The Worst Job In Sports – Plantation Pay and a Smile
From USA Today in 2005…You cannot make this stuff up. The case of Mr. Paul Perry:
While others can’t get past the acrid smell of manure, Perry reports to work at 4:30 a.m. and delights in the dawn and the stirring of life around him. While others are wary of 1,100-pound animals who are apt to bite, kick or trample anyone perceived as a threat, he moves under and around them fearlessly.
While others wonder about a world in which the earning power of Thoroughbreds is infinitely greater than that of their grooms, Perry is content with take-home pay of approximately $375 each week and a nearby dormitory room barely larger than one of his horse’s stalls.
Rags to Riches – Winner of the Belmont Stakes 2007
“I’m happy with this,” he says. “This is something I like to do all the time.
“I’m outside. I’m free. I’m not cramped in a building.”
The 53-year-old Perry has spent the past 32 years feeding horses, bathing them, removing mud from their shoes and generally giving them more attentive care than many human beings will ever know.
The son of a construction worker, he grew up in Holly Hills, S.C., and dropped out of high school in the 10th grade. “I had to get out of there,” he says. “There was nothing going on.”
The story continues:
“He just was a natural,” says George “Rusty” Arnold, one of a series of trainers who has employed Perry in an itinerant industry. “It’s something I can’t explain. He never raised his voice, he never showed emotion, he never hit them.”
Trainer Todd Pletcher, who oversees Perry, says: “He has a special knack. He seems to get along with the meaner horses.
“I think it’s probably instinctive. His laid-back manner probably helps. A lot of times, when a horse is very aggressive, people want to get aggressive with them. That is the worst thing you can do. He’ll just talk to them, ‘Quit it, boy.’ “
Pletcher, whose father, Jake, was a well-regarded horseman, was honored with an Eclipse Award as the nation’s leading trainer last year. His massive operation produced 240 victories and an unmatched $17,511,923 in earnings.
While Bandini (pictured below) is the latest test for Perry, the 3-year-old is hardly his stiffest challenge.
A horse named Closeup terrorized everyone in Pletcher’s barn in the late 1990s until Perry came along.
“He would bite you. He would jump on you. He would knock you to the ground,” remembers Ginny DePasquale, an assistant trainer. “Paul would just go into the stall and say, ‘Come here, boy.’ I would not go into the stall without Paul.”
Perry has an intuitiveness that even he cannot quite explain.
“I just understand horses,” he says. “I don’t fear them. I pretty much know what they are going to do, anyway.”
Arnold will be forever grateful that Perry got along with aptly named Tricky Creek when no one else could.
Tricky Creek’s aggressiveness served him well on the track, where he earned almost $900,000. It made him a terror, however, whenever anyone entered his stall.
Finally, if you ever wanted to know why a certain segment of Black folks stay in a rage:
Ask Perry why they coexisted so peacefully and his answer is almost as curious as Tricky Creek’s behavior.
“I went along with his story,” he says, “and he went along with my story.”
What is Perry’s story?
He is a man who dreams of finding a wife and of buying a trailer and some land. But, for now, those are only dreams.
Reality is he is always among the first to arrive at Barn 11 and the last to leave. Even when the only chore that remained was to rake smooth the area in front of his four stalls, he politely declined a lunch invitation.
He preferred to be alone, with his horses.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, er, plantation:
Jake J. Pletcher … Born: Oct. 24, 1937, in Arnett, Okla. … Resident: Ocala, Fla. … Family: wife Joan, son Todd (trainer) … Principal business: Operates Thoroughbred breaking and training center near Ocala … Began working with Quarter Horses in 1962 in Texas; began training Thoroughbreds in 1969 … Trained Thoroughbreds at racetrack until 1987 … Won 1980 grade II Oaklawn Handicap with Uncool … Trained for Oklahoma oilman Ran Ricks for many years … Moved to Ocala in 1985 to establish C. B. Farm for the late Cloyce Box, former pro football lineman with Detroit Lions … Managed High Mark Farm near Ocala from 1995-98 … Now operates own training center with 60 horses currently on property … “Training horses is all I’ve ever done for 35 years now. I wouldn’t know any other way to make a living.” … Formed partnership with Betty G. Massey of Dallas, Texas, in 1994 … Stakes winners raced by partnership have been Level Sands, Turkappeal, and Rare Rock.
Betty G. Massey … Resident: Dallas, Texas … Widow (married 40 years) of James A. Massey Jr., auto parts distributor in Dallas … “I decided to form a partnership with J. J. Pletcher to buy some horses because I knew something about him and I needed something to do. J. J.’s brother Rock (Rockne) Pletcher is my lawyer in Dallas, and he introduced me to J. J.” … Bought Level Sands (by Storm Cat) privately and resold him after he established new track record for 6 1/2 furlongs at Keeneland in 1995 … Raced stakes winner Turkappeal and Rare Rock … Rare Rock purchased for $50,000 at 1994 Keeneland September sale … “The Breeders’ Cup is my favorite race day of the year. This will be the fourth one I’ve been to, but the first where we’ll have our own horse.”
And back at the Derby:
Todd Pletcher : Derby History
A native of Dallas, TX, Pletcher grew up around Thoroughbred racing as his father, Jake Pletcher, trained Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds. After graduating from the University of Arizona with a degree in animal science, he went to work for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas. He stayed with Lukas for six years, eventually becoming his main East Coast assistant trainer. Pletcher went out on his own in 1996 and he currently trains for such powerhouse owners as: Michael Tabor of Coolmore, Aaron and Marie Jones, Padua Stables, and Eugene Melnyk. In less than 10 years, Pletcher has conditioned such top-class performers as Ashado, Left Bank, Speightstown, Strong Hope, Forest Danger, Flower Alley, Balto Star and others. While he has been very successful since taking out his license, 2005 was a banner year for the Pletcher stable. He set a season earnings record in 2005 with his horses winning more than $20.8 million in purses, surpassing the previous record of $19.1 million set by Hall of Famer Bobby Frankel. With that stellar year, Pletcher was awarded the Eclipse Award for the second consecutive year as the top trainer in the land. After going winless with his first 12 Breeders’ Cup starters, Pletcher won two races in the event in 2004: the Sprint with Speightstown, and the Distaff with Kentucky Oaks champ Ashado. Both would also go on to be Eclipse winners in their respective divisions. Pletcher’s best Derby finishers to date are Invisible Ink, second in 2001, and a fourth place with Limehouse in 2004.
I won’t be doing any analysis of this piece. I’m trying to figure out how in the hell a 53 year old man believes he’ll find a bride on $375 a week. Unless he’s on the Osceola McCarty Plan, it’s not happening. Any further analysis might cause me to snap a neck or two on my way home. Shit, I might have to play some Bobby McFerrin.
Nah, never that.
Oh, one last thing…
Young Todd Pletcher walking with the horse Criminal Type.
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You’re currently reading “The Worst Job In Sports – Plantation Pay and a Smile,” an entry on Sirius Bark by Temple3
- October 19, 2007 / 4:33 pm
- 10 Worst Jobs in Sports, Bandini, black philanthropy, class, Criminal Type, debt peonage, education, horse racing, intergenerational wealth, Jake Pletcher, labor exploitation, Osceola McCarty, penury, Race, school quality, slavery, Southern Mississippi, sport of kings, Todd Pletcher, Tom Pedulla, Tricky Creek, USA Today, white supremacy