Page 30 - NMHBASummer2019
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                                 The Revelation
Donny Cook, had a revelation on that late summer afternoon.
As revelations go, the one that came calling on eight-year-old Donny Cook on that late summer afternoon was a real doozy.
Now, some 53 years later, how that day unfolded and the events that led up to that defin- ing moment remain vivid in Donny’s mind.
Back then, Donny’s grandmother, Lillian Baines Scott, lived a couple of blocks from the New Mexico State Fairgrounds and young Donny was there visiting. At some point, Donny told his grandmother he was going to walk over to the fairgrounds for a closer look at the goings on at the annual State Fair.
“I told her I was going and she said, ‘just be careful,’” recalls Donny.
Alone and with little or no money in his pockets, Donny succeeded in getting into the fair. He thinks he may have snuck in.
Donny ended up at the racetrack and for the first time in his life watched a horse race. He found a spot atop a fairly tall wall that
gave him a pretty good view of the track. From there, he watched several quarter horse races that day with jockeys like Bobby Harmon and Willie Lovell—both very prominent riders at the time.
“I was sitting on that wall watching the horses and a voice told me I was going to be in charge of the whole place someday,” says Donny.
Revelations sometimes become reality.
In a journey that seemingly began with a single premonition that floated into the mind of an eight-year-old, Cook has spent the last 30 years in the horse racing business. And today, he is in charge of the “whole place” as the presi- dent of racing for The Downs at Albuquerque.
“Why God picked me to run this place, I don’t know,” says Donny. “I didn’t have any affiliation with horses other than my brother used to break them and I used to hold them and help him a little bit when I was 9 and 10 years old.”
The daydreams of a child notwithstanding, Donny the adult didn’t set out to be where he is today. Not initially anyway.
Donny was born on July 3, 1957. His dad, P.M. Cook worked for the railroad in Missouri, but when P.M. was diagnosed with tuberculosis, he and Donny’s mother, Lilian, moved the family to Albuquerque’s drier climate.
Donny attended Inez Elementary, Monroe Junior High and graduated from Sandia High School. He was and remains a multi-talented athlete who excelled at every sport he took on.
His dad got Donny started water skiing at the age of four. Father and son spent nearly every weekend from May to September at Elephant Butte Lake and at El Vado and Heron lakes in the northern part of the state.
By the time Donny reached high school, he was competing in tournaments from California to Oklahoma. His goal was to be a professional water skier.
“I thought I was pretty good until I went up against guys from other states,” says Donny.”
Donny water skied competitively for about three years, but eventually figured out he didn’t have a future in that sport.
“I realized if you don’t live on a lake, you have no shot at becoming a professional water skier,” he says.
Donny also was a pretty good athlete on land.
In 1980, Donny and teammate Dana Allen won the racquetball doubles open divi- sion state championship.
In junior high, Donny played quarterback in football and pitched and played shortstop in baseball.
But inevitably, trying to be an athlete in those sports became a problem. Baseball season in the spring conflicted with his water skiing. So did summer football practices.
Don Cook
by Pete Herrera

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