From the upcoming 16-Part PBS Series, The Hardys in America. Teachers may request the classroom guide to help students better understand the series.
Introduction to The Hardys in South Carolina
South Carolina has a special place in the Hardy Family’s history. It was nice to be back in the state responsible for many of the more important incidents and eras in America’s First Family of Psychic Entertainment. We were in Columbia, the state’s capitol for the South Carolina Association of Magicians convention and had a great time.
But our experience could not compare to those of our three relatives in the same town. Uncle Tubby, Aunt Melanie, and Aunt Sixtus came to Columbia for different reasons but all left profoundly affected by their stay.
Tubby Hardy – Little Big Man
Tubby was actually the ironic and hurtful nickname for our uncle Todd Hardy given to him by Tom Hardy Sr. to ridicule his unfortunate life-experience. He entered the Hardy business of magic after a career riding and then handicapping horses.
Jockeys, in his era, were expected to “make weight” for each race by being at least ten pounds lighter than the lowest weight allowance on the circuit. In 1959, the Chicago – Louisville – Lexington circuit required the riders to be no more than 93 pounds so that with their tack and fancy silks, riders added no more than 103 pounds to the back of the horses.
Tubby was able to make weight for his first two seasons. He was a gifted rider. He broke his maiden and lost his bug status at the end of his first year. Those are good things. Breaking one’s maiden means he won his first race. Losing his bug meant he was no longer considered an apprentice jock.
Coming off bug status made him less attractive to owners and trainers who were willing to hire the apprentice designated in racing forms with an asterisk (or a “bug”) by their name.
Bug riders were allowed extra weight allowances and could often enter a race with ten to fifteen pounds less than any horse in the field. This weight benefit was often crucial in the non-sprint events.
Once a rider lost his bug, he was forced to compete against the other jocks directly.
Tubby entered the 1959 season at Arlington Race Course outside of Chicago weighing exactly 93 pounds. He was able to pick up some mounts from kindly trainers but had little success with the less-than-promising horses. In 1958, his winnings topped $22,000 and made him the highest-earning bug rider on the circuit. In the first three months of 1959’s season, he struggled to make ends meet with just two rides in the money — and one coming because of a disqualification of the two horses well ahead of him.
He began to gain weight half-way through the season and by the time the circuit moved south to Louisville, he was just less than 140 pounds.
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