When a jockey mounts a horse, the horses gets tense. The best riders are those who get horses to relax despite the weight of a human being on their backs. Randy Romero was at his best when getting horses to relax.
Now it is Romero who is relaxed, with the aid of morphine to quell the pain of cancer. The disease that kills so many has brought Romero near his end. If you say prayers, now is the time.
Randy was a smooth rider who could see a hole opening up before it happened, then effortlessly guiding a Thoroughbred through it with a deftness that comes from strong and agile hands.
There never was a sharp turn nor an exaggerated pull on the reins. Romero’s mounts always seemed to be gliding through traffic as smoothly and quickly as mercury flows downhill.
Not only did Romero love to ride, he loved to drive. On many occasions, I found myself leaving Aqueduct Race Track at the same time as Randy, behind Randy’s brownish-purple Cadillac.
He found holes in the traffic on the Conduit and Belt Parkway as easily as he same did on the racetrack. I followed his cover in my little Datsun 240Z.
I once told him of the joy I had following him. He was a bit surprised to find out that it was my little white sports car behind him and I was bit surprised he knew at all.
I thought he never looked back.
Romero made the ride home more fun, and much quicker, as he knew the way home as well as he knew where the finish line was in South Ozone Park.
However, he wasn’t very good following directions while driving to unfamiliar places. In fact, so notorious was he at losing his way when bound to different racetracks to ride Personal Ensign, trainer Shug McGaughey sent along a co-pilot to navigate the way, making sure the jockey found the track he was looking for.
Romero had a connection with fillies. Champions Personal Ensign, Go For Wand quickly come to mind.
Billy Badgett, trainer of Go For Wand, recalled Romero’s unusual pre-race routine aboard his filly in Saratoga’s legendary Alabama Stakes.
“The day I’ll never forget was the Alabama,” said Badgett. “It rained and she loved it. Of course, it was a three-horse race and when I looked for her in the warm-up, Randy had backed her up to the turn and they stood there for 10 minutes.
“She was watching the fans go in and out of the track the whole time. After she won the race, I asked him ‘what about the warm-up?’ Randy said ‘she was just so relaxed I didn’t want to bother her, I wasn’t worried’. That’s Randy.”
“He is the toughest guy I ever met,” said Badgett, now General Manager of Gulfstream Park.
“I guess her two best races were the Alabama and Beldame. Randy had her geared down in the stretch of the Beldame, he never let her run. I think she could have broken Secretariat’s record.”
In June, Ray DeStefano, former assistant starter at NYRA tracks, contacted me and asked if I could find a contact number for Romero, as another former NYRA starter, Richie Brosseau, wanted to speak with his old pal Randy.
I found the number and passed it on, but Brosseau’s call went unreturned.
On Monday, former jockey, racing writer, and now hospice Chaplain Eddie Donnally, wrote that Randy Romero appears to be nearing the end.
“A hospice patient for weeks, his pain is now controlled by morphine, and he is unable to tolerate the dialysis that has kept him alive for many years, according to his brother Gerald Romero, a former trainer.
His family, including brother Edward, Gerald and his wife Mona and their 83 year-old mother Joyce are gathered at Randy’ apartment in Lafayette, LA.
I called and on speakerphone, prayed with the family, as had another of his long-time friends, Pat Day. The family is sad and Randy is only 61. For his mother Joyce and all parents, a child dying before us, always seems unfair. Yet, they, Pat and I, know our brother will be in heaven.
Last week on my way to share my story of miracles in 30 Texas Prisons, I stopped and visited with Randy and his brother and live-in caregiver Edward. Though Randy has stomach cancer, he looked better than I expected, was lucid, and walking and speaking clearly but very softly. He thanked all who had been praying for him.
“It’s not easy being this sick, but I do the best I can and thank God for every day,” he said. “I am not scared of dying, but I am not giving up and I’m praying for less pain and more time. But I know Jesus and I’ll end up in heaven.”
We sit outside on chairs and he spoke of his memories and love of riding. It was a time I will always treasure. “God gave me a gift of riding races,” he said. “I went through so much and a lot of people told me to give it up because of my injures, but I went on as long as I could because I knew I was still good (at riding) and I loved it so much. There’s not much I would have done differently.”
Randy and many
of us prayed for years that he would get the liver and kidney transplant that
would save his life. But the cancer made him so weak and vulnerable to
infection doctors no longer believed he would survive the 11-hour surgery. But
he never lost hope or stopped fighting and underwent dialysis three times
weekly for some 15 years. “He’s a fighter and he’s never stopped fighting,”
The family is requesting prayer that Randy will be comfortable and pain free. I prayed that Randy and all there will have supernatural strength and courage during this time. Psalm 139 says in effect that only God knows the number of our days and wrote them in a book. Ecclesiastes 3 says, “To everything there is a season. A time for every purpose under Heaven. A time to be born and a time to die.”
I am praying that all who know and love Randy will have the peace that passes all understanding. (Philippians 4:7). As a hospice Chaplain, I have witnessed scores of persons take their final breath. For those who believe in Christ and heaven, I have seen God’s perfect, peace written on their faces. I believe it will be the same with my friend Randy. But he’s been a special friend for a long time and while praying for the family, I shed tears. I know many who read this will do the same.
Gerald said letters and cards can be mailed to 2700 Ambassador Caffery Parkway, Bld. 1, Apt. 11, Lafayette, LA 70506 and all support is appreciated.”
If you knew Randy, or not, now is the time to keep him in your thoughts and prayers, or send white light, or whatever you believe in. I believe in Randy and thank him for his friendship and the great memories on and off the racetrack.
His days are short, but his legacy is long. Until we meet again, old friend.
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