SHU English professor writes about personal experience with Secretariat

“Since I was a kid I followed the Triple Crown races; it was a basic interest of mine,” English instructor and published author Timons Esaias has a unique story he’s currently writing. The essay should be 6,000 words or less and show readers the life-changing experience Esaias lived through.

So what is the story here? According to Esaias, there are two stories going into this essay:
The adventure of going to see Secretariat up close and having to spend 5 or 6 days in suburban Cincinnati, Ohio waiting on a new radiator for a broken down car, and the journey to overcoming shyness.

“It will take me two days to do the rough draft. Probably no more than two to clean it up,” Esaias said. He wanted this piece to be good, so he has been practicing writing other things before starting this one.

“The protagonist has frustrations that he must overcome,” Esaias said and mentioned his car broke down on the way there, “I have to tell why this horse is special,” Esaias said. Meeting the great Secretariat, the first winner of the Triple Crown in 25 years in 1973, was a once in a lifetime opportunity that he worked for.

“I always intended to intercut the story of going to see Secretariat with little brief snippets of why you would want to do this thing; why this horse was the greatest thing since Man o’ War.”

The other reason why he is writing the essay now is to change things in his mind. “I have to admit that,” he laughs. “Anytime you have something layered like that has good potential to interest an audience. Typically whenever I start a project I think what layers does this have, and can I be doing more than one thing at once without being muddled.” The multiple layers Esaias is constructing into the piece is a complex writing technique that really draws readers in without them realizing it.

Esaias said that there were no Triple Crown winners before Secretariat.

Timons Esaias tells his once in a lifetime experience that changed his life. Photo courtesy of T.Esaias.

Timons Esaias tells his once in a lifetime experience that changed his life. Photo courtesy of T.Esaias.

“In fact, there were lots and lots of articles every year about why there would never be a Triple Crown winner again,” Esaias said. “There were lengthy scientific explanations about what’s going on in horse breeding and it was thought it was not possible.” It was said that no horse could do it.

Esaias explained that breeders had perfected the breeding so some horses would win the Kentucky Derby, the first race in the Triple Crown, the Preakness, the second, and some racehorses would win the Belmont, the third, but not all of them, also known as the Triple Crown. People were certain they wouldn’t see it again.

“I had seen a brief bit of film of Secretariat before the season began and he was just physically impressive,” Esaias said. “He was not like any of the recent thoroughbreds that I had seen.”

“Specifically, the thing I noticed immediately was in a film of him being walked, and he took one stride with his back legs and like five or six with his front legs to keep up,” Esaias said. That wasn’t reflecting the information he had been reading about. Just with a video, it was plain to see that Secretariat was not a normal thoroughbred stallion.

“Every year I would think, ‘Gee I wonder if I could see him.’ And then one year they told how old he was and I thought, ‘oh that’s getting old,’ and I got my act together and went to go see him that year,” Esaias said. “It’s good because he died the following year.”

“One of the things is the simple fact of when people find out that I’ve seen Secretariat, and not at the racing track but in person, a lot of the people ask me to tell the story,” Esaias said.
He explained that he learned that while being a writer, if people ask you the same thing repeatedly, writing it down is a good idea.

“The richer element of it is that there was a bit of a turning point in my life, being a relatively shy person, I tended not to go on adventures of that type,” Esaias said. “Especially if I couldn’t clearly explain why I was interested.”

This story was an emotional reaction more than a rational one for Esaias. “But I made myself go and it turned out to be hard because my car blew up on the way.”

Esaias waited a long time before making the decision to write the essay. “It’s half written, but recently we have had another one of those droughts (in relation to the triple crown) so in a way it is relevant to current experiences.”

“Secretariat is famous but there will be a lot of readers who don’t know the story so I get to tell the story. It’s nice that they finally gave him the Preakness speed record after years of pretending that he hadn’t broken it,” Esaias said.

“Also, in my teaching, I’m being reminded frequently that you need to point out to people that the actions that they take can change their lives,” Esaias said. He hopes this essay will give people a courage, and maybe encourage readers to pick up a phone and make that call.

“I will tell the story and see who has ears,” Esaias said, “It is good to have an audience in mind, but frequently I have learned to go ahead and write a piece with people like me as the only real ideal.”

Esaias plans to finish the essay soon because it is relevant to today's society. Photo courtesy of T.Esaias.

Esaias plans to finish the essay soon because it is relevant to today’s society. Photo courtesy of T.Esaias.

Esaias said that the essay will probably be sent to literary magazines so it might be read by people that the rational element of their mindset overwhelming the emotional one. He said he couldn’t clearly say what made him make those calls back then but part of it was his will to overcome shyness.

“The calls themselves were not at all frustrating. My first effort was to look in the Kentucky travel guide, which did not list Claiborne Farms,” Esaias said. “It could have been an excuse not to pursue.”

Esaias said that this was before the internet so he couldn’t just Google all of the needed information. Kentucky travel bureau next was the step and he asked if it was possible.

“They ominously told me it was by appointment only but they did have a number. At this point I got very nervous. I called and I was told that yes, I could make an appointment. I knew when my vacation would be and picked a date.”

According to Esaias, he was extremely excited and completely misconceived what the event would be like. “I assumed I would go there, there would be a tourist bus that we would drive past a pasture and see Secretariat, in the distance. So I brought my binoculars.”

There was no tour bus and famous racehorse to be seen with binoculars however. He was able to walk right into the stable and as he waited outside the stall door, Secretariat was brought out just a few feet away.

“He was unlike any other horse I’ve seen before up close in my life. He did not go flat footed. He was tightening up his muscles and looking at me like, ‘you like that?’ He was being a ham. It was just so obvious,” Esaias said.

Capturing the experience in words, Esaias said, “It’s those muscle beach poses, it was the thing I put in my notebook. He was posing for the camera but I didn’t have a camera.

Esaias encourages writers to pick up the phone. “Of course now you can do it by email, but having followed this up with a number of things, a surprising number of times that you try,” Esaias said, “things will work out and there are a lot of people out there just waiting to get your phone call or email asking about something.”

“Nobody asks them, so often, if you ask the right person on the right day, you’ll get way more help than you can imagine.”

“For instance, I have gone to museums and given private tours of things because I asked if you could do this little extra thing,” Esaias said, “The answer is ‘Oh! Yeah of course! Do you want to see this one and this one and this one?’ Which was what happened at Claiborne Farms.”

According to Esaias there were many other famous racehorses there to see as well. Spectacular Bid for example. “They would have brought them all out for me if I had asked. Which I found just, incredible.”

“[The essay] never will be perfectly done, no work ever is, I have put this off but I’m expecting to have it written by the end of the summer,” Esaias said, “It’s time.”

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