From the Bush Tracks to the Triple Crown
By Ed McNamara
Hardcover - 240 Pages
In Cajun Racing: From the Bush Tracks to the Triple Crown, longtime turf writer Ed McNamara takes you on a wild ride way down south to Louisiana. There you’ll meet a remarkably resilient people with a passion for racing and an unmatched touch with racehorses. In Cajun country, there’s a lot of character and a lot of characters, as superstar jockey Kent Desormeaux likes to say.
Take the legendary trainer Pierre LeBlanc, a wheeler-dealer who ran an illegal casino and won one of his best horses, Palomino Joe, in a card game. Then there’s Pierre’s son Pete LeBlanc, who bought Robby Albarado his first horse and saddle and taught him how to ride. It’s a fast-paced history lesson rich in humor and local color as McNamara interweaves the life stories of some of the great names in Cajun racing—Romero, Desormeaux, Borel, Bernis, Delahoussaye, Delhomme, Albarado, and many others.
Go back in time to Cajun Downs, a bush track that was a breeding ground for dreams and great careers. With no rule books or stewards to keep things in line, Cajun creativity knew no bounds in trying to gain an edge. Using anything from foul-smelling alligator grease to a crazed rooster tied to a horse’s mane was considered fair game—but even after the hottest contests, winners and losers usually remained friends.
Family ties are everywhere in Cajun land, with fathers schooling sons from sunup to sundown and brother battling brother in no-holds-barred match races. Meet Cecil, Kenward, and younger brother “Tee Red” Bernis, who began riding at age 5 and was so small that his feet were tied with twine to keep him from falling off. Then there’s the hilarious saga of Cynthia, a male monkey with a weakness for green crème de menthe and a vendetta against roosters. People wonder about some of their stories, but as the Bernis boys will tell you, they’re all true and they have witnesses.
Along with all the laughs, there’s nostalgia and tears for the inevitable demise of the bush tracks and the old Evangeline Downs. They faded away but will never be forgotten. Besides great stories and lots of fun, they produced more world-class riders per capita than any place on Earth.
• Read Chapter 7 - "The Bernis Brothers"
About the Author:
Ed McNamara is a sports copy editor at Newsday on Long Island, where he writes about horse racing and pro football. He lives in Setauket, New York, with his wife, Jean, their children, Jim and Beth, and their black Labrador retriever, Linus.
Praise for From the Bush Tracks to the Triple Crown
“Ed McNamara partners a rapier wit and a keen ear for the nuance in a story, takes them to the racetrack, and applies both generously.”
Eclipse Award-winning racing writer and journalist
“From comprehensive racing coverage to his unique perspective on NFL Sundays, Ed McNamara never fails to entertain and inform. Readers will fly through Cajun Racing: From the Bush Tracks to the Triple Crown in :22 and :44 flat and have a great time doing it!
Executive editor, HorseRaceInsider.com
“Ed McNamara lyrically mixes racetrack jargon with backstretch lore, making long-forgotten characters heroes and leaving the aristocratic infrastructure up the track. He instinctively sees the rich humor, hardship, and absurdity of racetrack life where others just blankly stare.
“He hates betting favorites only more than rooting for the New York Yankees. He is a frugal Irishman with a positive return on investment, a rare bird indeed.”
Deputy sports editor, The Philadelphia Inquirer
“Hang on for a wild ride through Cajun country . . . Eddie McNamara writes as if he grew up listening to Zydeco music. Ca c’est bon!”
Richard Rosenblatt, The Associated Press