07/21/2009 11:00PM

Johnson nears return to work at River Downs


The venerable H.M. Johnson will return to his duties as stall superintendent as early as Sunday. Humie, as he is known throughout River Downs, has been away two weeks after undergoing a battery of tests to determine the cause of abdominal pain.

Johnson had a temporary blockage in his intestine but has been given a clean bill of health by his doctors.

A stall superintendent is responsible for allocating stalls. He also must make room for ship-ins and keep track of them as well as manage dorm rooms.

Johnson, 73, has been involved in the horse industry since the early 1960s. "I grew up dreaming of training racehorses," he said.

Johnson's best horse was Cuban Rum, whom he bred, owned, and trained.

"I was hunting with a guy that offered to sell me a broodmare, Miss Oma, by Omaha," he said. "We raised several foals out of her, including Cuban Rum."

Anybody that was around Ohio in the '60's and '70's remembers Cuban Rum. He won 27 races for Johnson, the last being the Beulah Park Special at age 11. He also was bred to mares while he was still racing.

"He was a great horse," Johnson said. "He won $200,000 and that was a lot back then. He ran against his offspring a few times. One day at Beulah Park, his son Rum Sunday won the third race and he won the seventh."

When a Johnson horse named Crazy Man's Game broke a shoulder in 1987 it soured him on training.

"It just took a lot out of me," he said. "I was offered a job in the racing office in Birmingham, so I took it."

Johnson has worked as a clocker and placing judge at Trinity Meadows in Texas and Hoosier Park in Indiana, as well as a steward in Birmingham.