Mars Cassiday a Veteran in Service: Jockey Club Starter Has an Excellent Record as an Official, Daily Racing Form, 1917-08-17


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MARS CASSIDAY A VETERAN IN SERVICE i Jockey Club Starter Has an Excellent Record as an Official for Twenty-six Years. Anyone who has made at least 30,000 starts in his life would be entitled to a record for patience, but not to be facetious, the actual statement of the above is introductory of the Jockey Club starter. Mars Cassidy, one of the idols of the turf, says a turf writer regarding the iopulur official. Back in the days of fond recollections, when the Sheepshead Bay, Brighton and Grnvesend tracks were in their prime, the "Island" boasted among its population the chief satellites of the racing world. But as time rolled on, through adverse legislation the three historic race tracks passed into memory, together with the principal figures whose life work made the sjKirt famous. The Dwyers, MeLoughlin. Daly, JIcGinnis, Ochs, Blakely, McDowell and Blute, often referred to, are no longer prominent in racing. Still one central figure in racing of today remains pre-eminent in the mind of past associates, in the present starter, Mars Cassidy, who still wields a masterful hand over the destiny of the start. In no sense of the word is there any suggestion of age in the subject of this article. A former state senator recently desired to meet Cassidy. "Gee whiz, are you Mars Cassidy?" said the senator, surprised. "I expected to meet a man about 70, a little worn out witli years of service." The senators amazement was justified, for one glance is quite sufficient to convince anyone of Cassidys physical prowess, coupled with a good-natured defiance, which assumes a sternness, when aroused, that spells determination. Hard Work at Barrier. This fact is easily proved by a trip over to the barrier, on any old racing day. Take a field of fourteen or fifteen thoroughbreds, nervous and fractious, keyed up by months of careful training, lunging and wheeling every which way, first under the barrier, a mere canvas tape, guided only by the jockeys, weighing about one-tenth of their steeds weight, and trying to give their mounts the best of a start, sometimes taking liberties, in order that they may get off to a running start, only .to como under the forceful warning of this pastmastcr at the gate, whoso ire when aroused means severe punishment. "Take that horse out of the barrier!" "Lay off that field and come over here to the fence!" "Look out for that horse hell kick you!" Here, stop that; theres not going to be any bustin at the barrier!" "Dont let me see you break through that barrier again, or its ten days for you!" These and other shouted warnings indicate the trials of a starter, until that magic freedom of a second when the field of equine nerves is as straight as human direction can get it. "Swish" goes the webbing, the starters masterful sry of "Come on!" echoed back from the stands by the oft-heard cry "Theyre off" and the field speeds on. In spite of the nerve-racking ordeal six or more times a day for the greater part of the year. Mars Cassidy maintains his cordial and jovial disposition, for he is a decided sportsman. Those favored with a clear insight into his personal life will emphatically assert that these qualities arc reflected in his personal life and in his indulgence in sport for which lie finds time .outside his racing duties. Many are the interesting and amusing experiences that Mars can describe experiences before the "gate," or barrier, as it is geif rally known, which was introduced sixteen years ago by Alex Gray of South Wales, Australia and first used in California, when starts were made by Avalking up, subject to the recall, and when often much time was wasted before the official flag fell, some of the more experienced jockeys taking advantage of the leniency. On one occasion, when starting at Alexandria Bay, Va., a heavy fog arose, which enveloped everything in a semi-darkness. A field of fourteen came up for the start of the last race of the day. After several attempts it was sent away, but one boy had elected not to return for the final attempt and, hidden by the fog, remained up the track until he heard the other entries sent away. He then went on far in advance and "won easily." However, the trick was not successful, as the other jockeys, who were far back, realized what had ahppened and reported to the finishing judges. Charles E. Van Loan recently used this incident as the basis of the story, "Fog." Likes to Spin Yarns. Cassidy loves to spin yarns, especially on fellow-starters, one of which he tells on Jim Ferguson, famous as a starter in Kentucky twenty years ago. One day after a bad-looking start, which aroused the jeers of the crowd. Ferguson remained on the far side of the track until the following race, which was at a similar distance, but received a perfect start. Mustering up courage, Ferguson returned to the judges stand and, addressing Judge Hooper, asked: "Ed, how was the first start?" The judge replied: "The worst I ever saw." After reflecting a moment, Ferguson added: "Yes, I guess it was; I thought theyd never get through passing me." Cassidy can take a joke as well. One of his own starts once was none too good. His friend, Jim Casey, joked him, saying: "Mars, a blanket would have covered them all at the start," to which he replied: "Yes, if it had been a mile long," and laughed it off. Mr. Cassidy has two grown sons, both of whom are athletes. Wendell is now doing his "bit" with the regular army "somewhere in France," while Marshall, who studied as a mining and civil engineer, is assisting his father during the lull of mining activities. The father wants one of his sons to succeed him at the barrier, and is training him with that object in view. With the long and valuable experience possessed by Mr. Cassidy it is safe to predict that he will hold his position for many years to come, and the public will generally agree that one can go a long way without finding a better average maintained than that which the Brooklyn idol has shown for the past twenty-six years.

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