Since American Pharoah completed the Triple Crown by winning the Belmont Stakes last Saturday, everyone seems to be seeking the most memorable keepsake from an achievement 37 years in the making.
Lexington's Frank Sadler could be hard to beat in that chase.
Sadler has an interesting sports connection. When Bear Bryant patrolled the sidelines of Stoll Field as University of Kentucky football coach, Sadler was first a team manager, then later a scout and all-around Man Friday for the coach.
When the Bear left Lexington, Sadler stayed and ultimately built a successful career as a real estate developer.
This spring, Sadler, 90, says he had a feeling American Pharoah was going to be the first thoroughbred race horse since Affirmed in 1978 to win the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and the Belmont. So he came up with an idea that, if Pharoah came through, would leave Sadler with quite a souvenir of the Triple Crown.
For the Derby, Sadler had a friend, Brian Wood, place 100 $2-win bets on American Pharoah. The plan did not involve cashing the tickets once the horse won.
Two weeks later in Baltimore, Sadler had Dr. Robert Bratton buy 100 $2-win tickets on Pharoah for the Preakness. Those tickets, too, came back to Lexington uncashed.
Finally, last weekend in New York, Sadler sent his pilot, Joe Ford, to Belmont Park with one task: To purchase 100 $2-win tickets in the Belmont Stakes on American Pharoah.
Now that Sadler has 100 $2 win tickets on the 2015 Triple Crown winner from each of the three races in the series, what does he plan to do with them?
"I think it would make a pretty nice thing to put on the wall, don't you?" Sadler said.
For whatever reason, I have always wanted to believe the bonds of friendship between the four basketball players — Richie Farmer, Deron Feldhaus, John Pelphrey and Sean Woods — who are remembered in University of Kentucky lore as The Unforgettables are forged for life.
Those four players were at UK when the Eddie Sutton era cheating scandal in the late 1980s led to a harsh NCAA probation for Kentucky. Rather than transfer, the four stayed and were instrumental in Rick Pitino's early 1990s restoration of Wildcats basketball.
I spoke with Pelphrey last week, and he mentioned that he had talked in recent days with both Feldhaus and Woods. "We went through so much together, my relationship with those guys, they really are like brothers," Pelphrey said.
Farmer, of course, is serving time in a federal prison in West Virginia for misusing state resources during his stint as Kentucky's elected Commissioner of Agriculture.
Pelphrey said he has "corresponded" with his incarcerated former teammate.
"My understanding is Richie is doing well in what is a very difficult situation," Pelphrey said.
An inspiration passes
Lexington filmmaker Tom Thurman produced and directed the 2002 KET documentary Basketball in Kentucky — Great Balls of Fire. The film chronicled the rich history of the sport in our hoops-mad state.
The man who, in a sense, inspired Thurman to make that film died recently.
Arnold Thurman, Tom's father, played college hoops in the 1950s at Berea College. He roomed there with Irvine Shanks, one of the first black players to play college basketball for a predominantly white college in Kentucky history.
After college, Arnold Thurman became head basketball coach at Baghdad High School. In that role, Thurman helped integrate sports in Shelby County by scheduling games with Lincoln Institute, a historically black high school in the county.
After school consolidation, Arnold Thurman had a long career as a coach and athletics director at Shelby County High School. Twice in Arnold Thurman's tenure as AD, in 1966 (Mike Casey) and 1978 (Charles Hurt), Shelby County won the boys' basketball state championship.
"As a kid, my Dad drug me to all the practices he had to go to," Tom Thurman said. "I was 4 in 1966, and the players off that state championship team, they were sort of my babysitters."
The elder Thurman, 82, died May 30 from cancer.
"There's no question that my interest and passion for Kentucky basketball started with my Dad," Tom Thurman said.