Does Frank Deford Have The 'Write' Stuff?

Published: November 16, 2021 10:30 am EST

Frank Deford was one of America’s most prominent sportswriters and sportscasters. He wrote for Sports Illustrated for a remarkable 55 years and was a regular sportscaster on NPR’s Morning Edition. He penned 18 books and was a member of the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association Hall of Fame, which six times voted him National Sportswriter of the Year. Now, he’s broken his maiden. Wait, what?

We’re talking now about the three-year-old equine Frank Deford, who was named for the late sportswriter. This Frank Deford, a gelded son of Sportswriter-Hot Legs, seeks his second career victory Wednesday, Nov. 17 at Hollywood Casino at the Meadows when he leaves from post two in race eight with Aaron Merriman.

Frank Deford was bred by Ron Mersky, a retired professor/school administrator who now operates a boutique nursery in Paris, Kentucky called Green Creek Farm. Mersky has a colourful history of naming his foals for famous people.

“Sometimes I try to honour really good people,” said Mersky. “Beyond being an excellent sportswriter, Frank Deford was really a good person. I never met him, but I admired him from afar.”

Other horses Mersky named for human stars include:

· The full siblings Ginger And Fred and Fred And Ginger (who died May 31 at 14). When these guys paced the light fantastic, the results were fantastic. Together, they won more than $3 million;

· Arthur And Kathryn. Named for the famous ballroom-dancing Murrays, this full brother to Ginger And Fred and Fred And Ginger didn’t quite have their terpsichorean talent, winning just over $10,000 in a brief career;

· RBG, whose name honours the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The jury’s still out on this filly pacer, who was unraced at two and is winless in 10 starts this year;

· Greta T, a two-year-old Fear The Dragon filly whose namesake, Greta Thunberg, Is the internationally acclaimed environmental activist, three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee and 2019 Time Magazine Person of the Year. Mersky kept this one, who broke her maiden in 1:56.1 at Scioto Downs. Chip surgery ended her season, but she’s scheduled to resume training in January.

It took Frank Deford 10 races to score his initial win, but Mersky still thinks the horse shows promise.

“He looked quite good early in training, but he had a hitch in his giddy-up. He’s more fluid now. His stride is much better than it was when he was two.”

Although Frank Deford brought $18,000 at a yearling auction, trainer Sal Digati last year purchased him online for $8,000 for his ownership group — Anthony Ciaramella, Lawrence Ciaramella, Bill Stepien and Digati. A foot injury shelved him most of this past spring and summer; he finished fourth in his November 10 comeback race.

“He’s on the smaller side, so we gave him the winter off and brought him back,” reported Digati. “I wasn’t sure what he was capable of, but every time we’ve had him behind the gate, he’s really come home good. He’s been a pleasant surprise. For a young horse, he has a good attitude, and that’s half the battle.”

Was he aware of the horse’s connection to the famous sportswriter?

“Sure, I know who Frank Deford was, but for some reason I kept calling this guy Frank Gifford.”

Perhaps the equine Frank Deford hasn’t stamped his name on people’s memories yet, but he has plenty of time to prove that, as his namesake, he has the “write stuff.”


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