Michael Mayo

HALLANDALE BEACH- The handshakes and hugs were coming from everywhere, the ride of his life getting better by the minute. He is 88, gray hair forming a wisp of tail down his neck, but Harold Rose looked like a kid, the way he floated through the Director's Room at Gulfstream Park on Saturday.

He floated past Bob and Beverly Lewis, past new Gulfstream owner Frank Stronach and track president Doug Donn. The Lewises were the darlings of last year's Triple crown trail with Charismatic, and now their latest hope High Yield, had just been beaten by Hal's Hope, the colt Rose owns, trains and bred.

The Lewises raised champagne glasses and smiled. "We couldn't be happier for you." Bob Lewis said.

Rose made his way to a back room , where Hal's Hope would win the Florida Derby again. He eased into a chair front of the VCR. His wife of 65 years, Elsie, was next to him. Sons Barry and Randy,daughters Joan and Fran surrounded him. The entire Rose clan was here,nearly two dozen strong and South Fioridians all, including his nine grandchildren and five great grandchildren. Somebody dimmed the lights and popped in the tape. The cheering went up as soon as the gate opened and Hal's Hope sprinted to the front, again.

"Isn't this great?" said Joan Needell, Rose's daughter. This was, better than great.

Last August, Rose was driving to his barn at Calder when his car broke down. As he waited in the sweltering heat, his heart followed. By the time the paramedics arrived, he had stopped breathing. They gave him oxygen, and the doctors were able to revive him at Parkway Regional Hospital. A week later, he had quadruple-bypass surgery at Mount Sinai Medical Center.

Three weeks after that, he was back to work. Up at 3 a.m., at the barn by 4:30 everyday.

"He came back so quick, quicker than we wanted," said Barry, an accountant from Hollywood. He's a strong guy. When he had his first rehabilitation session, the nurses were expecting this weak, little old man. But he got up and walked right across the room.

"One of the reasons was Hal's Hope," Rose said. "I knew he was back at the barn. I knew he was a good horse from the beginning."

Now everybody knows. Nobody was sure when he broke his maiden at Calder last November at 33-1 or when he won an allowance race in December at 20-1. They still didn't believe it when he won the Holy Bull stakes at 40-1 in January, or finished second to High Yield in the Fountain of Youth at 10-1 last month.

"Maybe they'll believe me now," Rose said.

By all rights, Hal's Hope had no business beating High Yield. High Yield was a million-dollar yearling purchase.

Hal's Hope was bred by Rose on his farm at Ocala. High Yield is trained by Triple Crown machine D. Wayne Lukas. Before Saturday, the biggest win of Row's 32-year training career was the Florida Stallion Stakes. High Yield was in perfect striking position through the stretch under Hall of Fame jockey Pat Day. Hal's Hope looked beaten along the rail under Roger Velez , a jockey who once dropped out of the game.

But the funniest things can happen on the road to the Kentucky Derby. Hal's Hope dug in. Hal's Hope held on. Like his trainer, he was all heart.

This was the best kind of finish a day where even the losers can tear up their tickets, smile and feel like winners.
"If we were going to lose one I'm glad we lost to him," Lukas said.

"When I saw him after the race, I kind of wanted to cry because it's such a beautiful story, "Velez said.

It's the staff of Runyon musicals and Disney movies, and Velez will be a part of it, riding it out. "Roger was at the hospital visiting my father every day," Joan said. "He's not going anywhere."

Lukas was asked about Rose. "I don't know him at all. I wouldn't know him if he walked up to me right now."

"That's OK, "Joan said. 'My father's been in the business a lot longer than Wayne. They're all newcomers compared to him."

Rose has only been to the Derby once, in 1984, when he had a long shot closer named Rexson's Hope. He finished 1Oth in the field of 20.

"This time I'm going with a contender, " Rose said.

He was born in 1911 in Newark N.J. Rose fell in love with horses at Hialeah in the 1930s, when his father would spend winters in Florida. First Harold was in the printing business, then he did catering to corporate picnics in the New York area. He bought his first home in 1951. He moved to Florida in 1954 In 1968 he got his trainer's license. He has been plugging away since. He now has 20 homes in his barn. Eighteen are claimers.

"After the race he said, 'Now they'll have respect for the horse, not just the fact that I'm 88,' Joan said. "He said he was getting a lot of attention this week, but he didn't know if people believed the home could do it."

Now people are more than believing. They're rooting.

Rose's run for the roses goes on.


Michael Mayo can be reached at mmayo@


<back to Hal's Hope page>