I know my writing is known for generating debates, getting people talking, sometimes rather heatedly. I know I can come of sarcastic, pushy, and sometimes arrogant. However, underneath all of that the fan in me emerges every so often to get completely swept away in the pure love, passion and excitement of the game. One such moment was in 2007, it was the Jockey Club Gold Cup, where two of my favorites were set to duke it out over 10 furlongs, at beautiful Belmont Park.
It was Lawyer Ron and Curlin, one a just a lightly raced three year old who was trying to redeem himself after a lackluster third in the Haskell, the other trying to continue a streak of brilliance and dominance that begun with a record setting, tour de four in the Whitney Handicap. As they turned the home the stage was set perfectly as Lawyer Ron surged to the front, with Curlin right off his heels. I was shouting my lounges out, even though I couldn’t decide whose name to cheer. In the end it was Curlin, who swept by to take the race by a head. The heart, the grit, and the determination of both horses left me breathless. It is one moment in racing I will never forget.
I have had moments since then, that have evoked such emotions, but none where it came down to two of my favorites duking it out, leaving it all on the track, leaving me in such a frenzy that I didn’t even know which to cheer for. After four year, it looks like it will finally happen again, at the same track on the same Saturday, Super Saturday at Belmont Park. The race will take place in the Kelso Handicap.
The Kelso will feature Saratoga sprinting sensation, Jackson Bend, who win five races in a row as a juvenile, sweeping the Florida Stallion Series at Calder. Unfortunately, during his 3yr old season he went winless, and slowly began to fade away. Nobody seemed to know what it was, whether he was simply a tired horse, if the distances were too much, or if he had simply not progressed from his two year old form. It would not be until the meet of champions, Saratoga, where Jackson Bend would spring up to display the brilliance he showed as a two year old. In the James Marvin, Jackson Bend announced himself loud and clear with an explosive win, covering the seven furlongs in an eye popping 1.20.91. He followed that up with a win in the Forego, trouncing a solid field that included Grade one winners Sidney’s Candy and Jersey Town.
The other star ready to make a splash in the Kelso is none other than Uncle Mo. Never have I seen a juvenile display the brilliance and utter dominance that this colt did last year, over such a short period of time. Capturing his maiden by a mind boggling 14 lengths, the Champagne in near stakes record time, and then crushing a dynamite field in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile with disdainful ease, had the nation in complete awe. Those three performances had nearly everyone ready to hand him not only the Derby, but the Triple Crown. Those dreams would come crashing down when he ran third in the Wood Memorial, a race he should have won by open lengths.
It was later discovered he had a form of hepatitis, and that sidelined him for over four months. His comeback race was the grade one Kings Bishop. For any normal horse, entering them here off a liver disease and four month layoff would be like feeding them to the wolves, but Uncle Mo is no normal horse. In the stretch he looked as if he may win, he had a three length lead, but did not see the late charging Caleb’s Posse who stole the victory by a nose.
Jackson Bend comes into the Kelso as Lawyer Ron, a dominant force that has no intentions of stopping, but only to continue streaking on. Uncle Mo comes in as Curlin, a proven talent, but still needing to prove that he has not regressed and can still run with the best of them. I love both of them, and while I have loved Jackson Bend the longest, the high that Uncle Mo gives me every time he races is rivaled by none. For once, I will throw logic to the wind, and on October 1, 2011 I will once again become nothing more than just a fan getting swept away by the sport I love.