At Barry Fey's house, the parrot keeps screeching at the dog. The phone won't stop ringing, and Barry's beleaguered assistant, Leslie, just can't find the wallet-sized photos of the first time he won the big handicapping tournament in Vegas. The guy is here to fix one of the VCRs so Barry and his seven-year-old son, Tyler, and the dog, Dakota, can watch the Richard Dreyfuss racetrack movie, Let It Ride, for the eleventh time in the past two weeks.
There's also the Neil Diamond booking to think about. No big deal--only New Year's Eve at the MGM, that's all. And, of course, there's "the cancer thing." Since the prostate implant surgery, the numbers on Barry's PSA tests keep going steadily down, and that's a good sign. But who knows if they found the tumor in time. Now the dog, which has the girth of a good-sized mule, has knocked everything off the coffee table.
Still, there are no distractions. Right now, Barry Fey is obsessed with one thing and one thing only: the Breeders' Cup Sprint, on November 7 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. Well, maybe that's not quite true. Maybe the horse has already won that race in Barry's imagination, and he's starting to think about beating Kentucky Derby winner Real Quiet over a distance of ground next season and winning the Breeders' Cup Turf next November and his horse going on to become the greatest of all time.
"See, that's the problem," Fey growls, throwing his hands two inches into the air. "I've already won this year's Breeders' Cup, the Strub Series and next year's Breeders' Cup. We're already the all-time money winner in my mind. We've already done all that. That's the trouble with me about everything. The contemplation. I can't ever live up to what I dream something is gonna be. It's a real drag. I spend the money before I get it. I win the title before the contest starts. I was always gonna do the Stones and the Who together..."
Okay, one thing at a time. No distractions. Barry Fey, the 59-year-old concert promoter, the transplanted New Yorker who electrified a cowtown by importing the Stones and Clapton and the Who and Aerosmith and U2 and Springsteen and has most of the world's autographed electric guitars to prove it--that Barry Fey--is refurbishing his life, pumping up the volume again, through a racehorse.
On September 1, 1997, Fey retired from the concert business in Denver after thirty high-life years. Disheartened by the quality of new rock bands and convinced his day was done, he quit. Four months later the longtime horse player (and sometimes part-owner) risked $102,000--near feed money in the high-stakes world of thoroughbred investment--for 60 percent ownership of a questionable piece of goods named Reraise. A two-year-old son of Danzatore out of Get Us to Paris, Reraise had run just once, in a six-furlong, $62,500 maiden claiming race at Santa Anita. Breaking dead last under jockey Eddie Delahoussaye, he began firing past horses in the backstretch and flashed to the front in the deep stretch, winning by two lengths over Lucky Sandman.
And there his career might have ended, were it not for a bloodstock agent with a sharp eye and a trainer with saintly patience. The agent, James Sternberg: "There were two things. He overcame a very bad start and a very wide trip and came home like a racehorse with a future. The icing on the cake was his Ragozin figure of 8-minus: It's something special when a two-year-old does that in October, breaking his maiden."
Ragozin figure? Don't ask about such arcana. Better to simply heed Sternberg when he says: "Reraise's pedigree says he can win on grass and run a route. I didn't expect to see the tremendous speed he has. Yet he finishes like a closer. In the Sprint, I wouldn't trade places with anybody."
Neither, it seems, would new trainer Craig Dollase. After Fey purchased the horse, he immediately put up a $600 fee to make him eligible for the Triple Crown. But Dollase prevailed over Fey's haste, turning Reraise out to pasture for 75 days, waiting for the green gelding's knees to knit, before even beginning to work with him. In his second start, on May 27, he beat a $42,000 allowance field at Hollywood Park by three lengths. On July 4 he won the Playa del Rey Stakes at Hollywood by six over Del Mar Futurity and Norfolk States winner Souvenir Copy. Fractious and washy on August 20, Reraise ran second at Del Mar. But on September 26, in the six-furlong Kentucky Cup Sprint at Turfway Park, he was crowded at the start by the horse next to him but fired past everyone to score a twelve-length victory in 1:08 2/5--a fifth of a second off the track record. He is now regarded as one of the three or four best sprinters in America--along with Affirmed Success, Gold Land and Wild Rush.