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LBJ Visits Nassau County

May 9, 1964 - President Johnson, who has been having some difficulty with dogs lately, was carefully protected from horses today. He spent an hour at lunch with Nassau County businessmen and public officials at Roosevelt Raceway, but he didn’t even get a glance at the two special races run off in his honor, the welcome sign on the pari-mutuel tote board, or the bay stallion calmly waiting in the paddock on the possibility that the President would go for a ride.

There was some controversy between track officials and John English, the county Democratic chairman, over whose idea the races were and whether they should have been held at all.

The first race was named for County Executive Eugene Nickerson (left); the second was called the Jack English Trophy. To the winners went $1,500 and LBJ models of Knox hats.

Mr. Johnson never knew.

A curtain had been drawn across the window of the director’s room of the Cloud Casino, overlooking the track, in which Mr. Johnson dined. And the loudspeakers carrying reports of the races were turned off in the room.

When Mr. Johnson stepped out of the room, he was asked if he had seen the races. He shook his head.

“No, I just made a little talk in there,” he said.

Would he like to have seen the races?

“I like pretty horses, but I didn’t know I was supposed to,” he said, starting to turn away. Then he added: “I’ve got a lot of horses on my ranch.”

Despite a tight schedule and a phalanx of Secret Service agents and Nassau County detectives guiding him toward the elevators out of the racetrack, Mr. Johnson agreed to pose with a large cake celebrating the raceway’s 25th anniversary. It was baked especially for his visit.

He grinned as photographers called for more pictures. “You sound just like my beagles,” he said.

It was later reported that Mr. English had received a phone call from the White House early this morning suggesting that it might not be seemly for the President to appear at a racetrack. Apparently, this led to the special arrangement where the curtain was drawn at the window of the director’s room.

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