(Miss Jacqueline and I share a hug on Thursday)

“Gloom, despair, and agony on me…

“Deep dark depression, excessive misery…

“If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all…

“Gloom, despair and agony on me.”

The chorus to “Gloom, Despair, and Agony on Me

From the TV Show “Hee-Haw” (1969-1992)

Song by Buck Owens & Roy Clark

Every week, my Dad would tune in to his favorite television show of all-time. He didn’t have an alarm set, mind you. He didn’t need one. He knew the time slot. He knew the date. And, if you knew my Dad. You knew exactly where he would be when “Hee-Haw” came on the tube.

He would be sitting in his most comfortable chair. Coke by his side. Can of peanuts to munch on. And, despite the fact that he may have been the worst singers of all time and couldn’t carry a tune in a shower, he knew the words to nearly every song and would sing them with gusto.

One of his favorite routines was when the show’s co-hosts — the legendary Buck Owens and Roy Clark — would tune up their guitar and banjo, respectively and sing.

Sometimes they would sing, “I’m a picking (Owens), and I’m a grinning’ (Clark)” Sometimes they would sing one of their legendary country hits. Owens may sing “Streets of Bakersfield” or “Act Naturally.” Clark would warble “Yesterday When I Was Young,” or “Thank God and Greyhound.”

Dad would sing along. Every. Single. Word.

But my Dad’s favorite skit was when Owens and Clark would join the stage together; stand at center mikes; and sing their little ditty “Gloom, Despair and Agony on Me.”

The song normally paused a time or two for the Country-Western star recorders — who were would-be comedians — to detail a sad fate or two along life’s journey. It was comic relief. Especially for those that had been through a few of those sad times that were more real than fiction; and where “Gloom, Despair and Agony on Me,” were more daily reminders than life’s laughs.

I think my Dad related to both.

He enjoyed the fables and side-bar laughs.

And, he could relate to the fact that the words were more true for some than others. After all, he had suffered some of life’s “Gloom, Despair and Agony on Me.”

As they say, every good story has a theme of truth to it.

On Thursday, I was reminded of that song. It was the first thing that popped into my head when I rolled into my normal parking spot; exited my car at Barn 9 along the backside of The Thoroughbred Center; and met my great friend and young trainer Stephen Lyster standing there to meet me.

Before we could shake hands and exchange a warm greeting (can’t hug these days, as you know), Stephen hit me with a chilly introduction to the day:

“Got some news for you, Geno.”

I’ve come to learn in this sport of horse racing that no news is good news. Absolutely no news is better news. And, the best kind of news is that there is no news.

I’ve also learned in this tough-butt sport of horse racing that when your trainer has news early in the morning? It is best that you tuck and run. ‘Cause it ain’t good news.

Such was the way we began Thursday morn. The air was a bit chilly to begin with, mind you. It soon got colder.

Since Stephen now trains two fillies for us, I immediately asked him “Which one? Is it Miss J?”

Stephen nodded in the affirmative.

“How bad is it?” I remembered asking.

“Not too bad,” Stephen offered.

And, then came out the I-Pad and the x-rays.

Bad enough. Stomach drop. Head soon to follow.

“She has a sore shin. No fractures. But she’s going to need some time.”

Little did Stephen know, I was going to need some time, too. My shin was OK, but my heart was not.

Just a week before, Miss Jacqueline — who is a perfect 1-for-1 in her race career and a near 6-length winner, at that — had breezed over the track beautifully. I mean, beautifully.

She started fast. She got faster. She finished strong.

Everything was beautiful. In it’s own way. To quote another song.

After nearly six months of battling little nagging set-backs — nothing serious, mind you; but set-backs just the same — it looked as if Miss Jacqueline was ready to return to racing. After six months. Long months.

Churchill Downs was ready to resume.

Miss Jacqueline was a work or two away and ready to resume.

My hopes and dreams were ready to resume.

After this frigging awful Winter & Spring of Discontent, I was ready to resume.

Then the song hit me right between the ears and the eyes:

“Gloom, Despair & Agony on Me…

“Deep dark depression, excessive misery…

“If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all…

“Gloom, despair and agony on me.”

As I made my way to her stall, I wondered why — sometimes — I subject myself to such disappointment. After all, this sport serves it up in feed buckets full, from time to time. I wondered why — sometimes — I enjoy that kick to the groin. You know the type. The kind that doubles you over. I wondered why.

There was Miss J standing, as she always does, at the stall webbing. Waiting with her greeting, as she always does, at the sound of my voice. As I leaned over to gently caress her left shin, I could feel the small, tiny bump.

A little filling. A sore shin. Like Stephen so accurately described. Of all the things that could be wrong, this one registers about a “1” on the 10-scale. Not serious. Just a bump. Will heal. Will be fine.

But what a bump in the road, too.

Gone was our plan to run in a couple of weeks. Gone was our hopes of another win and a return to racing. Gone was my dream of making another trip to a winner’s circle and the feeling of celebration.

Welcome disappointment.

“Gloom, Despair & Agony on Me…

“Deep dark depression, excessive misery…

“If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all…

“Gloom, despair and agony on me.”

The damn song kept ringing in my ears.

Now, it was going to take some time off to heal. It was going to take some hours of hosing it down with cold, cold water. It was going to take a slab of home-made poultice and Stephen’s Dad, Warren, used to make the best. Ever. It was going to take some rest.

And, it was going to take some love.

I kneeled there for a minute and wondered if I was up to it. I really did. I wondered if I could take it. Again.

But when I finally allowed myself to stand back up, I found my answer. Quickly. Affirmatively. Without qualification or limitation.

(It was hug time.)

There — standing still — was Miss Jacqueline, looking me straight in the eye. She dropped her head over on my shoulder, as if to say she was sorry. She snuggled my neck, as if to say she would make it up to me. With all her might, she seemed to try and hug me and say it was going to be alright.

It was going to take some love, alright. And, she was the one giving it. To me. To mend my broken heart and dreams.

I hugged her back. With all my might. We shared our moments. And, then I turned and told Stephen that we would give her everything she needs.

Time. Rest. Cold water baths. Poultice. Care.

And, I would be back to provide the love.

(Miss J got her morning walk, jog and bath)

Stephen and I spent much of the rest of the morning watching our other filly, Diamond Solitaire, and others in the barn. We chatted about this and about that. We told a few stories. Laughed a little. Caught up on life.

As I was getting ready to leave, I could tell that Stephen felt about as bad about the “news” as Miss Jacqueline appeared to be.

I told Stephen it was certainly not his fault. That these things happen, as he well knows. Especially in this sport. I told Stephen that it would be alright and she would be OK. And, he knew that, as well.

And, then I told Stephen about my Pops favorite TV show and one of his favorite routines. I told him about Buck and Roy’s song. I told him to look it up on “youtube.com.” And, I quoted him the lyrics:

“Gloom, Despair & Agony on Me…

“Deep dark depression, excessive misery…

“If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all…

“Gloom, despair and agony on me.”

I know it is not Stephen’s type of music. I told him to get a “Rap” version, LOL.

But I told him that while those words may feel true from time to time, it is times like these that helps build stronger character and stronger bones. Together.

That we will be better for it. In the long run.

And, it was right then and there that I knew — once again — why I own a racehorse.

Even on a tough, chilly morning.

Miss J is building stronger bones.

Hopefully, I can build some stronger character.

(Miss J, in front, and her half-sister Diamond Solitaire get there walking in. See you both next week.)