When I started training in New York, one of my first clients was Alfred G. Vanderbilt. He was very good to me. Both on the racetrack and off, he opened doors for me that broadened my horizons–doors that might otherwise have remained closed.
When Mr. Vanderbilt passed away in 1999, I was asked by the family to speak at his memorial. While I wasn’t really sure that I belonged on the dais with his close friends Allaire du Pont, Clyde Roche and Hal Prince and his children, Alfred, Michael, Heidi and Victoria, I was truly humbled and flattered. What I remember most from that celebration of Mr. Vanderbilt’s life was what his daughter, Victoria, had to say about her father.
Victoria is an incredibly talented writer, so I won’t even try to paraphrase her prose, but I do remember her message well. Her father, she said, was a man of conviction. He was slow and deliberate to form an opinion, but, after much study and deliberation, once he took a stance on an issue, he stood firm.
Most important, she said, he was never a man to be swayed by the number of those who supported him. Whether he had a legion of backers (which might have worried him) or was the lone voice in the wind, he had the courage of his convictions, always.
Well, there have been times during the battle on Lasix that I’ve felt there were only a handful of us shouting into the wind, and Victoria’s words came back to me. But that feeling has changed. I now realize the enormous amount of support there is out there, not only in New York, but across the country.
The comments from the owners and breeders included in our newsletter are only the tip of the iceberg. Horsemen are offering their encouragement and support on a daily basis–people you see on the backstretch, in the paddock, at the sales; from California, Florida, Kentucky, New York. From the phone calls, texts and emails I get personally, to those that are sent to the office, the response has been truly incredible, greatly appreciated and has stiffened our resolve.
I would truly like to be thought of as someone who stayed true to their convictions no matter what they faced, but, the fact is, Mr. Vanderbilt was one of a kind. And while he might have been uncomfortable with it, the show of support on this incredibly important issue is pretty cool.
So thank you, everyone.
Rick Violette Jr.