The Personal Side of Randy Romero
By: Rick Mocklin
I made the 2 1/2-hour drive to Erath, Louisiana this past Tuesday to attend the Memorial Mass for my friend Randy Paul Romero. I had a long time to reflect on my relationship with Randy. I’ve known Randy since we were teenagers, but we really became close friends when I worked with him as his agent in the mid 90’s. Since then, we’ve stayed in contact on a regular basis.
We all know what Randy accomplished on the racetrack. His career was one that aspiring jockeys can only dream about. But I really wonder if Randy realized how much of an impact, he had on the people he met.
These three stories are times that really stick out in my mind, and I got to tell these stories at his Memorial, and I’ll always treasure the years I was Randy’s go-to man.
When Randy and I were at Keeneland, we were sharing a room at the Campbell House in Lexington. One morning, after Randy finished working horses, he said, “Neg, let’s go get some breakfast”. But, before we had breakfast, he wanted to show me the Thoroughbred Park, which has statues of life-sized horses, with life-sized jockeys on them.
There, among all the greatest jockeys, was our friend Randy, immortalized, to be seen and admired forever. Again, I don’t think Randy realized the impact he made on people.
We finished off that morning with breakfast, and I got a first-hand, stride by stride account, of races he rode on Personal Ensign, Go For Wand, and a few other great horses. Randy had the ability to recall everything that happened in races years ago, and I was hanging on every word, and in my mind, I could envision every detail. He was a great storyteller, and the best part, is that all the stories were true experiences of Randy.
After Keeneland, we went to Arlington Park. During the season, we found out that George Strait was coming to play in Chicago. Randy asked me if I had ever heard of George Strait, and I said yeah, he’s the biggest star in Country music right now. He said, “I’m going to call him and get some tickets for us to go see him”.
Randy had ridden a few two-year old’s for George at Retama Park in some trials, and George, like everyone else, fell in love with Randy. He wanted Randy to teach him how to come out of the gate on a Thoroughbred. Randy told him,” Neg, you better keep singing them songs and let me come out the gate”.
Randy called and got the tickets and we; I think it was me, Randy and his wife Cricket, we were in the 9th row in front of the stage. As the place was filling up, Randy says to me,” Rick, this guy must be pretty good, they got a lot of people in here”. You see, to Randy, nobody was above him, and certainly, nobody was below him.
To Randy, everybody was the same, and got treated the same, they got the irresistible, Randy Romero charm.
So, George comes out and lights up the crowd. Great songs, great show, great time. After the show Randy says,” you know Neg, George is pretty good. I think these people really liked him”. That was the innocence of Randy.
So, after the show, Randy decides we’re going to go backstage and see George. Now keep in mind, we don’t have backstage passes, and this is George Strait we’re talking about. To make a long story short, not only does Randy get us backstage, he gets us to the door of the room where George is doing a meet and greet and is signing autographs.
When Randy says, “George, its Randy”, George sees Randy and tells his security to let Randy and whoever he’s with in the room. I saw a complete transformation of George – all he wanted to do was talk to Randy about how he did that day and about racing. Everybody else became invisible.
At that moment he wasn’t George Strait the country superstar, he became George Strait, the biggest fan of Randy Romero. Again, Randy had no idea how he could mesmerize people.
One more thing about that night. Irv Woolsey, George Straits long time manager, came over to say hello to us, and Randy says, “Irv, good to see you Neg, but you sure are getting fat”. I almost choked when he said that. Irv looked at me and said, “don’t worry about that, he’s right, I am getting fat”.
Another great Randy story happened during that same summer in Chicago. Every year there is a large migration of Canadian geese that come to lay eggs and raise their babies. It’s very common to see a momma goose leading her babies across a busy street, and traffic is patiently stopped, letting the parade of geese pass.
Randy was sharing an apartment with his brother Gerald that year and I was living not far from them. One day he says to me,” Neg, you like goose gumbo”? I told him I had never eaten goose gumbo, and then it hit me. I said, Randy you’re not thinking what I think you’re thinking? I got that boyish grin look of his and he says,” what ya mean Neg”?
I said Randy, you can’t kill one of these geese and cook it. It’s against the law. I told him they were federally protected, and he could go to jail if he killed one. I said, this is not duck season in Erath. He said,” but they got so many of them, and if I kill one at night, nobody will ever know”.
I don’t think he ever killed one, because I was never invited over for Goose Gumbo. I got to tell you, those years were the best years of my life on the racetrack, because I got to spend them with Randy. One thing that sticks with me is this – Randy rode almost 4400 winners in his career, but did you know that with time missed for all his injuries, he missed almost six years of riding. No telling how many more winners he would have ridden.
I know this, my life was better having Randy Romero in it, and I love that lil dude like a brother. He was one of the toughest persons I have ever known.He never ever complained, he never ever said why me, he never ever held any pity parties – his first question was always, “Doc, when can I ride again”. In case you’re wondering about the word “Neg”. It’s a Cajun word used as a term of endearment. The word is supposed to be used referring to males only, but Randy call everybody “Neg”.
In closing, I think you should all know that even Jesus has a new nickname. Everybody, and I mean everybody, is calling Jesus, “NEG”, now. Now, maybe Randy will realize how much of an impact he has on people, even in Heaven.
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