Lenny looks to get lucky

MIKE ULMER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:10 AM ET

Right now, a collection of horses worth more than the Gross Domestic Product of Bolivia are being groomed and fussed over at Woodbine. An hour or so down the QEW in Ridgeway, near Fort Erie, Lenny the Lender is working his feed.

Sunday's Pattison Canadian International offers a $1.5-million purse for a 1.5-mile trip and anyone who is anyone on grass is coming.

Over here, Sulamani, a $4.3-million winner, the pride of the giant Godolphin Conglomerate, slumming from his usual barn in the United Arab Emirates. There are Irish horses, English horses. Multi-millionaire Monty Roberts, of Horse Whisperer fame, owns Sabiango. Canadian giant Sam-Son Farms will field three entrants.

And then there's Lenny the Lender.

Lenny is eight years old, the oldest horse in the 12-horse field.

Lenny is on the skinny side. He lacks prestigious bloodlines.

Lenny is humble, a $7,500 claimer who made good.

Lenny is owned and trained by Dick Jukosky, a 66-year-old retired telephone technician who worked for Bell before getting the golden handshake 10 years ago.

Jukosky loves horses, even if he is allergic to them. When he worked for Bell, he would tend to his horses in the morning and then dash home for dinner. Theirs, not his.

In a big-money game where the dollars get more profligate by the day, Dick Jukosky and Lenny the Lender stand out like $2 bills.

In late July, 2002, Jukosky was eating his porridge with raisins and brown sugar, talking with his wife,Carol.

He noticed that Lenny was being entered in the claimer.

Now, Dick Jukosky had a history with Lenny the Lender.

Jukosky had a horse named Dauphine Royal, and Lenny the Lender abused him.

"If my horse finished fourth, Lenny finished third," Jukosky said. "If my horse finished third, Lenny finished second. I had this great, big beautiful horse and Lenny was a little on the small side but no matter what happened, he would finish ahead of my horse."

"This is the last time I lose to that horse," he told Carol. "I'm going to claim him."

Dick Jukosky doesn't know any Sheiks. He doesn't bet his own horses, although he does not complain when Carol puts $2 on Lenny's nose. He has never had a horse in the Queen's Plate. He doesn't even train other people's horses.

"I make too many mistakes on my own horse," he said. "I couldn't stand doing it to someone else."

But Jukosky loved Lenny. "I would never do anything to hurt him," he said, "and I wouldn't do anything to embarrass him."

Jukosky raced Lenny in a handful of claimers, just to see what he had. It wasn't much. Then, on a hunch, he put Lenny on the turf.

Lenny is particular. He hates hot weather. He hates tight corners. But he loves springy turf and nice wide turns, like, say, the ones at Woodbine where, out of the blue, he beat two pretty good fields.

Lenny has won Dick Jukosky $300,000.

"Are you rich?"

"Are you kidding? It's all gone."

Still, for one day, Dick Jukosky, of the Ridgeway Jukoskys, will go to the post against the syndicates.

Chantal Sutherland is the 20th jockey to ride Lenny and she loves him.

"I really want this for him," Sutherland said. "He deserves to be recognized. He's like Seabiscuit. When I get a leg up on him he puffs off and prances and bounces around. He's just a well-mannered horse. Aperfect gentlemen."

When the morning line is flashed Sunday, Lenny the Lender will not be on the top of the heap. He probably will go off at somewhere between 15 and 30-1 and while he has had some near misses, he hasn't won in two years. If the track is doused with two days of rain, Jukosky will scratch Lenny.

But on a cool day, on a springy, not soggy track, Lenny the Lender may be showing his hindquarters to some very expensive horseflesh.

The beauty of the game is that on the right day, a greybeard can go greyhound.


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