Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
Every serious horseplayer dreams of owning his own horse and running it in the Kentucky Derby. John Buckley and Al Stycznyski shared that dream, and along the way to attending more than 37 Derbys together had fun trying to make that happen.
“It was the late ’70s and we claimed a horse at Sportman’s Park,” Buckley said. “To claim them you had to put your name in and put the money up for it. The horse’s name was Yelnoc, which was Conley spelled backward.”
“It was a nice try,” Stycznyski said. “But the horse was no good.”
They raced the horse at Sportsman’s, Arlington Park and Balmoral. The horse didn’t have much success but it was during a race at Balmoral that led to the discovery of another horse — and the near accomplishment of their dream.
Stycznyski and Buckley attended all the races that day and were having a good time. At the end of the day, Buckley heard his name being called to come down to the winners circle. Once he got there, he was surprised at what he saw.
“Al was standing there holding this big horse,” Buckley recounted. “He says, ‘The horse’s name is Goodtimes2, just like today.’ He claimed him for $7,500. The horse did very well when we ran him. We kept talking about our dream of running him in the Derby.”
The horse was shipped to run in a race at River Downs in Ohio. That’s when Buckley learned that the horse had qualified to run in the first race of the day at the Kentucky Derby. He instructed his trainer to get him to Louisville no matter what it took.
“The day of the Derby all the guys are saying that there is a horse with the same name as your horse running in the first race,” Buckley said. “I said, ‘It is our horse, fellas.’ ”
Goodtimes2 finished in fifth place on that Derby day.