Sports from the Vault: Remember that time Chad Johnson raced a horse -- and won?
'I was beat bad,' jockey Cooksey said
Ryan Clark | WCPO contributor
5:00 AM, Jun 20, 2017
8:25 AM, Jun 25, 2017
CINCINNATI -- Of the many times I interviewed Chad Johnson in my former life as a professional reporter, there is one that stands out more than others.
It was 2006, and Chad (yet to become Ochocinco) had signed a deal with Degree deodorant. Together, he and Degree's representatives came up with a checklist of things he was going to do for the upcoming season. It showed people he was going to burn, games he was going to win, etc. It was kind of the start of Chad becoming really ridiculous.
That day he was in the rarest of forms, making predictions and talking more trash than I can ever remember. It's the way I will always remember him.
Even with all that bluster, no one could predict everything he would do in the following year.
Like racing a horse, for instance.
Just a year later, as mini-camp began, Chad announced he would race a horse as part of a charity promotion.
"It's going to be fun," Johnson told the Associated Press in 2007. "Some of the things I'm going to be doing this year are crazy, and racing a horse is one of them."
A 4-year-old colt named Restore the Roar drew the long straw and raced Johnson at Cincinnati's River Downs. Like something out of a Monty Python film, the horse had to cover an eighth of a mile, while Johnson had to race half that distance.
"I'm ready," Johnson said. "He has two extra legs, so I will get a two-extra-leg lead. It's all for fun. The important thing is raising money to help those in need."
The money would go to Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis' foundation and Feed The Children, which helps the needy in Africa.
Quarterback Carson Palmer predicted before the race that Johnson would lose.
"I don't think he really understands how fast horses are," Palmer told the Associated Press. "I've been to the Kentucky Derby and been to different tracks and seen horses run. I don't think he knows what he's getting himself into. Just because he's my teammate, I've got to back him up. But I'll be secretly putting money on that horse."
Wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh argued for Johnson.
"It's not a Kentucky Derby horse, so he's probably going to win, I think," Houshmandzadeh said. "If he turns around and sees the horse getting close, he'll get discouraged and probably slow down."
Turns out, the horse never had a chance.
Johnson had a 100-meter head start and crossed the finish line first in front of a crowd of about 8,000.
"Floyd Mayweather, you're next," Johnson told Dustin Dow of the Cincinnati Enquirer. "I want to fight you. I'd like to take Kobe and LeBron one-on-one. Jeff Gordon, we can take a couple laps."
"(Johnson's) quick," jockey Patricia Cooksey said. "He's a fast man. That was phenomenal. When I looked over at him, all I could see were his legs; they looked like a windmill. He was a blur. I was beat bad."
This was not the first time a Bengal challenged a horse. Cris Collinsworth lost to a horse at Turfway Park (then known as Latonia Race Course) in 1983.
"My family and I had all been in thoroughbred racing for a long time, and this was one of the last good years the Bengals had," Theodore Eyerman, whose father, Joseph, was actually the owner of the horse in question, told The (Maysville, Kentucky) Ledger-Independent newspaper in 2007. "Latonia was fighting to get people in over there, and they wanted to come up with a publicity stunt. Andy Furman was the man who originated everything."
And they wanted to find a really bad horse.
"They came up with this plan, but they didn't want to race just any horse. They had every intention of beating the horse," Eyerman said. "They wanted the worst horse they could find, and that was my father's horse, Mr. Hurry. He had run 100 times and hadn't won a race."
But, of course, he beat Collinsworth.
"Lo and behold, when they sprung the gate, it looked like someone shot that horse out of a cannon. It was the fastest he'd ever run," Eyerman said.
It was particularly interesting then, to hear Bengals coach Lewis say this spring that he didn't want his new first-round draft pick, John Ross, to race Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton. Ross isn't a "circus act," Lewis said. But I guess he was okay with the circus act that was Chad Johnson.
Or maybe he wasn't. Maybe he doesn't want to relive those kinds of moments.
All in all, Chad Johnson knew a different time as a Bengal. After years of the franchise losing, he played during a time when even though the team didn't make a Super Bowl, it won its fair share of games.
And -- unlike other Bengals players -- he can always say, definitively, that he was undefeated against horses.