The King of New York

Macl Lobell

  • If was one of those early, bright and clear mornings before the humid heat of August descends on New fork like a wet blanket.

    Photographer Claes Kärrstrand, owner John-Erik Magnusson and myselt were inspecting Mack in his paddock. John-Erik joined Mack in fhe paddock and started to play with him, but sudddenly Claes was alone in there with the horse and John-Erik was outside, cheering and laughing himself silly. Claes survived, even it shaky, and we could all confirm that The Mack was in good shape. But something was missing something we would fix the next day.

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  • That afternoon I spoke to my editor at Expressen, the newspaper that had dispatched me to cover the World hampionship and Mack Lobell. My colleague Thomas Pettersson, safe at home in Stockholm and always a source of bright ideas, shouted into the phone with a volume that made the earpiece unnecessary:
    - Of course you have to test-drive The Mack (one of Expressen's standing features is tests of everything from cars to wine and mobile phones) the day before the race! It is a scooooop! Fortunately John-Erik is also a man of crazy ideas so his only comment was, "Okay". Of course he was aware that I was brought up with horses. But still, to trust a 50-million horse to a journalist just two days before the World champion race is not bad. Or maybe that is what it is....

    The next morning I walked across the infield of Yonkers with a helmet under my orm. I had not been abIe to rustle up a pair of white pants or white gloves like Campbell used to wear, but still. The Mack's groom Eva looked my way and saw the helmet as she was waking the horse towards the track. She had not been informed of the day's event.
    - What do you think you are doing, she asked. - I´m m driving the Mack. - So let's hear the one about Santa Claus too!

    But then she saw John-Erik's big grin from the corner of her eye and started to realize what was going on. After one circuit in deep thouqht she pulled up, shook her head and wordlessly turned the reins over to me. I was sitting behind the world's best trotter and the location was Yonkers Raceway, New York.

    It was heavy. Lead heavy. We guys have a way of fantasizinq about winning a million, about hero- ic deeds, about making the goal that wins the World Championship, about turning the last turn in Elitloppet with a horse full of run and a gap between horses coming up.

    I had plenty of time for thoughts like that during my two tums around Yonkers. Mack Lobell jog- ged around and I enjoyed myself, wnen I wasn't worrying that he would take a bad step and hurt himself with me in the cart. What did it feel like? Like a Swiss watch. Like a Ferrari. Like a dream!

    The moment I turned over the reins I knew I would spend the rest of my life regretting that I didn't dare turn him lose and get the feel of some speed. But I think you understand my reasons. I felt slightly intoxicated when I made my way back to the hotel to put my feelings on paper. It was sheer pleasure at the keyboard when the door suddenly opened. Claes Kärrstrand, transformed to a wet dishraq with a body language that screamed de- feat, fell into a chair. After a couple of minutes he started to speak. But all he could say was: - Son of a bitch! After a while he got it out. The guy who was to develop the film had used the wrong developer. Colour for black and white or was it the other way around. Either way, it was a catastrophe.

    No pictures of my grand scoop. And hardly possible to do again tomorrow. Now who would believe that I had driven the Mack without photographic evidence? After a couple of terrifying moments we realized that Claes might be able to find a way to save some of the photos. And he did.

    But the framed picture on the wall in my office, with the proud inscription "Mack Lobell - Anders Abenius, Yonkers Raceway, New York August 1989" has too much green for a colour picture. Or black and white for that matter.

          Text: Anders Abenius Photo: Claes Kärrstrand