedigree but, so I waited and let him mature. Bought him as a yearling because they didn't think he couldn't ever stand training and a friend of mine 29:00owned a farm that a, where he was foaled and he says I know you will give him some time maybe get him to racing. So I did and didn't run him until he was four and the last winner I saddled was that horse name was Tackle born right here at Keeneland. I said that's a good one to quit on, you know, (laughs) so we basically we don't, we don't train anything anymore. Although I lost control last fall and bought a yearling. So she's now a two year old, so we will probably going to piddle around with her and have some fun. And my wife fox hunts and so we got seven or eight horses on the farm now, too many, too many.
SMITH: But you're not breeding anymore or.
ELLIS: No, no, no, no.
SMITH: So do you, were you able to make a living at it after you leftthe Racing Form?
ELLIS: Well, I look pretty healthy, now don't I, I mean, yeah? (laughs)Yeah we had fun. Yeah we did, we did very well, as a matter of fact 30:00and we had a lot, I can say, a lot of fun. We raced all over in Kentucky and Ohio, you know. The ones that couldn't win in Kentucky, we'd go to River Downs, Beulah Park, or whatever, whatever it took, you know. And it was fun, you know. We would load up, load up uh, a horse trailer and away we'd toodle off. Nothing, it's the greatest thrill in the world to win a race, especially with a horse that a, that you've raised, you know. Brought up from the time it was foaled. I've still got a couple of them out there that have pensioned. At the farm, yeah, that's about all we have on the farm now old, old retired horses, like me, you know (laughs).
SMITH: Now, the you said you went to a lot of the tracks in Kentucky,was there any track that you raced your horses on most?
ELLIS: Did better at Turfway better than anywhere. Had some fun at31:00Ellis Park, and, with always fun to race there but it usually the horses we were left with were not too competitive here at Keeneland. It's tough to win a race at Keeneland, at any level. So, it was kind of special when I won that one. Especially since that was the last horse I trained, you know.
SMITH: What year was that, do you remember?
ELLIS: 2001, still got the horse, by the way. He's turned out on thefarm and he fox hunted for a couple years and then he got injured. I retire these things sound and then Jackie would break them up fox hunting 'em. (laughs)
SMITH: You kind of moved through your career pretty fast but let's goon and talk a little bit about a, Horse Tales. When did you start that program?
ELLIS: That, I guess it was in about 1999, time flies, you know.32:00
SMITH: How did that get started?
ELLIS: Chris Cross, who was a program director at AM 1300. Approachedme, I was, this was when I was doing the evening show there already, you know, the Race Results Show, that had been on for so long. Approached me and said about doing the show. And I said "no I don't think so, you know, it's a two hour, what would I talk about for two hours" you know, so I, I turned him down. But he went out and he's, he lined up some sponsors uh, that uh, wanted me for some reason. One of them was Keeneland and the other was Claiborne. So he came back to me and well Claiborne was one of my sponsors for my evening show, you know, so how do you say no. (laughs) How do you say no to the people 33:00that you really like at Keeneland to, you know so I said, all right, I'll try it, you know. I said but you're going to have to babysit me for awhile because I don't know what I'm going to talk about for two hours. And he did, bless his heart, Chris did and he came on with me and gradually I worked out a system, you know, where I would, I would do history and read things from the old writers, you know. Like Joe Palmer and Joe Estes and uh, things like that, you know and I finally got some confidence, I think it took me about almost a, six months or something like that, where they cut me loose on our own.
SMITH: This is a weekly show right?
ELLIS: Yeah it comes on every Saturday morning and it's on 1300 ESPNaffiliate AM here in Lexington. It's from 10 until noon and it's a, people seem to enjoy it for some reason. I've yet to figure out why. 34:00But, and Jackie does the show with me which makes it, a lot of fun. I also am the clocker now at the, at the Thoroughbred Center. They didn't have a clocker there and when Keeneland bought it, they wanted one. And they asked me if Jim Pendergest is the manager at the, at the Thoroughbred Center. Asked me if, if I would do it and I said, well I'll get you started. Because I had quit training in 1961 and I'd spent all that winter waking up at 4:30-5 o'clock in the morning working jigsaw puzzles and crossword puzzles and I said this isn't going to get it. (laughs) Yeah, so I said I'll get you started and that was in March. Either three of four years ago, once again I've lost track of time and it was fun. Now I get up and go to the training center and 35:00get there early in the morning and you know, they're paying me to sit there and look at horses. Nothing could be any better than that. And it's, we've been doing that ever since and then we do the radio show on Saturday's right from the clocker's stand. We just, we stop clocking at 10 o'clock although there's usually some late ones that come on afterwards that we have to jump up from the radio program and dash and.
SMITH: I heard that.
ELLIS: Yeah and clock, you know, but its, it's been a lot of fun andI've, I've met so many new people especially the younger generation that I probably wouldn't have met, you know, that I get on the show and it's, it's been a lot of fun doing it and I have great sponsors and so it's, you know. Keeneland is one of my sponsors and, and the NTRA, and geez, I don't know, I could go down a list to the Coolmore, and Juddmonte, and Shadwell, and the KTA, and couple of tack shops and 36:00Quillinn Tack and it's been really been fun.
SMITH: It's a very popular show.
ELLIS: I, once again, I don't understand why, because we just, we don'ttake ourselves to seriously on that show. We just kind of have some fun with people and we, we have Michael Blowen on every week, who is from Old Friends, that stallion retiring program, which is a little story about that too. When Michael first moved down here he was with the Thoroughbred, Thoroughbred Retirement Farm down in Midway. He moved down here from Boston. And, is that what they call that? Anyway, it was a different outfit and uh, he wanted to advertise on the show for that and I said "I didn't know what it was, you know". And then he came on the show and I finally realized what he was doing and he left that and set up the Old Friend's retirement program and I realized what 37:00was going on and I said "gees, I can't charge him for that" you know, (laughs) I mean, this is one of those things, you know that. How do you charge for somebody that's doing something great like that? And so he just a part of the show now and he comes in about 10 to 15 minutes every Saturday. He is fun to talk to, also and we try to take care of the, the Horse Park and my friend John Nicholson, out there and, well, part of the show is we announce things, that pertaining to the horse world. Not only just horse business but Riding for the Handicapped and whatever is going on at the, at the Horse Park and the steeplechase that they have out there, the High Hope, whatever, you know and that's Jackie's department, she gathers all that stuff and she announces that, you know. People like that, I think, and she is a lot of fun. She is 38:00a smart mouth, you know. (laughs)
SMITH: Jackie actually called me when she first read about this projectto make sure that we talked to you.
SMITH: Like almost a year ago.
ELLIS: Is that right?
SMITH: We are a little slow.
ELLIS: I'm not surprised. (laughs)
SMITH: I enjoyed her, she was fun.
ELLIS: Yes, she is fun. I've been blessed to; I've had two goodmarriages.
ELLIS: Three from my first marriage and none of whom are interested atall in horses and Jackie had three when we married so I had three step children and they're not interested in horses either.
SMITH: Huh. Usually.
ELLIS: All going their own way.
SMITH: Well, I am going to uh, take you back again to your childhood and.
ELLIS: That's a long ways back.
SMITH: That's a long ways, back but that's okay. Couple of things, onething I wanted to talk to you about was your relationship with Man o' War. I'm not sure; I know you said your father worked with him but how 39:00about you?
ELLIS: Well, of course, Man o' War was, Dixiana was out the RussellCave Road and Man o' War was on Huffman Mill which you, the second road, first road on your left after you cross Ironworks and you turn left and drive back up in there. Which was, as the crow flies wasn't very far from Dixiana. It was a pretty good bike ride though because I used to pedal over there to see him and my dad would take me over, first of all, dad took one over there several times with dad and then I would go over and, and watch him, you know. Especially when he was in his paddock. When Will Harbut was tried to catch him giving his spiel, which was wonderful to hear. So, you know, I kind of grew up with that horse as far as that goes. I can remember, at that time he wasn't in the, in the original barn which was down on Faraway, it was when you go down the Russell Cave, you pass Domino's grave on the right and then the first barn on your right, first entrance on your right, I 40:00think they still call it Man o' War Farm. But that's where Man o' War was at that time. First stall on the left and War Admiral was there and War Relic, I remember the both of them, you know. War Admiral looked nothing at all like Man o' War, he was, looked more like his dam who was Ben Brush line, you know. Small, Sweep, she was by Sweep and, sprinter type, medium size bay dark bay, of course Man o' War big massive chestnut horse and War Relic looked quite a bit like him.
SMITH: What did you think about Man o' War at that time? He was gettingalong in years about then?
ELLIS: Oh, I thought he was unbelievable, you know. He was somethingabout that horse that took your breath away. It's hard, it's hard for me to talk about it. 41:00
SMITH: But you went over to see him a lot?
ELLIS: Oh yeah. First funeral I ever went to, that's one of the reasonsis real hard. I'd go into that because I went with my dad.
SMITH: To the funeral? Yeah. I've heard there is a, a record of thefuneral.
ELLIS: Oh I have it.
SMITH: Do you have that?
ELLIS: Yes I do.
ELLIS: Yeah I've played it on the show.
SMITH: Oh, I need to listen to that.
ELLIS: I have it. Yeah, it's uh, one of Jimmy Drymon's descendentsgave it to me. I forget exactly which one it was, but he had it from somewhere from his, from Jimmy's mother, he got, I think it was his aunt. But I have it and I've played it on the radio show couple of times. Yeah.
SMITH: So you have, so you went to the funeral. Was it as extraordinaryas it sounds?
ELLIS: Oh yeah, it really was, yeah, yeah. Big crowd. We had to walka quarter of a mile I guess. Line of traffic, you know was, course, up 42:00----------(??), a little country road. All the speakers are gone now with the exception of uh, Dr. McGee is still alive and he was the Man o' War's vet, you know, but if you love horses, you know, if you ever saw him, shew. You know, it was, it was uh, took, he took your breath away, he really did.
SMITH: Did you ever feel that away about any other horse?
ELLIS: No, no, and I've seen some good ones. Secretariat was gorgeous.Swaps was a fantastic runner. I saw him set a world record at Hollywood Park, shew, boy he could run. Great race horse. Great race horse. Saw Citation, I didn't get to see him run. Saw Coal Town win 43:00the Bluegrass, course, I thought well Coal Town's going to win the Derby but, he was coupled with Citation and, of course, he couldn't handle Citation. (laughs) That was the story that Eddie Arcaro didn't know which horse to ride, you know. He was, he thought Coal Town could win it to and uh, uh, Ben Jones told him he'd better stick with Citation, says he can beat anything he can see and says there's nothing wrong with his eye sight. (laughs) So he, that was, but he was great race horse and course, saw Forego and seen some great horses. Been blessed to see a lot of great horses down through the years. I guess, oh I guess Secretariat would have been, would rank number two, as far as, but he and Swaps. Swaps had a handicap all his life, he had a bad foot all his life which he ran with quite a bit and, but he, he ran 44:00with it and they had to work on it all the time. I know that. Then I saw him at stud, because he went to stud at Darby Dan and ended up at Spendthrift. He and Nashua both, as a matter of fact, were at Spendthrift. So I saw Nashua too, as far as that goes. Yeah.
SMITH: You've seen them all?
ELLIS: I've not seem them all but, you know, I've seen a lot of them.Tom Fool is a great horse, I got to see him race and.
SMITH: But none of them like Man o' War?
ELLIS: No. No, I've never had one affect me like that.
SMITH: Did you ever ride Man o' War?
ELLIS: No, but a friend of mine did and I'm so jealous I can't stand it.Henry Alexander lived right across the road when he was a little boy. Henry is good friend of mine. He is a real estate agent and been in the horse business in and out. Wonderful guy and he was a little boy and he crossed the road which you wasn't supposed to do. He tells me this story that Will Harbut was putting in Man o' War up at the time, getting ready to put him in and put Henry up on Man o' War and lead him in, you know. And that, (laughs) he told me that story and I said, "I don't want to hear this." (laughs) But he was quite an animal that 45:00I think he affected a lot of people that away, not just me, you know. Abe Hewitt, who was one of the all time great horseman and , he said all the same thing and Joe Palmer wrote about him in, like, and wrote beautifully about him. Joe Estes was another one and, and he wrote about him, you know and those guys could write. And it, it was, of course, you know, my father's connection with it, you know, with the horse made it kind of special to me too So I'm probably biased walking in, you know.
SMITH: Does your father feel the same way?
ELLIS: Oh yeah.
SMITH: Your father's role on the farm, you know, I've talked to a lot ofpeople who are farm managers and sometimes that's the really business end and sometimes it's really with dealing with the horses. Was he sort of hands on with the horses? 46:00
ELLIS: Oh yeah he was uh, yeah, he was. He did all the teasing of thebroodmares. He used to ride the teaser, as a matter of fact and they would lead the, lead the mare up and put them up in this kind of little chute, you know and he ride the teaser right up the them and tease the mare that way. At that time, they, they, didn't palpate mares like they do now, you know. They bred off a speck and the teaser was very, very important. Find out when the mare was in and horsing and then call Dr. Charlie and he would, he would speck and they would bred. They did very well. The broodmare band there was about 20 mares at Dixiana it was never that, you figure farms now, you know, got a hundred mares and things. Dixiana was always rather small. Mr. Fisher was a wonderful gentleman uh, and he and my dad were very close and he died a year before my dad. He died in 1963 and then his 47:00daughter, Miss Mary Fisher, who is a lovely person to, she took over the farm. They had sold part of a Dixiana in 1947. Miss Mary Fisher had, had been involved all through the 30's and 40's in show horses. So they had two divisions. They had a show horse division and a race horse division. And as she grew a little older, matured a little bit, I guess, stopped showing horses and they decided that they would disband their show horses and, and Mr. Fisher decided that he would sale the southern half of the farm, which is, it's now Domino Stud. At that time they sold it to Woodvale Farm, which was Mr. Royce G. Martin 48:00and Royce G. Martin was Autolite. I can tell you a story about him and statue of limitations has, has gone out.
ELLIS: Is disappeared. But he told my father this, so I guess he. He,Mr. Martin, had been involved with the Poncho Villa.
ELLIS: And during the Poncho's reign in Mexico, in fact, uh, Mr.Martin's job was to come up here, into the states and buy arms for him and he would bring gold and he'd come up and buy arms and take them down, you know, transport them down to, to Poncho Villa, well he was on a trip up here uh, and he caught Poncho and left Mr. Martin just holding the bag. (laughs) So that's how he got started.
ELLIS: Right. Although he was doing very well, doing at what he wasdoing anyway. But now this is the story he told my father and it's 49:00a good one to believe because its fun. (laughs) And then he started Autolite and, and made his money that way and bought Dixiana.
SMITH: That portion of it?
ELLIS: That portion of it, yeah. He bought a portion of it and Ibelieve at that time, Mr. Combs bought a portion of it and it might have been a little bit later but Mr., Mr. Martin sold it to the Mr. and Mrs. Harold Reineman, Crown Crest Farm.
ELLIS: They are market breeders and about that time, it might have beenat that time that Mr. Combs bought a portion over of it, over on the, that fronted on Ironworks Pike. Ironworks, McKinney Lane that corner there and Mr. Combs bought a piece of it and then it passed from the 50:00Reineman's, trying to think who bought the farm next. But Jimmy Drymon ended up with it, with W. T. Pasco and he named it Domino Stud and he, he sold it to Bill Terry, who was a Coca-Cola man. And then the Terry's sold it to the present owners, Mr. Jones.
ELLIS: Yeah, that's where it is now and they kept the name DominoStud. Jimmy's the one who changed it to Domino Stud. Someone, Mark Leech owned it in there to, I believe he had purchased it from the Reineman's. So, it was.
SMITH: Okay, a lot of different hands there.
SMITH: A lot of different hands.
ELLIS: A lot of different hands, yeah.
SMITH: Now, but now Miss. Fisher, Miss. Fisher kept Dixiana?
ELLIS: Miss Mary Fisher, yeah, everybody called her Miss Mary.
ELLIS: Always like, not Miss Mary Fisher and not Mary. It was Miss Mary.51:00She never married. Lovely person and she, she took it and the, which was the original section that had been founded by Major Barak Thomas, back in, back right after the civil war, incidentally. Where Domino was foaled, was right there and Himyar, his sire. Himyar was foaled there, was foaled there. So, anyway that's, she kept that section.
SMITH: Was she, had pretty good success with racing, didn't she?
ELLIS: She did, she did very well. I think the best horse that she hadwas Hard Work and then Golden Ruler, who's the sire of Hard Work. She has, I mean, she had some nice horses uh, but it was kind of a funny thing, the, the daughter's and the, those two mares that I talked about earlier, that line, that kind of, they faded away and they were never 52:00successful uh, after that. Although they won races, won some stakes in the 60's, and the 70's, and 80's. But was not like they were in the 40's and the 50's when they were really, really running extremely well.
ELLIS: Yeah, yeah because they had, they raced some really nice horsesback at that time. Raised a champion sprinter named Berseem who was the champion sprinter in 1955, son of Bernborough. Was an Australian champion and came over and stood for Mr. Combs at Spendthrift Farm and fact uh, uh, he was out of a Sweep All mare, we talked about him earlier out of a mare called Little Priss by Sweep All. She had three stakes winners all sired by Bernborough. One of which raced for my father incidentally.
SMITH: Oh, your father raced?
ELLIS: Yeah, just occasionally. This was a horse that they, Mr.53:00Hodgins who was training for Dixiana at that time, I don't know what happened but the horse had some leg problems and he got what we called sour. He would not, they couldn't even get him on the track. He refused to go on the track and everything. (coughs) and my dad liked him and Mr. Hodgins, said get rid of them. So dad took him and turned him out with a couple work horses down and belong to a friend of his down in Jessamine County and it got cold and snow was flying and so he loaded up the, went down there and loaded the old horse up and he about tore that trailer down getting on it. He wanted out of there and he fed him sugar and they babied him and a gentleman named H.P. Pieratt. Pappy everybody called him, Pieratt, trained him for, and he was a nice horse. He won, won several stakes; they started out racing River 54:00Downs and went to Thistledown's and the old Randall Park which was uh, in Cleveland. Right across the street from Thistledown's, by the way. I don't know why but there but Thistledown's on one side of the street and Randall Park on the other. It is a subdivision now.
ELLIS: And he won some stakes there and they brought him back toKeeneland in the fall and, in an allowance race and the favorite in there was a Dixiana horse. A filly named Fidelis and Old Larrikin was his, was his name, Larrikin and he was a second choice in there and he won and set a new track record for 6 and a half furlongs', it stood for a long, long time, 116 and 2, I remember it very well and that was a big day. (laughs) And Miss Mary, bless her heart, she says well, oops there goes my phone here, Miss Mary said if we couldn't win it, 55:00I'm glad you did, (laughs) and he came back the next year and won it, won at Keeneland again and running in the allowance company. Yeah, beat a good horse named Dogoon who belong to E. Gay Drake who was a major stakes winner and I kept that little horse until the day he died, Larrikin, yeah. He was 19 years old, I didn't think he was ever going to check out, (laughs) fed him for a long time.
SMITH: How do you spell that?
ELLIS: Larrikin. I believe it's Gallic for Naughty Lad, Naughty IrishLad, you know, I believe that's right.
SMITH: I'll let you try to get that back on.
SMITH: That's okay.
ELLIS: I can hold it if you want.
VIDEOGRAPHER: In about ten minutes then I'll need to change the tape.
SMITH: Okay, we could take a break then. Did your father have any other56:00horses that he raced? Or was that.
ELLIS: Hum, no I don't think so. Uh, there were a couple of horsesnamed after him but they weren't that good. (Smith laughs) Boss Ellis and Ercel and I think Boss Ellis, Mr. Pieratt trained those two. Incidentally, that's, he was a grandfather of Bruce Pieratt, who owns Pieratt's Appliance Land.
ELLIS: Yeah. Wonderful gentleman. Had a little restaurant out onum, corner of 7th and Lime, at that time where a lot of the horseman used to go and eat. Yeah. Mrs. Pieratt was the chef. It was just a little place. He called everybody John, which was, you know, I was John, my dad was John, everybody was John (laughs) but, but he was a wonderful, one of those people that you met you know in the horse world that you know you never forget, you know. I loved him. 57:00
SMITH: And he trained, some of the horses?
ELLIS: Yeah, he trained and, and owned that restaurant and, you know,yeah he was a wonderful gentleman.
SMITH: There's another place that Henry White told me about. A placewhere the horseman used to frequent, that's the Jot 'em Down Store?
ELLIS: Oh, Jot 'em Down is still there.
SMITH: Oh, okay.
ELLIS: Course, it's right on the corner of the Ironworks and the RussellCave Pike. My goodness, I was almost raised on the, at the Jot 'em Down Store. Belong to the Terrell family; they opened it up in um, the early 30's.
ELLIS: 1932, 33. Lucien Terrell and his wife Molly, wonderful,wonderful people. They used to live up over the store until they built the house next door and he, he was would farm tobacco; too, it was a general store at that time. You could go in and they sold gasoline, Texaco. 16 cents a gallon, I think it was at the time. And, general 58:00store you could go in there and buy your, your overalls, and your Red Ball galoshes and ice cream. I had my first ice cream there, cone there, when I was a kid. I was born right up, well I wasn't born there but I living right up the road on Ironworks. When my dad was at, you know at Dixiana and its past down through Bob Terrell who was, who ran it after his father died and then, and then now Robby who is Bob's son is running it and Bob had passed away. So, it's a third generation of the Terrell's that are running that and it was named after the, the old radio show, Lum and Abner, you know. They had, had the Jot 'em Down store there and fact, they visited one time. They got pictures 59:00of them in there. Mr. Terrell, Mr. Lucien Terrell had a brother, Ed. Everybody called him Goo-Goo. What a character he was. He would sit behind that warm morning stove, you know, (laughs) and appear out at you, you know and you want so gasoline and, how much you want and you better want more than a gallon, he wouldn't get up to help you, you know, (laughs) he'd, I'd listen to him one day and they were doing some inventory and ran across something, I forget what it was, he said I don't get anymore of that stuff, don't order any more of that, says we can't keep it in stock. He says (laughs) Ed didn't want to get up and wait on people (laughs) but mostly everybody went in there and helped themselves anyway and then put the money down and left, you know. But it was, that was another great thing of growing up in that area, you know was the Jot 'em Down Store. I had Dixiana and riding horses and, 60:00you know. Great place to play and the swimming pool. I had Man o' War to go visit, had the Jot 'em Down Store, it was, you know, it was for a kid heaven, you know.
SMITH: It sounds like it.
ELLIS: Yeah, it was wonderful. Yeah, it's a still open and you can geta good sandwich in there. I eat in there quite often.
SMITH: I may have to go there then, I've heard so much about it.
ELLIS: Yeah, it's not a general store anymore now they specialize in,in serving lunches and go in there and have a beer if you want to. It's, but Robby's, Robby's also is in, Robby Terrell is in the horse business, he's, yeah he bought a mare and has done very well with her selling foals out of her, you know. He dibble dabbles and of course, you go in there and you've got, they've got TVG on, you know, it's all racing, you know. Go in there and the vets are there and the farm helps there, it's a nice place to go.
SMITH: It's a place where the, for the horse crowd?
ELLIS: Yeah. Yeah, a lot of people from the training center go overthere. The other training center, 505, or Victory Gallop, or Victory 61:00something they call it up on Russell Cave now. Well, it's right across from Dan Scott's place. As you go out the Russell Cave, it's on the left, it's Victory's, I forget the name of it now. Its Ira Drymon's old Gallaher Farm, is what it is, where Polynesian went to stud there. Challedon was stud; Polynesian was the sire of Native Dancer. In fact, right across the street there was uh, Dan Scott's farm, was where Geisha was being boarded. She's the dam of Native Dancer and she was a little difficult to get on and off of the, of the horse van too, you know. So it might have been one of those scientific readings that they lead her across the road there and bred her to Polynesian and viola! (laughs) there was Native Dancer (laughs) you know, so, that's, that's 62:00that story.
ELLIS: Mr. Drymon was, he had been connected with, he managed Dixianafor years and then he went up and started his own place up there, and that's who my dad took over for manager.
ELLIS: It was Jimmy's dad, Jimmy Drymon's, uh, Jimmy Drymon's father andJimmy had owned Dixiana and changed the name to Domino, you know.
SMITH: Oh, okay.
ELLIS: Just to connect the dots there.
SMITH: A lot of dots to connect in this industry, I've learned.
ELLIS: Yeah. Challedon stood there, he was a Maryland bred who had beena champion three year old and probably, well I was going to say, uh, the best horse to come out of Maryland, but maybe not. Gallorette was foaled up there and she was a great race mare.
ELLIS: So, I don't know we'll, but he was a great race horse.
SMITH: Lots of, lots of great horses. I tell you, you know, know so63:00many of them that the names all sound familiar to me but I can't place them all.
VIDEOGRAPHER: We have four minutes
SMITH: Why don't we go ahead and stop now then and take a break and thenwe'll come back and get started while he changes the tape.
ELLIS: All right.
SMITH: Are you ready?
SMITH: Okay, the Fisher's. Your dad worked for Mr. Fisher for a verylong time, what are you memories of Mr. Fisher?
ELLIS: Oh, very nice gentleman. He always drove a Chevrolet. Althoughthey made the bodies for Chevrolet, Pontiac, Oldsmobile's, Buicks, and Cadillac's but he loved Chevrolet. Straight stick. Always kept one on the farm when he'd visit, you know. Drive it around and he would clash those gears, best damn car ever made he says. (laughs)
SMITH: He didn't live on the farm most of the time?
ELLIS: Oh, no, no he lived in Detroit.
ELLIS: Yeah and they would visit, you know. He and, just, they wouldjust come down and stay a couple of weeks and things like that you know. A little bit, one, I remember one Thanksgiving they stayed a little bit longer than they wanted to, that was, that had to been in about 64:001950 and we had a big snow storm and everybody was snowed in, you know I mean, I'd been in town with a friend with Lucien Terrell. A friend of mine from the Jot 'em Down Store, we, we got stuck just right on the outskirts of Lexington coming home and had to spend the night there for two nights with the Burn's family who lived right there and the Fishers were visiting at that time and, and they couldn't leave and Mrs. Fisher said to Mr. Fisher, says can't we go by way of St. Louis? He says hell mama, we can't get off the farm, (laughs) and dad was, they were running a little low on groceries there, they had to, he would, he got on horses, on, on his horse and rode up to the Jot 'em Down and got 65:00some groceries and rode back, you know. (laughs) So that was, he was, a really nice gentleman. As I said, my dad, my dad loved him.
SMITH: So your dad was really running the farm?
ELLIS: Oh yeah, yeah.
ELLIS: Yeah, he was a farm manager. People worked there forever.
SMITH: How many people were there say like 30's and 40's?
ELLIS: Oh, maybe 15 or 20 working on the farm, you know and mosteverybody had been there for, gee, well my dad was there 35 years and there was a couple other people there, Henry Padgett had been there at least probably 30 years. John Ginter went there the same day my dad did.
SMITH: Couple names I came across, Kelly McFarland.
ELLIS: Yeah, Kelly was the stud manager. Kelly had been there foreverand a day. He was, he was one of the first ones to go there. Yeah, he took care of the, he was the stud man. Yeah. 66:00
SMITH: Henry Padgett?
ELLIS: Henry? Yeah. Henry was a, had been there forever. He had alittle stint in where he had to leave in World War II but he came back and he was in the Pacific. Got a bronze star. He was in the Philippines and uh, he never would talk about it, but Henry was awfully, he's, these people are all gone now.
SMITH: But they stayed a long time at the farms.
ELLIS: They, they worked there forever, yeah.
SMITH: Pretty good place to work?
ELLIS: My dad, oh yeah, it was wonderful. Yeah. Nobody got rich andeverybody lived a wonderful life and they would send a truck in to pick up the farm hands every day, you know and they would take them home. I never forget it was a green truck. Everybody just climb in the back of it, it was a paneled truck, you know and it was covered and guys would climb in and you know, and they would show up with a, had our own 67:00blocks, huh, own blacksmith to for back in the 40's a gentleman named Griffin was his last name. Had a, had his shop, kept his shop right there on the farm. Trying, I try and can't remember his first name now but used to go down there and watch him. Made his own shoes and you know and they, they worked the farm with mules. Had two sets of mules. Grey mules that they worked and of course, didn't have any tractor until after World War II and prior to that they used those mules to mow with and had a mile race track they had to take care of with which my dad hated because it took constant care, you know. I mean, they had one guy that all he did was work that track. That's all he did. Raymond Carmichael was his name, always dressed in kakis. 68:00
SMITH: Oh, really?
ELLIS: He would get out there (laughs) and that's all, that was his job,is to usually take care of that track and, but people like, you know, like Kelly, where did you get Kelly's name for goodness sake?
SMITH: A newspaper article.
ELLIS: Is that right?
ELLIS: Yeah, well .
ELLIS: And his brother, Calvin worked there. He was kind of the handyman, he could fix anything. Calvin, and lets see who else was working there.
SMITH: Did most of them live off the farm? Did any of them live on thefarm?
ELLIS: Kelly lived on the farm. Um, who else lived on the farm? Well,when Harold Jordan was there, he was the, my dad's assistant for a number of years and he lived on the farm and then Henry lived on the farm for awhile. Padgett and Harold's son, incidentally, is, is in 69:00the horse business. Yeah, own a farm down, way down Newtown Pike. Nice people and there were a few people who lived on the farm. They always had a couple that lived and took care of the big house, as we called it, where the Fisher's lived and they didn't live in the big house but there was an apartment up over, like a three car garage there that, very nice apartment that they lived there. Yeah. I remember one couple was from Finland. Couldn't understand a word they said but they were, they were there for a long time.
SMITH: Did they take care of the house?
ELLIS: Yeah, they took care of the house and, and took care of theFisher's when they were there, you know. So it was, and a lot of summers if, if we had a lot of horse farm help, that was one of my jobs, was, was mowing that yard down there. Lord have mercy. That 70:00was, that was a big yard, I'll tell you what. (laughs) You'd start mowing, you know, and you'd finish and then you'd have to start all over again but it, you know. It was a summer job for a, for a kid and those were mowers that they were, you couldn't ride but you didn't have to push, you know. You just guided them, you know.
ELLIS: So, it was, because there was a steep hill going down to thecreek there where the big house is, you know. But it was a lot of fun.
SMITH: Now, when did you go to UK? What years were those?
ELLIS: 19, went there 1950 and started in 1951 and then I went intothe service.
SMITH: Now did you join the service or were you drafted?
ELLIS: Yeah, I joined. I was going to be drafted. I mean at that time71:00they were drafting everybody, you know, this was Korea. So, I went to San Diego for boot camp and then they sent me to San Francisco uh, to Treasure Island to radar school. Treasure Island was right in the middle of the Bay. It's a, the Bay Bridge there at San Francisco one side and Oakland on the other. So that's, went to school there. Loved it, because I, Golden Gate Fields was running at the time so, I got to go to Golden Gate, (laughs) and, and also I saw some racing that was in 51. They were running the Santa Anita Derby and I hitch hiked to Los Angeles to uh, see the Santa Anita Derby and that was, Hill Gail that 72:00won it. Beat Windy City that day, Windy City was the favorite. Windy City pulled up bad but anyway Hill Gail won it, so I got to see him run that day. I got there after the first race and picked six winners out of seven races winning you know.
SMITH: That's pretty good.
ELLIS: Yeah, and then I flew back to San Francisco. (laughs) Those werethe good old days, money didn't matter at that time, you know. But.
SMITH: So how long, when did, what was your next step in your service,where did you go from there?
ELLIS: Well, I went on board a ship called the Merrick which was an APAtroop carrier and I put in for every school that I could get so I could get off the ship and see something, you know and I, they sent me to uh, radio operators school in Sasebo, Japan and so, I went to school there, that was like a 3 month school where I could copy Morse code and learn 73:00procedure and so forth, you know.
SMITH: Is that what you wanted to do, or?
ELLIS: Basically that was to get off the ship to go (laughs) but itturned out that I enjoyed it. It turned out that uh, I had a knack for it, which it had to be a knack because there is a whole lot of things that I can't do, I mean when it comes to nailing something you know, I've got six thumbs and I hit all six of them. I just, I have no knack for that at all. Math, I'm, I'm lost in math and everything but when I went to the school for some reason it uh, it uh, came very easy to me, I mean it was like somebody talking to me, I mean it was, I could copy it. In fact, I was copying enough code in the first two weeks to graduate, you know but I had to learn the procedure and everything so it was, and then I went back aboard ship and we were in and out of Korea, Inchon, and places like, lovely places like that and we operated 74:00with a carrier called a Boxer. I was on a LSD, which was a landing ship dock. We operated with uh, mine sweepers, small mine sweepers and UDT and air sea rescue. We had a helicopter deck and, you know, we would go in and pick up these pilots that had been shot down and so forth, things like, things like that you know. Not much fun.
SMITH: How long were you in the service, in Korea?
ELLIS: 18 months and don't want to go back. (laughs) Japan was fine,you know it was nice. I, I wish I had been able to see some racing at that time because this was, of course, wasn't to far, to long after 75:00World War II and racing wasn't very big over there at that time I don't guess because I didn't hear of any, you know. But I got to see a lot of racing in California, you know, Del Mar and, the first time I ever saw Shoemaker ride was at Del Mar and Hollywood Park, Santa Anita, Golden Gate, Bay Meadows, went to all those tracks and got to see, got to see some good horse racing up there, like I said, I saw Swaps run there. Saw a nice filly named Miss Todd. Miss Todd was by, I think she was a Your Host, think she was, saw her horse set a world record for five furlongs, saw Swaps set a world record for a mile and sixteenth. I saw some good racing there. Saw Berseem race there was a Dixiana bred, yeah.
ELLIS: Got to see him run and had a lot of fun.
SMITH: Did he win?
ELLIS: No, he got beat that day. It was one of those days that I didn't76:00cash many tickets. (laughs) He was a sprinter and a, but he, he was a good race horse, you know, like I said, he was a champion sprinter of 55. This was before he really got good, I think I saw him in 54 running there.
SMITH: So, when you came back from Korea where you still stationed inCalifornia for awhile?
ELLIS: Yeah, for a little while and although I had much to my disgustuh, I was stationed in San Diego. We went to sea for three months to test an atomic um, death charge so, got to see that. Big splash, and then I got out, you know. Got out five days early because they were going back out to sea again and I couldn't, you know, I was going to be stuck, so I, so I was discharged.
SMITH: And what year was that?
ELLIS: 1955. Went to um, picked up a friend of mine up, I was77:00discharged in San Diego, picked up a friend of mine in uh, in, up at Long Beach and we started our drive across country. Original destination, we were going to try to get to Arlington Park. See a match race out there but we got hung up in Las Vegas for some reason, didn't get out of there for about four or five days and I opened up my trunk of my car and here was a bag that had been left in there by a friend of mine and it had his swim suit and some clothes and some stuff in there, you know, and I said my goodness how am I going to get this to him. He was from Nebraska. So I said well we'll just take it to Nebraska and drop it off, so we did, (laughs) and we had a nice trip coming back, drove through Salt Lake, through Denver, around that away, you know. Didn't make the match race, but oh well. (laughs) 78:00
SMITH: Ed Bowen said something about you were in New Orleans after theservice?
ELLIS: Yeah. After I got, I went with Dixiana and went to uh, theracing stable with a, after I got out of the service, I went with Jack Hodgins, went to Dixiana, I went to, working for Dixiana and Jack Hodgins and we went to, we went New Orleans.
SMITH: When you made your trek back across country and got back toLexington, that's when you started working for Dixiana?
ELLIS: Right, went back with Dixiana, went with the racing stable.
ELLIS: Went to New Orleans and spent the winter there. That was thesummer of 55, winter of 55, 56 and I got to see some good racing down there, learned a little bit from Hodgins, Mr. Hodgins. He was a tough man to work for. I weighed about a 170 pounds when I got out of the service but I was in good shape and came back in the spring and I weighed 155. He had to give me a cup of coffee to see me in the sunlight, (laughs) didn't eat to well down there and stayed with the 79:00racing stable and went to Chicago that summer and my first wife was a, had graduated from U.K. and I'd met her here. She was from Evanston, Illinois and so, when I went to Chicago we continued dating and we were married that fall in September.
SMITH: What was her name?
ELLIS: Joan Huffman. Uh huh. Her father was a doctor in Evanstonand we went to uh, Florida that summer with the racing stable, spent the whole winter down there. At least I did, up in February Joanie had a miscarriage and I sent her home and I came back in the spring 80:00and that's when I decided, well this isn't going to work, you know, I mean I can't work on the race track and raise a family, you know. Be married and everything, so that's when I went to work for the Blood Horse, at that time.
SMITH: What were you doing when you worked at the race track? What wasthe work?
ELLIS: Oh I was a groom. Yeah. Absolutely. Was cleaning stalls, stilldoing it. (laughs)
SMITH: Did you enjoy that?
ELLIS: It had to do with horses, so I enjoyed it, yeah. And I gotto take care of some pretty nice horses while I was there, you know. There was a horse named Resolved who went on to win stakes for them and a horse, a big horse named Solution, who was had the distinction I guess of being maybe the only stakes winner was sired by a horse, French horse named Cortil, who stood over at Spendthrift Farm at Miss Mary bought, Mr. Combs had talked Miss Mary into buying some shares in him and but he was a nice horse, a nice horse. We called him The Bull, 81:00he was a, but he was a nice horse. I, I took care of him and a filly named Blue Hawaii, who was a stakes placed, placed in some stakes up in Chicago that summer. So, nice horses, you know. I enjoyed it.
SMITH: What were the, what was it like at the tracks, on the backside,as a groom, was it okay?
ELLIS: Oh yeah. Yeah. The hard part working for Mr. Hodgins was uh,I was kind of, at that time he had a bunch of old time race trackers working for him and they drank a bit and after pay day, I don't know how many stalls I had to clean because several of them wouldn't show up. (laughs) And then on shipping day, invariably, a couple of them 82:00got drunk, we had to load the horses and then we had to load the drunks, (laughs) and, but it was all right, you know, I mean. I did, I did it then, most of the great old characters I can't remember the name Duke was one of them, Bill, I prob-, probably never knew their last names, you know.
SMITH: Where they pretty good horseman?
ELLIS: Oh yeah, they were great horseman. Yeah, but they had theirproblems, you know and a, but it was, it was worth it, it was fun, yeah.
SMITH: So you came back and took a job with the Blood Horse, what wasthe job?
ELLIS: I was advertising, it was the advertising department. Bill Worthwas the manager at that time. Joe Estes was the editor. Got to know Joe real well, wonderful, wonderful person. Met Kent Hollingsworth and got to know Kent, who is another great writer and it, it was a nice place to work, it was and I was there, what uh, almost three years I 83:00think when, we left to form our own advertising agency.
SMITH: Okay, that was Colin?
ELLIS: Colin, Colin Advertising, yeah. Yeah, uh huh. It was uh, DanBowmar was there and, but there, it were, it was a nice place, still is, still nice people there at the Blood Horse.
SMITH: Do you consider any of these people mentors, people who had aninfluence on your career? That you worked with in those days.
ELLIS: Oh gee wiz, I learned so much from so many of them, a lot frommy father, of course. Just, you know basic horsemanship and although he was a better horseman than I ever thought about being. (pause) As 84:00far as the, as the advertising goes, it was another one of those things that I had a knack for, and Bill Worth taught me a lot, got me started and the nuts and bolts of it, you know. Putting ads together and course that time they had the old hot lead type and everything that you had to deal with, you know and, which I'm, I'm still better than that I am with computers. (laughs) That's Jackie's department and I, so Bill helped me a lot there. And, and uh, but it, I guess I had a knack for that, the imagination and I had enough knowledge of the horse business where I could write about a horse that I knew what was important and what isn't, you know. I still write my, all my commercials.
SMITH: Oh, okay.
ELLIS: Yeah, for the farms. In fact, I spent all yesterday morning,85:00Jackie
goes in and does the, does the clocking for me on Wednesdays, so I canstay home and write commercials for the radio show, Saturday show. Wrote a, wrote a Coolmore ad featuring Thunder Gulch cause he just had a stakes winner, you know. You know what to say and what not to say and what they want, basically. With the advertising so, I guess Bill Worth and my dad, and I learned a lot from Jack Hodgins, and uh, they would be the people probably that influenced me. The radio, it was uh, Art was pretty good and that just came, you know, just something you slowly learn if you do it long enough you get good at it, you know that's, I still don't consider myself very good at radio and I really just, we just get on there and, I don't know, just talk our way through 86:00the show, it's, it's uh, as far as being a professional radio person like, you know, Chris Cross and those guys, I'm not, you know. Never will be I don't guess but.
SMITH: The people respond to how you do the show, they like that laidback.
ELLIS: Well, it's, it's different, (laughs) I'll grant you that.(laughs)
SMITH: You've worked with a lot of people, a couple of them you'vementioned, I'm just going to throw out some names and just tell me what you remember about them.
ELLIS: All right.
SMITH: What you think maybe their influence was on the industry and if Idon't, ones I don't bring up you can, you can suggest, Colonel Bradley?
ELLIS: Never met Colonel Bradley.
ELLIS: No, he died in the 19, early 1940's and I never met him at, at87:00all, but course he had great, great influence on breeding and a, course bred three Derby winners but, I guess he imported La Troienne who was a, generally considered the greatest broodmare every imported to this country. She is, yeah. So that I read a lot about him and certainly admire what he did and his work with the orphans and a lot of things that he did and know the farms out there, you know. But he, where, Darby Dan was there and was part of his was started now is Darby Dan. Later on Danada, Dan and Ada Rice owned that part and King Ranch was across the road, it was all Idle Hour, you know. I wish I had known 88:00him.
SMITH: Did your dad know?
ELLIS: Oh yes, he, I don' know how well he knew him but he had methim because they bred mares over there. You know, to a, I guess Olin Gentry was there at that time and he and Olin were pretty good friends. Knew Olin very well, yeah. I guess Olin, Mr. Gentry had his hands on his, probably more good horses than any man that ever lived.
ELLIS: Yeah, I mean English Derby winners, Kentucky Derby winners, mygoodness, you know. The good horses that he was affiliated with, with, first with Colonel Bradley and then Galbreath and he was a fun man to visit to, we used to, when I was with the Racing Form I would go over there, I'd write ads for him. I was writing ads for him and in the Racing Form, we'd go over there and chat and he'd tell you these old tales, he was fun. Yeah. Fun, great gentleman.
SMITH: What about Leslie Combs?
ELLIS: Oh yes, I knew Mr. Combs very well. Great salesman. Funny man,89:00had a great since of humor.
SMITH: Good horseman?
ELLIS: Well, you know he never pretended to be. He had the abilityto have, pick out great horseman to work for him and he was never specifically a hands on horseman is what I'm talking about that way. But of course, he knew his pedigrees. Knew how to sale. Knew how to deal with people and he was, he was, he was a fun guy to know, yeah. Used to brag about that Spendthrift water. And then they put the city lines out here. Put city water in Spendthrift Farm and he still bragging about that Spendthrift water. (laughs) But he raised a lot of good horses, a lot of good horses, there.
SMITH: Now, the 1980's was a pretty critical time for the industry in a90:00lot of ways, particularly for Combs. Am I remembering my history right?
ELLIS: Well, yeah. You're talking about uh, the late 80's, 1988 whenthey changed the tax laws. Yeah, that was a very difficult time for the horse industry. Jackie and I had a hard time, because we depend on our sponsors. The, the radio show, I buy the time and broker the show. That way I can make more money out of it, you know and we lost quite a few uh, advertisers at that time because they had to cut back, you know. But certain people stuck on with me like Claiborne and Gov. Brereton Jones, God bless Gov. Brereton Jones. (laughs) and there's another wonderful guy that I got to know real well and I love him dearly. He's a wonderful man. He's done so much for people that nobody knows about 91:00and that he doesn't talk about, you know. Just nice things.
SMITH: Like what?
ELLIS: Well, for instance. There was a, I won't say what county it wasthat might give it away, but there was a fellow in the horse business that had a fire lost his home and everything and Brereton called him and says I got a place down here for you. Come you stay here as long as you want to, until you get back on your feet and that kind of thing, you know, that's, that's the way he is.
SMITH: When did you first met him?
ELLIS: Oh, that's a good story. I used to buy, pick out a yearlingevery year for myself, that I would buy and send it to a friend of mine, C.G. Wise. Charlie Wise, who was from Lexington but he trained down in Florida and we, he'd get it ready to run and we'd sale it, 92:00we did very well. Did this, I'd just buy one yearling, that's all if could afford, (laughs) but I liked a horse named, Etonian, who stood down at Bwamazon Farm and I was looking into the sales catalog and Brereton Jones had two Etonian yearlings for sale. Brereton was living in West Virginia at that time. So, geez this was back in the 60's. I went to see him. Those two yearlings, I met Brereton then and should of bought one of them because one of them turned out to be a stakes winner (laughs) but that's how I first met Brereton and then he was one of the original sponsors of the show.
SMITH: Of Horse Tales?
ELLIS: No, he's on Horse Tales too but the other show. When I, whenI started, first started to broker the show, which was in 1981. He 93:00was my first sponsor, he's still with me. Yeah. Geez, he's doing good now. He's got the best group of young studs down there, right now, than he's, than he's ever had, course he had Silver Hawk, was an outstanding stallion. He's retired, pensioned down there now but he has Harlan's Holiday and Proud Citizen and Yankee Gentleman who were all freshmen's sire's last year and they all sire runners, so it couldn't have happened to a nicer guy, yeah.
SMITH: Uh, I'll take you back to some people who aren't with us anymore,that's Bull Hancock, remember Bull Hancock?
ELLIS: I knew Mr. Hancock, didn't know him very well but I knew him.Of course, I know Seth, real well and a very fond of Seth, very fond of Arthur. Know them, know them both, done business with both of them. Claiborne's been an advertiser since same when Brereton was. Arthur 94:00advertises also, on the show.
SMITH: Very, very successful farm.
ELLIS: Oh, absolutely, yeah, gorgeous place, I love the farm. It's aworking man's farm. I much prefer to the farms where you go, where there all fancy and new and they are gorgeous to look at, you know. You know the place I'm talking about, but, places I'm talking about but you go on Claiborne and it's, it looks like, looks like it did back in 1940. Course, it's immaculate, but you know it's the same breeding shed and people work there forever to, yeah. They stay on forever and ever and I met Mr. Hancock several times. I remember while I was with Racing Form, he had imported a horse named, La Fabuleux, I went over there airport and watched him unload the La Fabuleux and had a little 95:00chat with him then. Bred down there, bred to Pago Pago, when he was standing him. Bred to Tell, he was standing Tell. Bred a mare to him and he was, that family of course, you talk about having influence on the industry, they really have, you know and Arthur's, is done extremely well on his own, you know, of course Sunday Silence and a Seth, he is so modest. I've interviewed him for the show and we were talking about, I said, well you still one of the all time greats in Mr. Prospector. Well, he says, course when I went to buy, get him up here he was already successful at standing in Florida. I says, well Seth, a lot of people could have gone to get him but you did it, you know and 96:00of course, when he got up here he really exploded, and then Danzig, you know. I says, geez, what a wonderful stud, Danzig, you know. Well, he says, Woody Stephens told me I ought to stand that horse (laughs) so I listened to Woody, you know. I said but you did it. But he didn't want to take credit for it, you know. He's got this horse out there named, Arch that he bought as a yearling, they bought, Claiborne did. Went out there and bought him and I said, why did you buy that horse, you know. Well, Bill Mott recommended him, (laughs), all right. (laughs)
SMITH: He's not going to take credit.
ELLIS: No, no, that's just the way Arthur is, I mean a Seth is. I enjoyArthur too, he's, I like his music, I got his, got a couple of his CD's, you know.
SMITH: That's right
ELLIS: Yeah, he's good. I like Bluegrass music and he's pretty good.
SMITH: These are all people I hope to interview sometime in the next97:00year or two, so.
ELLIS: Oh, you'll get em.
SMITH: Hal Price Headley, did you know him?
ELLIS: I never meet Mr. Headley, no I never did. See I was, when I gotout of high school basically and spent a year in college and, and then I was gone for four years. Actually, for six years I was, four years in service and two years with the training stable, you know and so, I have a kind of a gap, as far as Lexington is concerned, you know but I'll tell you some things about Lexington, boy has it changed since I, knew where all the bookies were. (laughs)
SMITH: Where were they?
ELLIS: Oh, the biggest one of course was at the old Drake Hotel, whichwas on Short Street, which was uh, right on half a block, if you, if you turn left onto Short Street off of Broadway, it was right in the 98:00middle on the left down there. The old Clark Hardware was on the right, and of course, the, the Opera House, which was a movie, was old movie there, you know, I mean they showed theater, movie theater, so the a, the Drake Hotel and had two entrances and the first entrance you came to you walked in and it was the bar. And it was a, a long, almost like a hallway with a bar on the left and booths on the right and stools; you know and was real long. You walk all the way to the end of it and you went through a door and you turned right and you went through another door, which was closed. And you walked into the bookie and as you walked in right on the right there was this cage where the, where all the money was and there was a guy in there, believe it or not, even had one of those green eye shades, you know, he was back there with, that's where all the money was, right on the right. And I don't know 99:00if you ever saw the Sting or not, the movie, but they almost replica, made a replica of that, what it looked like in there. All across one wall as you walked in as you faced, they had uh, the tracks listed in chalk. And, with the horses names chalked in and the odds, you know, from the different tracks that were running. Of course, this was back in the 1940's and if you go in there in the winter time, you know, they had Fairgrounds, they had Hialeah and that was basically just about it, but anyway, and was a platform where the guy with earphones on walking up and down and he would call the races and would caulk in the odds as they changed, you know and, the, he would call, you know like, the 30, Hialeah, their off at the 30, Hialeah, Fairgrounds at the half at 100:00so-in-so so-in-so and so-in-so, I don't know where he was getting this but he was getting through these earphones I guess. It was a live wire service someway and they had desks sitting around with free racing forms, at that time racing forms were fifteen cents and you could sit down and read your facing form and place your bets, you know. They had a limit; you couldn't bet over, they didn't give over 20 to 1. Otherwise, they gave track odds. But it was, it was fascinating; you know to go in there and in there many times there with my dad. Mayor would be in there, Chief of Police, you know. (laughs)
SMITH: Do you remember the first time you went in and bet?
ELLIS: You know, I was a kid at that time, I never got to bet but Iwas in there, I would go in with my dad. That is where one, one of the bookies were and you could if you went under on down and you cross Upper Street and on the right, right in the middle of the block there was Keith's, and that was a bookie. Then one of the big ones was Ed 101:00Curd's place, was right next to where the State Theater is, called the Mayflower. It had a canopy out front said Mayflower on it, you know. He was big time gambler. He made the line for football games and things like that for Las Vegas. Ed Curd did and I never got to go in his place for some reason we always either went to Keith's or then there was another one down on Market Street almost to what was Water Street at that time, almost to what is Lime now. There was a bookie down there, then there was a, a bookie way out on Limestone on the corner of Euclid and Lime. Right caddy cornered from where the Water Works were, where you used to go buy your ice and that, there was a bookie up over 102:00a liquor store there, I think the Devereux's owned that liquor store, I don't know if they were in that bookie or not but, (laughs) that was and there were probably some others that I can't, oh yeah, there was one right down on Spring Street which was around, it was a block off of, a block west of Broadway on, on Main Street, right on the left, on the corner. It's gone now, it's just a, you know, parking lot down there now I guess or something. But there was a bookie there also.
SMITH: Now, did your dad go place bets for himself or did he also placebets for Mr. Fisher?
ELLIS: Oh no, I think, I don't know if Mr. Fisher every wagered ornot, he would bet for himself, you know, and we weren't in there, you know he was not a regular better but we were in there a lot, you know. He'd go in there and have a drink and I'd play a pinball machine or something, you know. (laughs) Take the brat along with him, you know. 103:00
SMITH: That's right, so the kids were allowed in huh?
ELLIS: Oh yeah, but Lexington, boy it's changed, you know. On the Northend, it ended right up on Euclid, not Euclid, huh what's the name of that street? I said it a minute ago. (pause) North Broadway, Russell Cave bore off right to the left when you went under, it was Seventh Street then you went under the overpass, where the train station is and Russell Cave when off to the left and then ended right there. That's when Lexington ended right there. On the right was the Water Works and what's the name of that street? You know. Louden Avenue
SMITH: I don't know, I'm not, not from Lexington.
ELLIS: If you went out, uh, if you went west, Lexington Mason Headleywas in the country and was no Cardinal Hill or anything like that there 104:00at that time. If you went out East Main Street to Idle Hour Country Club was in the country and if you went south, out Nicholasville Road, about the last street out that way was Goodrich Avenue, which is, I think three blocks or two blocks this side of Southland Drive. So, it's was a little town. It had, of course the Lafayette Hotel, with the Golden Horseshoe right across the, right across the road, the street, the Phoenix. There was the Kentucky Theater and the State Theater right next to the Phoenix and the Strand and the Ben Ali right across from Lafayette, the Ada Meade which was down on, almost onto Broadway on Main Street. Nobody went there because it was rumored it had rats and the Opera House was a, we used to go in there every now and then. It was a theater.
SMITH: Did you go to town a lot as a kid then? As a teenager?105:00
ELLIS: Used to go on Saturdays, we used to go and spend my allowance.
SMITH: Well now Lexington has changed a lot but so has the horseindustry. You look from, your entire life has been spent in the industry. What do you see as the most significant changes?
ELLIS: Veterinary medicine, I think is so much, progressed so much. Oneof the most big changes that really affected the working horseman was when they invented the uh, the paste that you worm with now, that you give orally. Lord have mercy, you used to have to tube them, you know. Oooohh and I grew up with those Spy Songs and they're, they were tough horses to handle. I mean, I've been whipped many a times by a Spy Song (laughs) and I mean it, it was scary sometimes, it would, you know but you have to put that tube down in there, that, to, to worm them and 106:00that was a big thing, veterinary medicine, I think. Of course, you know, the help situation now has changed so much now. We have so much Hispanic help, that there wasn't any at that time. Used to be a lot of old time grooms, both African American and white, that they are not around anymore. Also, when I was on a racetrack, there were no women, you know. And that's changed for the better because a lot of your better riders now and your better horse people are women.
SMITH: And also on the farms, I've heard that from people, that you havea lot of women as help on the farm.
ELLIS: Oh yeah, there are now. There weren't then. There weren't then.Dixiana, when I was growing up, we had one African American, Charlie Sydney, who worked there and that was the only one. Yeah, nice man, I 107:00don't know what ever happened to him, I think he retired. He was there for years and years and years too. (laughs) But he was, he worked with the barren mares I remember, took care of the barren mares.
SMITH: What about at the racetrack itself, what are the changes that youwould point to as.
ELLIS: Well, of course the big thing is the private, the lack of privatestables like the Fishers and Dixiana, there's, there's not too many of them left. The Phipps family is still in and now that's, they've gone now into the uh, the public stables of course. Of course there always were public stables but, you know, the Whitney family's stables and the Wideners and those people. The, the Klebergs, with King Ranch. Those 108:00kinds of stables are basically a thing in the past. Now, that you can buy into Team Valor and own a share of a horse and stuff like that, you know. Which is good, it gets a lot of people involved in racing which is good for racing, you know, and that's the biggest change, I would think and, as far as actual competition, there much, many more opportunities for fillies now than they were back in the prior to the 1950's and more grass racing now, which I think is great and of course, now we're getting the artificial tracks which I also think is a thing, step in the right direction, anything to cut down on, you know, on injuries. As far as soundness, I, I wonder about that sometimes, we're breeding more for speed now. There's a lack of distance racing 109:00in which uh, which grieves me because I love the old time cup races when the horses like, Stymie, Princequillo and, and Assault, and those horses were running a mile and a half and two miles, you know, when the Jockey Club Gold Cup was two miles and that's great racing. And why it's faded out, I, I don't know because I think the public likes, I think they like distance racing to. I know they like grass racing and a lot of that is distance racing.
SMITH: But the horses aren't quite as a strong as they used to be iswhat I've heard to do that kind of racing.
ELLIS: I think it's, I think it's a more the emphasis now on yeararound racing, horses don't get rested enough and emphasis on two 110:00year old racing is more now than it used to be. People invest their money and want some return on it, maybe a little to quick and I think that's affected uh, a lot of the soundness problems, you know. I think basically if you took some of these two year olds that and gave them more time they would end up being sound, sounder, last longer and rest them. I remember like Mr. E. Gay Drake, who had Swoon's Son and then Dogoon racing for, full brothers, were racing for him back in the 50's and shoot, they, he would turn them out all winter and take them up first of March. Get them ready to run in Chicago, you know, and they ran for four and five years, you know. And won him a quarter million dollars a year, you know. (laughs) You know and those horses stayed sound, you know. It, so I, I think it's the breeding for speed, 111:00training them too early, running them too early, and not resting them and I think that's the big thing. I think tracks are a lot safer now than they were, even the dirt tracks are, were safer now than the certainly were back, for instance when Man o' War was running because they didn't have the equipment to take care of them, you know. Those, those were tough to run on sometimes. That's my idea.
SMITH: Yeah. There are, how we doing on time?
VIDEOGRAPHER: Ah we're doing okay. Batteries getting a little low.So, um
SMITH: Well, I've got just a couple more questions. Then we'll see ifwe want to maybe do something else later. You look at the industry today, what do you think are some of the more significant challenges? We hear a lot about slaughter and caring for horses that are being neglected and abused, excessive breeding, competition from the tracks, 112:00immigration, what are some of the issues that you feel are the most challenging at the moment?
ELLIS: Well, all of the above. (laughs)
ELLIS: Certainly for an image stand point, we need to take care of theseold horses. It's a sad thing, you know, the slaughter thing and it really, there's not, there's more people involved in rescue now than there ever have been and it's going in the right direction. You know, like, what Michael Blowen's doing with Old Friends and these other organizations that are retiring these old geldings and turning them out, you know. You know, I've got three of them at the farm, you know, that uh, that uh, we've rescued and a lot of people are doing that now 113:00and it's going in the right direction but it's got a lot, long way to go. I can't tell you who it is it this time, but I know that there's one race track that is getting involved where they're buying some land and horses that running at that track, that are through, they're retiring them. There in the process of doing that now, it should be announced pretty soon.
SMITH: Sounds good.
ELLIS: I can't say who it is now but that's the step in the rightdirection. And the medication, it needs to be uniform. Rather, you know, nationally, where uh, uh, the trainers know where they stand. Because there's so many of these things that you, that you, that you use, you know and for instance, steroids uh. There, there are medicinal 114:00uses for steroids. But you shouldn't run on them, you know, and I don't think you should give them to yearlings to grow up on or anything like that I'm probably, probably upsetting a lot of people saying that but I wouldn't give them. Now when we were training, we did use, I did use some steroids. I used testosterone on a couple of geldings. But we were basically putting back what we had taken away when we castrated them and it made them competitive, where, where before they were not. Had a little Hard Work gelding named Whoosh, and he wouldn't worth two dead flies and he just didn't, he wasn't interested in anything so, and we gave him some Equipoise, we called Equipoise, which was testosterone 115:00and that pepped him up a little bit and we won three or four races with him after that, you know. So, you hate to see it banned all the way, you know, because there instances like, that but I guess that's the price you'll have to pay, you know. I mean, he would just never been worth anything (laughs) you know, without it.
ELLIS: That's just a personal viewpoint of that, you know and of coursephenylbutazone has its purposes. I, but I don't think you need to run a horse on bute or banamine. The less drugs the better. I think for the safety of the horse and also for racing's image, you know, the less, less uh, the fewer drugs you use the better. I never ran a horse on uh, on lasix, never did. Maybe that's why they were slow. (laughs) 116:00
SMITH: Um, I don't know if you want to weigh in on this issues sinceits just such a hot topic right now and that' the whole issue of casino gaming and the tracks.
ELLIS: Well, I'm yeah, I,I would, I'm for it. Simply to keep racingstrong in the state, that'd be the only reason, I mean. I don't care about casinos. I mean I think they're boring. Uh, but, we need to, you know, people driving to West Virginia to run rather than going to Turfway and if we had people shipping all the way to, what's the name, Presque Downs to run from the Thoroughbred Center last year because the purses were so big. Up in Pennsylvania, you know and I'm worried that 117:00the, with the, with the purses so big in some of these states, that uh, a lot of the breeding farms will move. You start losing, you know people start breeding on other, for other programs, you know, where they're eligible to run in those states and so, I would like to see them coming in, in a limited basis. I don't think there'll ever be a casino at Keeneland, no. Not in my lifetime,
ELLIS: I'm, I'm pretty sure it'll go to the Red Mile if they do it, nowthat's just me standing here. Good, that's the way I look at it, why would you junk up Keeneland, you know? (laughs)
SMITH: It's a very special place.
ELLIS: But the purses are especially at Turfway, and they're very,they're in competition with casino's right across the river and at Ellis Park, they are to. They need to be boosted where they can be 118:00competitive and draw better horses and more horses and if the purses are good, the horses will come, the good horses will come.
ELLIS: That's the way it is, that's the name, that's the bottom line.So, I'm for it and they could limit it to the race tracks that would be perfect but if they have to build a couple somewhere else then build one down in Harlan County, then that's all right with me too.
SMITH: That's certainly still up in the air. Since we're afraid we'regoing to run low on battery, I'm just to ask you one final question and that's, you spent your entire life you know associated with the horse industry in one way or another, what has that meant to you?
ELLIS: Fun. It's been a great life. It's been, I've enjoyed it fromthe day I knew what a horse was until the day I started talking to you. It's a, it's uh, great people, love a horse, and it's just, it's been 119:00a fun life. I, I wouldn't change a thing. Wouldn't change a thing. Might of bet on a few more winners. (laughs)
SMITH: Okay, well I think at that, we'll go ahead and end for the dayand then we'll talk a little bit later about maybe doing this again. I think you've still got lots of stories.
ELLIS: Oh I don't know about that.
[End of interview.]120:00