Q-Racing Blog: Nic

Remembering a great man.

Quarter Racing Journal

This image of Dash For Cash and Jerry Nicodemus was the basis for a larger-than-life bronze that stands over the famed stallion's grave.

The late hall of fame jockey Jerry Nicodemus was more than all of his legendary accomplishments and statistics. So much more.

My first memory of Nic was standing by the Los Alamitos winner’s circle when Dash For Cash and Nic raced like one amazingly graceful life form, winning the Champion of Champions. It was artistic and athletic perfection.

Over the decades, we became increasingly closer friends. He was a better man than a jockey and I always put him on my shortest of lists of big-money riders.

He was an honorable man and a lot of fun. On second thought, he was more than a lot of fun.

I contacted a few of his many friends and here is some of what they offered.

Dr. Leonard Blach (veterinarian at Buena Suerte Ranch, member New Mexico Racing Commission, co-owner of Mine That Bird (TB) and Nic’s friend)

“Nic had a heart of gold. We have been friends for more than 35 years.

“My first acquaintance with Jerry was in the ’70s while he was an employee of (trainer) Bubba Cascio and they were hauling horses in and out of Buena Suerte Ranch (in Roswell, New Mexico) for Harriett Peckham. They had quite a large stable and a training track across the road from Buena Suerte Ranch. Besides the horses they were starting for Harriett, they had Dash For Cash and Windy Ryon for B.F. Phillips Jr.

“Some of my favorite memories were the days when Bubba, Sam Rose, Jerry and myself frequently went hunting dove, quail, rabbits and anything else that moved. One fall, we were deer hunting and came across a nice buck. He was about 75-100 yards away and it was Jerry’s turn to fire. He crouched down on the hood of the pickup and fired away and dropped that buck cold. We drove over to pick the buck up and, low and behold, we could not see where it was shot. After a closer look, it was obvious the bullet entered right through the eye socket. We said to Jerry, ‘You shot this buck right in the eye ball.’ He said, ‘I know. That’s where I was aiming.’

“One more adventure I will never forget was when he was at the Kentucky Derby with our entourage. As Mine That Bird crossed the finish line everyone was so excited, screaming, hollering, high fiving, etc. Kevin (Blach, Leonard’s son) picked up Jerry and was holding him in the air, turning him around and around. It cracked one of Jerry’s ribs that wasn’t discovered until we got back to Roswell.

“He was a dynamic person and a devoted, loving person to all he knew. I am blessed to have known him as a dear friend. I have never seen him without a smile on his face. He lived life to the fullest, just like he rode his horses.

“His footprints will forever remain on each and every racetrack where he rode. He is truly a racing legend.”

Jerry Burgess (former jockey and current steward)

“He was a fine individual. We had known each other for 40 or 50 years and never had a cross word.

“He handled whatever life put in front of him with class.

“He was the kind of individual you were proud to have as a friend. His word was always good and he was all class.

“We would ride up north at Centennial (near Denver) and when it snowed, we would take this dune buggy out and race it around the track. They called the police every time and they could never catch up with us.

“We had a lot of good times together. We were close like brothers.”

Sandy Farris (wife of the late trainer Don Farris)

“He was part of the family. We had doublewides next to each other at Frontera (Training Center) and he would babysit (Don and Sandy’s daughter) Lisa.

“He was a gentleman. He did not flaunt himself. He was very nice and didn’t brag. He knew he was the best. He was an honorable man.

“He always knew where he was in a race. He was in a head-bobbing finish and I saw him reach up with the whip and push the horse’s nose out and won.

“In the morning, he would get back to the barn and he could tell Don where a horse was a little off.”

Nicodemus rode champion mare Denim N Diamonds, who was not known for her endearing personality.

“Nic came to gallop Denim N Diamonds and she was in her stall and not saddled. Nic asked, ‘Why isn’t she saddled?’ Marc Jungers was her groom and he told Nic ‘You go in and catch her.’

“He had a special relationship with Denim N Diamonds. He learned how to get along with her.”

Kenny Hart (jockey)

“We met in the early ’60s in Texas. He was fun to be around and we would joke and crack up. He tried to beat you, but was always the first to congratulate you.

“After we came to New Mexico, we would get horses and go up above Bonito and camp. We would make a fire and sit around and talk. It was a way for us to get away and relax.

“He had a Jeep and we were going through the forest and there was a bear by a dumpster. We had my saddle and rope in the back. He told me to rope it, so I roped the bear. I told Nic that I roped it and now you get it. He got out and waved the rope and it came off.

“He also bought a Ferrari. A lady gave him a cougar so he drove around in this Ferrari with a cougar in it.

“He lived life big and to the fullest.”

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