06/17/2016 2:26PM

Hovdey: The top line has shaped many racetrackers


If there is a more complicated relationship than the one between fathers and sons, the floor is open to nominations.

One year ago – on June 19, 2015, to be exact – Simon Bray learned that he was among the 1 percent of cancer patients diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a rare and incurable blood disease. He could not promise his son, Oliver, that he would be around for Christmas, let alone Father’s Day 12 months down the line.

Oliver was just 2 1/2 at the time, so he wasn’t asking for much. Someday he will grow to appreciate just how hard his father has fought for his health over the past year and how lucky they are to be able to celebrate on Sunday, even though they’ll both be taking a backseat to baby sister Josie, whose baptism was to be celebrated this weekend as well.

“I had no idea what the future would hold,” said Bray, a former trainer who has crafted a second career with TVG and Fox Sports. “And here I am, still on chemotherapy but leaving the gym after a workout and heading to work.”

Father’s Day has never been high on Bray’s list of holidays, either in his adopted America or his native Britain. He and his father are not close.

“My father was the one who started me in this business,” Bray said. “He was a hard-core businessman, and that came first. I’ll admit I was like that when I was younger, but I promised myself that if I became a father, it would be family first, and especially now, since the diagnosis.”

Oliver Bray has just finished his first year of preschool. He is taking swimming lessons to start the summer, and there will be a summer-school program to keep him busy. Bray insists his son is a budding rock star.

“He has an affinity for music,” Bray said. “There’s no doubt about that.”

Art Sherman, better known as the trainer of California Chrome, might be spending part of his Father’s Day at Santa Anita, dropping a claim for a client. At 79, you would think he’d be pampered as king for a day by children and grandchildren galore. But Harry Sherman’s son has known nothing but work from the moment he left home at 16 to become a jockey, and he’s not about to take hold now.

“My dad loved to come to the barn area,” Sherman said. “He said he loved the smell of it. I think he was impressed. He’d say how he really would have enjoyed doing something like working with horses.

“It was pretty cool hanging around his barbershop there in Echo Park,” Sherman said. “There was all the telephone numbers for the bookies written on the wall. I was only 12 or 13, and it was the guys in the shop who would tell me I was little enough to ride. I heard it so much, I thought I might as well try.”

Richard Migliore – former jockey, TV racing analyst, and father of four – describes his relationship with his father, Nicholas Migliore, as complicated. But nothing can erase the memories of their trips to Aqueduct, where the elder Migliore did his handicapping and young Richie soaked in the scene.

“My absolute favorite memory of doing something with my father was going to Belmont the day Seattle Slew won the Triple Crown,” Migliore said. “Getting to the track early, the anticipation – it was the first time I experienced that real electricity at a racetrack when something historic might take place.

“That day really came back to me last year watching American Pharoah win the Belmont with my son Joseph, standing down near the finish,” Migliore said. “When he hit the wire, I was struck with a flashback to my father and Seattle Slew, and it hit me harder than I thought it would. But that’s the kind of emotion racing can elicit.”

Michael Blowen will be marking Father’s Day in his personal paradise at Old Friends Equine near Lexington, Ky., where he is essentially a foster father to 106 retired racehorses. He only wishes that Herbert Blowen could come back to see how his son has lived up to a father’s best possible legacy.

“When he came home from World War II, he started an oil burner business, so he was just a working-class guy,” said Blowen, who enjoyed careers as a teacher and journalist before establishing Old Friends.

“We’d hang out, and he’d go to my ballgames,” Blowen said. “I yelled at an umpire once in Little League, and my dad came right onto the field, grabbed me by the back of my uniform, and pulled me out of the game. He said, ‘Don’t ever let me hear you talk to an adult like that again.’

“That was the exception, though,” Blowen said. “He was really very kind and gentle. And he would have loved this place.”

At that particular moment, Blowen was admiring Silver Charm, one of the marquee champions who make Old Friends their home.

“Dad would be repairing stuff, taking care of the animals, the whole atmosphere,” Blowen said.

“He gave both my sister and I a tremendous amount of what was sometimes unwarranted confidence,” Blowen added. “He’d tell us to go about your business, be kind to people, and do something you enjoy. I still try to follow his advice.”