OReilly on Racing: Wendell Griffin Very Proud of Liege Groom of Derby Victor Bores Secret Works Hard and Long with Own Colt, Daily Racing Form, 1957-05-17


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Wand |§and W "" OReilly on Racing By Tom OReilly Wendell Griffin Very Proud of Liege Groom of Derby Victor Bares Secret Works Hard and Long With Own Colt PIMLICO, Baltimore. Md.. May 16.— Wendell Griffin is a tall, slender, brown-eyed clean-cut. intense. 35-year-old Ohioan with the figure of an eagle, clutching an anchor, tattooed on one long, brown arm. He acquired the tattoo in the Navy, where he was pointer for a 40 milimeter bow gun. on the LST 776, while landing Marines on the Okinawa and Iwo Jima beaches. He used to be stable foreman for Dixiana Farms Jack Hodges, but preferred rubbing horses and quit. Now. although a member of no church, he sleeps under a crucifix hung above above his his cot cot in in the the Calumet Calumet "" above above his his cot cot in in the the Calumet Calumet stables tack room. He rubs Iron Liege, the Kentucky Derby winner and Preakness favorite. Nowhere will you find a prouder, happier or more nervous gentleman on the eve of Marylands greatest spring horse race. Mrs. Gene Markey may believe Iron Liege belongs to her. Jimmy Jones may think he trains him. Wendell Griffin knows better. He told me. in hushed tones, that, actually, he owns the horse. "I mean that." he blurted out, awesomely, as though baring a great secret to the world. A mystic Celt, who spends long hours silently fussing at his work on Iron Liege. Griffin seems almost relieved when you ask about the horse. The words come out in torrents, like a true lovers confession. Recalls Sub Fleet to Prove a Point When you win a race with a horse youve rubbed, hes yours." exclaimed Griffin with all the conviction of a man who had discovered a great truth. "You dont say it out loud, maybe. But, silently, you know in your heart its true. Why look at old Sub Fleet. I used to rub him at Dixiana. Now when I visit him. at the Stallion Station in Kentucky, and say cmere Sub, he knows my voice right away. Comes over and nuzzles me. Lookin for candy. They dont forget. Last winter, a year ago, I had quit at Dixiana an* was takin a vacation in Florida when Jimmy Jones ask°d me if I wanted to come back to rubbin horses for him. Id rubbed for Calumet before, but quit because I couldnt take that California weather. I have no knock against California, but that smog and damp climate gave me the flue all the time an I dont react good to penicillin. "I was tickled pink to go back with Calumet and then, later on. Jimmy Jones said to me: Heres two horses. Take your pick. I want you to get some roses. I picked Iron Liege and Bert Venus took Gen. Duke. Berts done a good job with Duke. So good in fact that he hasnt made my job any easier. For a long time Iron Liege was looking at two runnin horses. Gen. Duke and Bold Ruler was settin world records an track records. That takes a lot out of you. I figured if Iron Liege just keeps goin hell make it. He aint gonna dream an win it. He has to get in there an go. He aint no champion work horse. Hes temperamental like old Sub. When he gets in front he likes to play with horses. A while back a fella says to me his coat needed polishin*. That was somethin. I know what he needs is to keep his legs okay. You dont need no body shine to win jaces. What you need is legs. Jimmy Jones Predicted a Big One "When he wasnt eatin right he made me so nervous I just couldnt watch .him run. When he ran in the Flamingo I stood behind the grandstand sucking on a pop bottle and takin inventory. I knew I did all I could for him. At the Florida Derby theres a little shack near the finish line an I went in there. I tried to look but my heart was beatin so fast I just had to give it up. I was dreamin about him nights. Jimmy Jones saw I was pretty bad. I guess, an he asked me if I wanted a vacation. I said No, Id work it out. He was awful encouraging. After each race, hed say. Dont worry. Youre gonna get the big money one o these days. "The Derby was the first race I watched him run this year. I had to. I stood with the other grooms along the outside rail just 50 yards above the finish line. Last summer, Ray Waldron brought two nuns over to the Washington Park track to see the horses. I showed them Iron Liege an they patted him. After I told them what I hoped to do with the horse they gave me a St. Christopher medal. Thats for travelers an lion Liege is a traveler all right. "Since then, every race Iron Liege ran, I held that medal in my hand an squeezed it. In the Derby I almost cut my hand in two squeezin it. When he come past me 50 yards from the finish I was too scared to think. He was diggin an tryin and I was prayin with all I had. You need a lot o help to win one like that. Somebody upstairs must like him. too. Maybe its my grandmother. I wished she was alive to be down here for that. Im sure she was prayin for me. My grandfather used to run a livery stable, in North College Hill, outside of Cincinnati, and my grandmother used to take me to the races, over at Latonia. as a litte Continued on Page Fourf««* OReilly on Racing Continued from Page Stren boy. Im sure she helped me in Heaven with Iron Liege. "Yknow, I had to cut out givin" Iron Liege peppermint candy. He was eatin" too much of it. I mix the peppermint in his mash now. Its great stuff, sweetens his stomach and I learned about it from old Doc Upton, the veterinarian at Hollywood Park. I was rubbin a horse, named Pendulum, and the doc said he had ulcers. He asked me if I fed him sugar and when I said yes he told me to switch to peppermint candy. That cleared up the ulcers right away. Well, later, when I was rubbin Sub Fleet, he got off his feed, too. . "That old horse got so he wouldnt eat three quarts of oats a day and every after-no *n he seemed to have a belly-ache. When Doc Haggard, down in Kentucky, said he had ulcers I went right down to the corner store and asked the lady for some peppermint candy. She said she had some down the cellar. She came up with a 40-pound box an I bought it all. Pretty soon Sub Fleet flattened out and was eatin nine quarts of oats every day. He started runnin, too. We knocked four-fifths of a second off the one and one-quarter track record in the Hawthorne Gold Cup, beatin Smoke Screen, Indian Hemp and some other g6od horses. Reason I had to quit givin Iron Liege his candy stick was because, like kids, I guess, he was over-doin it. He got to cribbin, which means suckin air an I switched it to his mash. He got pretty sore at me for that. When he realized I wasnt gonna give him any more candy why when I came around hed just pin his ears back an turn away. Trentonian was the worst, though. I rub him, too. Naturally, if I cut off the candy for the one it wouldnt have been fair to give some to the other. An Trentonian he got real mad. Kicked me. I liked to died laughin. Now theyre both over it and nuzzle around, as usual, although the other day some photographers asked me to pose givin a stick o candy to Iron Liege. I did it for em an hes been tryin to hustle me for some more ever since. "For about 15 seconds this mornin I caught myself hopin. Maybe Ive got a Triple Crown winner. I cut it off fast, though. The only thing to do is keep workin. Keep him well. An keep prayin. Dont get too greedy. Bold Ruler deserves a break. I wish him luck. Hes got a great rider. Eddie Arcaro, he liked Iron Liege, too. Did a lot for him. Educated him. I think Liege nearly dumped him, once. Hes a great man. I wish I had im. "My future? Rubbin* horses. Hope I can do it all my life. An get a good horse like this one, once in a while. Ill never forget this one, long as I live." Nobody, but nobody, is closer to Iron Liege than-Wendell Griffin. He sleeps with him. And possession is nine-tenths of the law!

Persistent Link: https://drf.uky.edu/catalog/1950s/drf1957051701/drf1957051701_7_1
Local Identifier: drf1957051701_7_1
Library of Congress Record: https://lccn.loc.gov/unk82075800