LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The horse named Snow Chief was alone in the stable. A reporter approached.
“Can I have a minute?” the reporter asked.
The horse looked up with a mouthful of oats.
“It won’t take long,” the reporter continued. “I just want to get some thoughts on the Kentucky Derby from the horses’ perspective.”
Snow Chief thought it over. He grabbed a cigaret with his teeth, lit up, and blew a cloudful of smoke. “Whyyyyyy not?” the horse said finally.
“Thanks,” the reporter said, opening his notebook. “Let’s start with Saturday’s race. You’re the favorite. How will you spend the next 24 hours?”
“Well,” the horse said, “I’ll try to relax. Maybe read a little. Pick out my saddle for the next day. Get to bed early.”
“No horsing around?” the reporter said.
“Watch it,” said Snow Chief.
“Sorry. Uh, everyone knows this race. People bet millions on it. Are you nervous?”
“Nah,” Snow Chief said. “To me, a race is a race. I hear the bell, I take off, I keep running. If I win, I get a pat on the butt and some oats.”
The horse leaned forward. “You know, I’m really sick of oats,” he said.
“But doesn’t winning the Kentucky Derby mean something special?”
“Well, it’s a biggie, no question,” Snow Chief said. “But I wish they’d let us run without these little men on our backs. I’d break the track record for sure. I mean, Carl Lewis doesn’t run with a dog around his neck, does he?”
“Good point,” the reporter said. The fillies want tickets The horse put out its cigaret and trotted over to a small refrigerator. “Wanna beer?” he asked. “Budweiser. My uncle’s a Clydesdale.”
“Uh, no thanks.” the reporter said. “I must say, you’re not quite what I expected.”
“Well, remember,” Snow Chief said, “I’m more experienced than most of the Derby horses. Been around the track a few times, so to speak.”
“Does that matter?” the reporter asked.
“Sure,” Snow Chief said. “You have to be able to handle the distractions. Like here, at Churchill Downs. The phone rings off the hook in my stable. Some filly calls, you know, just to say hi. Another filly calls asking for tickets.”
“Really?” the reporter said.
“Straight from my mouth,” the horse said.
“Is this the worst place for that?”
“Well, no,” Snow Chief said. “Actually, the worst place is Fillydelphia.”
“Come on,” the reporter said. The horse giggled, as horses will do.
“A lot of people wonder what it takes to become a great racehorse,” the reporter said, shifting the line of questions.
“Well, I’ll tell you,” Snow Chief said. “It’s in the breeding. Without championship breeding, a horse is a horse.”
“Of course, of course,” the reporter said.
“But you’ve got to want it, too,” Snow Chief said. You’ve got to love the crowd, all those people screaming, ‘Come on you damn horse! I bet my mortgage on you!’ That can be real inspiring.”
The reporter nodded and wrote it all down. He was writing so fast his pencil broke in half. “Oh. I’ll have to glue that together,” he said.
The horse kicked him in the shins.
“Never say glue around here,” he warned. Anything but oats The horse finished his beer. It was getting late.
“Just a few more questions,” the reporter said. “I’ve often wondered, how important is winning to a horse?”
“Well,” Snow Chief said. “It’s not like our lives depend on it. We don’t see any cash. Which is OK. I mean, you can’t eat the stuff. Personally I’d rather have a good pizza. Anything but oats.”
He leaned forward. “I’m really sick of oats.”
The reporter nodded sympathetically. “Any tips for young horses coming up?” he asked.
“Don’t do it if it’s not fun,” Snow Chief said. “If it’s not fun you might as well be pulling a tractor, or giving kids rides at the zoo.”
“Have you ever thought of doing anything else?” the reporter asked.
“Well . . . ” Snow Chief said. He made sure no one was looking. “Watch this.”
Suddenly, the horse stood on its hind legs, and began to hum “Tea for Two.” He broke into a tap dance, his horseshoes clicking against the floor.
“Not too shabby, huh?” the horse said, dancing.
“Amazing,” the reporter said.
“Yeah,” Snow Chief said, “I’m good. But nobody wants to see that stuff. Run for the roses. Run for the roses. That’s all they want.”
The horse sighed. There wasn’t much more to say. The reporter thanked Snow Chief for his time, and for the new perspective on a racehorse’s life.
“It’s no picnic, is it?” he said, turning to leave.
“No,” the horse said, “and you better watch where you walk. That’s not an ant hill you’re about to step in, either.”