When it comes to horse racing, Terry Gilligan could write a book. The veteran race tracker has seen them all, from Eddie Arcaro, Bill Shoemaker and Johnny Longden, to Silky Sullivan, Swaps and John Henry.
Done it all, too, from his days as a boy on the family farm in Dunlap, Iowa, hard by Council Bluffs, where he tended animals with brothers Larry, Tenny and sister Judy Mae.
These days, for a slice of each year during the race meet, he makes his home at Fairplex Park where he is the Racing Office Supervisor, but more importantly, a friendly and familiar face that keeps on giving.
"I didn't want to reenlist in the service when I got out (of the Air Force following the Korean War in 1951), so I decided to go back to galloping horses," said Terry, who's 73-year-old brother Larry is a former top jockey who still gets a leg up as the "quick official" at Santa Anita and Del Mar. "Larry was galloping at the time, but he kept his weight down and I couldn't, so I began working around the tracks in other capacities."
Terry's run the gamut in that respect, from delivering photo finish pictures to newspapers, clocking workouts, working in publicity to calling races, a veritable jack of all trades and master of many. "All that kind of got me going, and I really enjoyed kibitzing with jockeys, owners and trainers in the mornings.
"I had been calling races back at Latonia (in Kentucky) and from there hooked on at Oak Tree for quite a few years. I took over at Santa Anita for a while when Joe Hernandez had his heart attack, and now we've got the right guy in Trevor Denman."
Terry, born in the mid-1930s the second-oldest of father James and mother Della, was schooled in traditional values early on. "My mom was a school teacher and my father was a great reader of Tennyson," Gilligan said. "That's why my (late) brother was named Tenny."
Gilligan began full time at Fairplex in 1981, after getting a taste of it in the mid- 1960s, keeping statistics on quarter horses while also working at Los Alamitos. Now, he lives in Monrovia with his wife, Judy. But the memories never fade, and need only a vague prompt to be resurrected.
"Shoemaker, Longden and Arcaro, they were the big three back in the day," Gilligan recalled. "After that came (Bill) Hartack and Chris McCarron and (Gary Stevens) and all those guys.
"But the biggest thrill I ever had was when I was working at Hollywood Park in the early 60s. My boss told me to take Eddie Arcaro to Scandia (an elegant restaurant on Sunset Blvd. frequented by movie stars of the day such as Errol Flynn before it closed in 1989). I told him I was driving this old Nash Rambler but my boss said, Don't worry. We've got a limo coming for you.' Arcaro and I got in the back and Eddie told me about a lot of his great races. That was one of my big thrills, going to the sportscasters' luncheon with Eddie Arcaro."
Gilligan's trainers and horses, understandably, are the stuff of legend.
"Charlie Whittingham was a great man and a great trainer, as we all know," Terry said. "Buster Millerick, he was a real character. He was a man of a few words, very quiet, but could he ever train. Look what he did with Native Diver.
"Crimson Satan, a horse Larry rode, was a fun horse. I could name so many, like John Henry and Cougar II, but my favorite was (1955 Kentucky Derby winner) Swaps."
The list goes on, as it should for a man with Gilligan's treasured resume, one that has made him a Fairplex favorite through the years.
FAIRWELLS: Thursday's lone winning Pick Six ticket worth $151,914.40 was purchased at the Lewiston, Maine, hub. There were 55 tickets with five winners that paid $854.80 each . . . Martin Pedroza won two races Thursday, giving him 26 wins through six days of the 15 meet and leaving him 26 short of his record of 51 set during the 17-day meet in 2004. Pedroza was scheduled to ride in all nine thoroughbred races Friday. Six of his mounts were morning line favorites . . . Doug O'Neill, last year's training leader, was on top with six wins from 15 starters through six days. Four trainers were tied for second with three wins each . . . Patrick Valenzuela and Aaron Gryder will be at Fairplex Park Sunday for engagements in the $115,000 Barretts Juvenile Stakes at 6 furlongs. Valenzuela rides 5-2 morning line favorite Clubhouse Ride for trainer Craig Lewis, while Gryder handles first-time starter Cash Michael for trainer Jeff Mullins in the race for 2-year-olds offered for sale in the 2008 October or 2009 January, March or May Barretts-in-training sale. An eye-catching invader is Including Gold, winner of his only two starts at Yavapai Downs in Arizona by a combined margin of nearly 20 lengths under veteran Vince Guerra, who retains the mount. Saturday's feature is the $115,000 Barretts Debutante for 2-year-old fillies at 6 furlongs. Dearly Concerned, trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, is the 2-1 morning line choice with Pedroza aboard . . . Stubborn on winning: Sarah Nelson, the 6-5 morning line favorite in Friday's first race, a 350-yard dash for mules, had won a remarkable 53 races before the event, with 27 seconds and eight thirds from 92 lifetime starts. Owned by Roger Downey and trained by Diana Skinner, the 11-year-old mare had earned $253,862.