Janice and Robert McNair of Stonerside Stable announced April 29 that any earnings by their homebred Cowboy Cal in the May 3 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) will be donated to the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, in memory of John Long.
It was Long who gave the nickname “Cowboy Cal” to the McNairs’ son, Cal, 34 years ago. Long was just 3 years old at the time and fighting cancer. His parents, David and Mellie, had brought their son to Houston when their hometown doctor in Columbia, S.C., told them M.D. Anderson was the best place for the child's treatment.
Friends since college, the Longs stayed with the McNairs during their time in Houston. The McNairs were frequent visitors to Long’s hospital room, and John Long took a liking to Cal, who was 13 at the time. Long started calling him “Cowboy Cal” because Cal McNair always wore cowboy boots and hats, and enjoyed riding horses.
Long lost his battle with cancer two months shy of his fourth birthday. The McNairs have never forgotten him, or the nickname he gave their son.
“Years later, when we started breeding and racing Thoroughbreds, that name came back to us as something we’d like to use for one of our special horses,” Robert McNair said. “Now, having been blessed with a horse of Cowboy Cal’s talent, we thought it would be appropriate to donate his earnings to the fight against cancer, and specifically to a fund set up in John’s memory.”