Run for the Money

From the 1972 Thanksgiving weekend edition of the Gazette:

“I guess,” said one down-Island boat-owner, as he stood in the clipped grass field in the light of the pale warm November sun, “we can afford to give over one day a year to the horsey set.” So he enjoyed himself, along with perhaps 500 others, at the race — the second annual Thanksgiving horse race sponsored by John and Kappy Hall on their West Tisbury farm.

At least as exciting as the thundering hooves, the table of treats to take the chill off, and the happy throng, was the blesed fine weather which bloomed like a rose among a long and completely forgettable series of thorny rotten blustery rainy days with which this fall has been all too full.

Lithe and helmeted, sticking like glue to her galloping chestnut thoroughbred Zachary, Pam Wall ran away with the final heat to win the day’s top honors. A recently retired race horse, Zachary needed no spurs and no crop to urge him on. In fact, according to his mistress, the gelding (owned by Lee Halperin) didn’t want to stop, and ran out in a wheeling circle after finishing the course, high and happy on the sheer fun of running.

Second, and a close second until the very end, was Joan Richards on Raf. Miss Richards’s horse is a tall gray Arabian with a strong urge to win.

Third was Pattie Waters on Cappy. These three divided the $220 purse collected from entry fees, the winner receiving $140, second place $50, and third $30.

A kaleidoscope of good times, the Saturday spectacle offered more than riding horses to interest the eye. There were people — all types of people, dressed like farmers or ranchers, or carpenters or grown-ups — down for the weekend or spending the winter, in topcoats and T-shirts, even leather chaps and spurs.

Allan M. Look Jr., bearded and cover-alled, roamed the fields with a movie camera perched on his shoulder. He filmed the horses, of course, but he spent most of his time filming the horse-watchers.

Fred. S. Fisher, with his well matched pair of pulling horses offered heaps of children rides in his large flatbed wagon, which doubled as an excellent observation post right next to the finish line. The two placid beasts stood with their after parts pointed pointedly in the direction of their fleet-footed brethren. Their utter lack of interest in the goings on, and in the thought of running that hard for the sake of some silly human’s idea of a good time was apparent.

A good deal of horse talk flew back and forth across the field, the animals having almost as much to say to one another as the people. The whinnying excitement of the horses led to some restlessness at the starting line where Mr. Hall and David O. Douglas were managing things. And it led to some wheeling and shying as horses were ridden through the crowd.

The course consumed about a sixth of a mile of shortly clipped grass. It was perfectly straight and was bordered along one side by low trees and on the other by a rope strung between stakes and a line of automobiles insisted on by Mrs. Hall to protect race watchers.

The start was a shallow hollow, so that if you stood in the middle of the end of the field beyond the finish line, the horses grew out of the horizon like sailing vessels at sea.

Like all crowds, the spectators at the end of the track near the finish pressed into the course, to the dismay of the judges. At the point in the race where the finish line comes it is arguable whether the beast or the human on his back is in command. The feeling of going fast seems to rule, and unfortunately, after the finish line was crossed, the riders had to turn their horses to the left while they tried to slow them. To the left was the line of people, most of whom clicked cameras and ran from the path of the horses with spare lenses, light meters and camera bags flapping.

Life was not easy for the judges, because in addition to the people problems, they had a good deal of trouble identifying the riders in the contest. There were no numbers on backs and no racing silks.

“The brown horse won,” someone would say. “Which one, they all look brown to me,” — and so forth.

Douglas Higham, Maitland Edey and Mrs. Michael Colaneri were the judges.

A total of 22 horses and riders competed including, in addition to those mentioned above, Ed LaPiene on Sadie, Virginia Mills on Rinni, Kitty Murphy on Holly, Mary Mosely on Topper, Janet Cuetara on Joey, Brian Murphy on Hogan, Sue West on Admiral, Muriel Batton on Pepseh, Robert Douglas on Tipper, Cheri Murphy on Max, Polly Bassett on Billy, Angie Waldron on Misty, Bill Black on July, George Abbott on Duchess, Skip Norton on Jet, and Jim Hoe on Gabriel.

Compiled by Cynthia Meisner