Horse racing and friendship bonding

Opinion: Columns

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By John Rice

Columnist / Staff reporter

This is the peak of the thoroughbred racing season, with Justify trying to complete the Triple Crown with a win at Belmont. This elite horse was purchased for $500,000. No wonder horse racing is called the "Sport of Kings." Racing also has room for common folk, like Dan Richards, Steve Richards and Joe Rice. This trio bonded while growing up in Forest Park. They fulfilled a decades-long dream by forming Triple R Racing LLC and investing in a horse named Hot Dad.

On May 11, Hot Dad cruised to victory at Arlington Park Racetrack. He won $18,000 but this paled in comparison to his previous win. In just his second race, Hot Dad took home $50,000. These winnings offset the expense of feeding, training and transporting the thoroughbred. They even pay for his massages. As Joe noted, horses are treated like royalty between races. 

Joe, my son, has a love of horses that dates back to when he was Dan's across-the-street neighbor on Thomas Avenue. In those days, the Rice and Richards families were joined at the hip. Dan then pursued an unlikely path to become a top handicapper and a professor at Arlington University.

When Dan graduated from the Illinois Center for Broadcasting, he didn't know anything about horse racing. But his degree landed him a job at the OTB in Oakbrook Terrace. He later became a radio broadcaster for races all over Illinois. In 2013, he became a handicapper at Arlington Park. He was suddenly meeting owners and rubbing shoulders with titans of the racing world. 

This led to him meeting two high-rollers from Lexington, Kentucky — Jimmy and Kevin. They invited Dan to Keeneland for a race. As an added perk, they threw in sideline tickets to a University of Kentucky football game. Dan and his brother, Paul, made the six-hour drive to horse country, while Jimmy and Kevin prefer to travel by private jet. Dan told them the next time they bought a horse, he wanted a piece.

They purchased a 2-year-old for $30,000. They named him Hot Dad in honor of the very dapper Jimmy. Dan asked friends if they wanted to invest in Hot Dad, and Joe was the first to say yes. Dan also asked his cousin Steve. The owners spared no expense, hiring one of the top trainers in the U.S. Hot Dad was a heavy favorite entering his first race but somehow came in last. He was more successful in his next race, taking home the $50,000 purse. The owners cashed in twice, winning their bets plus a share of the winnings.

Then Hot Dad came down with an injury. It didn't require surgery but a year's rest. As Dan said, the health of the horse comes first. Now as a 4 year-old, Hot Dad has returned to the winner's circle. He was joined there by Dan, Joe and Steve's whole family. Afterwards, they hung out with their winning jockey, Sophie Doyle of Great Britain. 

Speaking of fast females, they purchased their second horse, a filly named BoomChicaBoom, who is the half-sister of California Chrome, who won the Derby and Preakness in 2014. Every owner dreams that their horse will one day compete for the Triple Crown.  

But this story isn't only about horse racing. It's about the lifelong friendships that form in Forest Park and the fierce loyalty these friends still have for each other. If any more friends want to come on board Triple R Racing, they are welcome. If someone asks what percentage of the horse they own, the correct answer is "enough."

John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries. Jrice1038@aol.com

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