And your horse naturally won…
Not exactly. You’d have to go back 165 years to watch the incredible win of the horse my ancestor, Ben Pryor, was famous for training. Last month, my sister and her husband, Evie and Tom Kelly, visited the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in Saratoga, New York, to learn more about Ben and the racehorse he trained, Lexington.
With the help of the hall’s docent, Evie and Tom found some items of interest. Lexington was part of the inaugural class of inductees to the newly founded Hall of Fame in 1955. The plaque below gives his history better than I could.
Below the plaque are listed the four men who owned Lexington during his celebrated lifetime, but only one trainer—J. B. Pryor.
John Benjamin Pryor, known as Ben, was the grandfather of our grandfather, Luke T. Pryor. While seeing her second great-grandfather’s name listed on Lexington’s plaque was cool, Evie was not prepared for what she found next. On Halloween, as the only visitors in the place, the docent took the time for a bit of research.
According to Evie, “The Docent had told us Lexington’s shoe was there but did not mention Ben Pryor was in that display. When I found the shoe (called a plate then), there was a letter from the person who had been gifted the shoe after an important race. The letter was faded, of course, being 150 years old but B. Pryor’s name jumped right out at me. My reaction was, ‘There he is!’ Even though I was alone in the room (Tom had wandered ahead), I said it out loud and smiled to myself.”
Somehow, seeing an actual letter in the handwriting of a man who spoke directly to Ben Pryor gave Evie a chill. Our ancestor instantly became authentic and more immediate.
The novel I’m working on, Pryor Knowledge, is a first-person account in Ben Pryor’s voice, as I imagine it. Although he is not a Hall of Fame inductee, Ben has left a footprint there for us to follow as I work to speak for him in this book.
History isn’t as long ago as it seems. Evie’s discoveries in Saratoga are our family’s less dramatic version of Roots author Alex Haley’s, “You old African! I found you!”