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OPINION | WALLY HALL: Valuable lesson learned at 1983 Preakness

by Wally Hall | May 15, 2021 at 5:03 p.m.

I was in Baltimore for the Preakness in 1983.

It had been raining for days, but the odds-on favorite Sunny’s Halo had some mudder breeding, so there wasn’t a lot of concern.

Sunny’s Halo had won the Arkansas Derby in Hot Springs, then went to Louisville and won the Kentucky Derby — the first Arkansas Derby winner ever to do so.

Sunny’s Halo was ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Eddie Delahoussaye, who didn’t know his mount had a sore ankle after the Kentucky Derby.

As the race approached, I was standing under an overhang with John Schulian, a sports columnist in Chicago and an expert on boxing who later became a Hollywood screenwriter. (About a decade after the 1983 Preakness, he co-created "Xena: Warrior Princess.")

Schulian said that day in Baltimore that while he didn’t know much about horse racing, that was easily the sloppiest track he had ever seen, and the race would get none of his hard-earned money.

I had not cashed a ticket in three days and was down to my last $10. I bet it on Sunny Halo’s nose, figuring to at least double my money.

Pimlico is a really old track that needs millions of dollars of work, but it is still holding its own in the racing world. The press box is a cluster of extension cords.

Anyway, a local trainer filled the Preakness field with his 3-year-old colt, Deputed Testamony, a horse that hadn’t run in the Kentucky Derby. Being familar with the track, the trainer outfitted his horse with racing caulks.

Deputed Testamony dug into the mud and won. Sunny’s Halo didn’t like the mud and finished seventh.

I went to bed hungry that night, but with a hard-earned lesson.


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