So, Even Celebrities Get Drunk Now & Then…

Today actually now a day or two ago, since it took me 2 days to get logged into my wordpress blog. Support is minimal for WP.ORG, but the templates are free). I opened my email to the news that jockey Southerland was suspended in Canada for over-the-limit alcohol by way of breathalyzer test.

For those who remember the days before breathalyzers (and other drug tests, random or probable cause), I’ve heard you say that everyone, or nearly everyone was out there drunk. So how times have changed! Even I remember one night here at the Mount – all too vividly – when one rider (who shall be spared identifying) was so plastered he couldn’t stand (but COULD sit…on a horse).


I was out of gate #2, three lengths behind this fellow (who generally rode faster horses than me) and as I was taking in the first furlong, he swerved several horse-breadths railward, from the 8-hole to the 4, almost taking down one of the leading Thistledown riders on the 6. Don’t think of clipping heels – think of clipping hocks!

ack in the room I told one of the Valets I wanted to turn the kid in because I didn’t want anyone who COULD kill me riding with me at any time. Unconscious carelessness happens often enough, but unconsciousness drunkenness is both doubly dangerous and obviously preventable. Why encourage drunken riding by allowing it to go unchallenged?

Oh no, the valet told me. They’ll take care of him in the room. He won’t do it again. They know. Let the room handle it.

Sure that’s all well and good, but everyone knew that the kid was a longtime drunk –  bona fide alcoholic. Nobody can prevent it from happening again and again. You stop that for a month, then later a week, then not at all.


So I held my tongue, but crap, do you think I wanna ride sober? If I might get maimed; if I think I’m working in an establishment where the chances are better of me getting maimed, I’m gonna want to do something to keep down the anxiety. Drinking’s the obvious choice.


And I think that the reason drinking is such a powerful anxiety reducer is that it most definitely takes the mind of f of the worries – worry-oriented thoughts. No more thoughts about worry; no more worries! So it makes lots of sense to drink to solve the short-term worry problem. Only drawback is that it could mean a long-term drinking problem.


I believe they don’t have the puritan attitude toward alcohol in Canada  that we have here in the US courtesy of the pilgrims. I was there for a while (Canada, not the Colonies) when I had the bug (1991, I think). The deal was:


you had to blow in the breathalyzer when you got to the room. If you blew over, you could stay in the room and blow again in fifteen minutes, and then in fifteen minutes after that, and so on, until pretty close to your first mount. It gave you a change to get under the limit if you happened to have had a beer with your lunch.


If it’s not because of the general culture and attitude toward alcohol, then I would chalk it up to the power of the Jocks’ Guild in that country. They definitely have more power than their US counterparts. Labor in general does. But I mean those jocks could take off over and over on what appeared to be a whim, like ‘it’s too cold for me” and there appealed to be no fines. I wasn’t there very long, though, so what do I know, really? Not a thing! In fact my source for the breathalyzer account was Lanny Kress, one of the more saturated alcoholics in my memory, and a 50/50 liar to boot.


I can think of many times I downed an ounce or two of Smirnoff or ginger brandy just to be able to sleep a solid hour before my riding engagements. Because once I was checked on a mount, I rode that horse until the race was over! That’s a day and a half of riding the same race! Multiply that by the number of races I might be checked on and my mind would have raced itself out of the business of sleeping for most of my career. I’d have had the Guinness’ record for sleep deprivation before I would have my @10% win avg. A single shot at 10 a.m. will deliver an under-the-limit for 11:30 room time and a dedicated hour of snooze, so hail the Ginger Brandy!


So for my part, I think it’s nobody’s business to speculate or dwell on the matter of Sutherland’s suspension. Let it be her business. If it was a simple matter of a beer to accompany the morning repast, she’ll get over the short term losses. If it’s a more serious problem, I expect she will handle it, just as Julie did when she was smoking pot, and go on with her career, and the long-term will prove her mettle to the rest of us. the point is, she has enough to worry about – let’s not drive her to drink over it with our gossip. Let’s graciously acknowledge positive updates and keep neutral on anything else, so she can hear her heart the clearer.



Note: 50/50 liar is a term I just coined. It means “someone who lies an average of 50% of the time, and of which you have a 50/50 shot of guessing the veracity thereof”.   

Leave a Reply