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Somewhere in a safety-deposit box with my class ring from Glenwood High and other important artifacts is a letter from the winning thoroughbred owner in the 1980 Arkansas Derby. Don't recall the contents, but it was complimentary.

Not a racing buff even though she raised one, my blessed mom arranged safe keeping for both the envelope and its contents, which she marked "Important." The letter was written on Loblolly Stable stationery, the company's name prominent also on the envelope, and signed by one John Ed Anthony.

Some people will settle for a lock of Elvis' hair; that was good enough for me.

Had he not gotten into the horse business, Anthony would have made tremendous contributions to the state's economy as a lumberman. His grandfather, Garland Anthony, started a small sawmill near Bearden in 1907. Garland Anthony's son Edwin joined him in the operation of mills located in various small communities in south Arkansas and east Texas. Upon his father's death in 1961, having finished law school, John Ed Anthony returned home to run the business.

Created in 1974, Anthony Timberlands Inc. bought lumber companies in Hot Spring, Saline and Clark counties, though home base remained in Bearden, less than three miles from Garland Anthony's original mill.

South Arkansas had a powerful influence upon John Ed, who routinely named his horses after regional landmarks. Start with Cox's Ridge, Anthony's first "big" horse, and carry on to Vanlandingham, named, he said, for "the only resident on Cox's Ridge." I do not cross Alum Fork in Saline County without thinking of a horse that campaigned at Oaklawn Park in the owner's yellow and brown diagonal quarters.

Anthony's horses formed the storyline for many Oaklawn seasons in my early years as a turf writer. Temperence Hill won the 1980 Arkansas Derby after working his way up through the maiden and allowance ranks for trainer Joe Cantey, who once thought the Stop the Music colt would never win. T-Hill, as he became known locally, became the first horse since Swift Ruler (1965 and '66) to pair victories in the Arkansas Derby and Oaklawn Handicap. Cox's Ridge, a late blooming 3-year-old in the same crop as Seattle Slew, won the '78 Oaklawn Handicap in an early edition of the Racing Festival of the South.

Picked out of a Keeneland sale, Temperence Hill represented Loblolly Stable's first champion and classic winner in 1980. His Belmont Stakes victory at 53-1 odds over Derby winner Genuine Risk and Preakness winner Codex brought about a rule that would give horses Triple Crown eligibility with one entry fee rather than enter the races separately. Named for a 19th-century Arkansas Methodist church, Temperence Hill captured the inaugural Super Derby at Louisiana Downs in a 31-race career that he earned more than $1.5 million.

Concentrating on the classics, Anthony won the Preakness with Pine Bluff in 1992 and the ill-fated Prairie Bayou in 1993. But wouldn't you know it, another south Arkansas horseman beat Anthony to the winner's circle in the Kentucky Derby. Second to Pine Bluff in a dramatic Arkansas Derby that state-owned horses took the top three spots, Lil E. Tee covered himself in glory at Churchill Downs for the colorful Cal Partee, of Magnolia, along with trainer Lynn Whiting and jockey Pat Day.

Back then, you almost had to be Betty White's age to win the Derby. Partee got the roses two years after Frances Genter (Unbridled), a year before Paul Mellon and in the same decade as trainer Charlie Whittingham (Ferdinand, Sunday Silence). So it was with a laugh that I told Anthony by phone after the '93 Derby, in which Mellon's Sea Hero got a dream trip and held off Prairie Bayou, "You're not old enough to win this race."

Five weeks later, Anthony returned my phone call after returning from that year's Belmont Stakes. Two months earlier, before dinner at Anthony's lakefront home in Hot Springs, Julie Krone begged the owner for a mount in the spring classics. Now, here was Julie making racing history as the first female jockey to win a Triple Crown event aboard Colonial Affair for Scotty Schulhofer.

Prairie Bayou, like Loblolly-owned Demons Begone in the 1987 Kentucky Derby, did not finish, breaking down on the backstretch.

It was after 10:30 p.m. local time when Anthony returned my call, and I still do not know where he found the equipoise that required. I recall winning an award for the ensuing story, and that it was on the same day Conway Twitty died.

Anthony's horses now run under the Shortleaf Stable banner, using the same colors but with the casual racegoer needing a program to identify his trainer. The man who won the Arkansas Derby with three different trainers (Cantey, Phil Hauswald and Tom Bohannan) is still in the arena, trying to get back to Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May. As a friend and admirer, all I can say is strength to that man.

Someone told me that John Ed is having some health issues but that he's having a birthday and wouldn't it be nice if I wrote "one of your memoir things" about him. Hope it has some of the old snap, a certain style that moved an Arkansas lumberman to send off a complimentary letter to a Hot Springs sportswriter, one picked up at the post office by the sportswriter's mom and, after all these years, in a safe place.

Sports on 02/11/2019

Print Headline: One Arkie to another: Thanks to an admirer

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