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HRN Original Blog:
The Weekly Tout

The Year of the Horse

Alydar - Affirmed 615 X 400
Photo: Bob Coglianese

 

It was Christmas Eve when I got the calendar. We were in Fair Haven Vermont, visiting our son who lives in that area at the present time. Realizing the hour was late, all we could find was a Chinese place that was open for holiday business. We all got the usual, and when I paid for our Christmas Eve feast the clerk at the register gave me a box. It turned out to be a garish and tacky painted bamboo calendar with horse’s adorning it and the name of the restaurant at the bottom. It’s 2014 and my Chinese New Year calendar proclaimed it to be the year of the horse. 

 

I don’t know why that gesture in that strange Chinese walk-in joint got to me so much. They had it so cold inside the place that no one, not even hearty Vermonters would ‘eat in’ as they say. But their gesture took hold of me and it warmed a frigid soul.

 

Not doing the driving home, I found myself interested and checked my gizmo phone.  I found out that there were two Triple Crowns won during previous years of the horse. 1930 and 1978 were the years, with Gallant Fox and Affirmed winning the crown. Of the 12 symbols that represent the Chinese Zodiac, the year of the horse is the only one with multiple winners of that coveted prize. (I also found out that I was born in the year of the boar, and that’s not bore. Don’t be a wise guy.)

 

The year of the horse has made an impact in the course of horse racing history, or one could make an argument to back up such a statement. 1930 was also the year that Gallant Fox was defeated by the 100-1 shot, Jim Dandy in the Travers at Saratoga. A Triple Crown winner defeated in the mud by three lengths by a long shot, that doesn’t happen every year.

 

1942 gave us Shut Out, winning what New Yorkers might call their Triple Crown. Shut Out won the ’42 Derby, Belmont, and Travers, losing the Preakness by two lengths. Shut Out also won the Bluegrass and the Yankee Stakes that year. In 1954, Determine was the first gray horse to win the Kentucky Derby. ‘66 gave us one of the best Maryland bred horses, Kauai King, who won the Derby and the Preakness that year. And then there was 1978.

 

1978 was one of the best years in the history of American horse racing. The battles between Alydar and Affirmed are legendary. It was the greatest rivalry in horse racing and possibly in sports. You can’t say one horse’s name without mentioning the other, but is that because of the year of the horse? I can’t say.

 

1990 was next, and the horse Unbridled was the talk of that year by winning the Kentucky Derby and the Breeders' Cup Classic. In 2002, War Emblem won the Derby and Preakness, giving Bob Baffert his third Kentucky Derby win.

 

The year of the horse has brought us some average years, as far as the sport is concerned, and it has brought us magical years where legends were born. It sure will be interesting to see what 2014 will bring. Could a Triple Crown be in the calendar? I don’t know, but on the long Christmas Eve drive home, the first one where the family had to travel to be together, I thought of the enchantment that a year of the horse could bring, and hope that a calendar that warmed me in December can thrill me in May.

 

 

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Older Comments about The Year of the Horse...

Hmm...I would attribute it to the subjectivity of individual opinions. ;)
Are... and to what do you attribute this?
The days of the great names is long gone, except now and again.
Alfred Vanderbilt III had some of the best humorous names for his racers. His colt by Tom Fool, who was sadly gelded, out of Last Leg, by Native Dancer was Dirty Old Man. Native Dancer was by Polynesian out of Geisha, by Discovery. Vanderbilt had a sense of humor, and there were some creative names submitted by Sagamore Farm that did not pass muster with the Jockey Club. An unsubstantiated story was told of AGV III showing up in the paddock with a sandwich, a flashlight and a compass before jockey Ted Atkinson was about to ride a long shot in a mile and three quarter race. His comment to Atkinson was “It may be dark before you get back.” Funny if it is true.
The best thing was Shut Out's name. Alfred Vanderbilt, the great mind, bred a mare named Pansy to him. The resulting colt was a really nice colt, by the name of none other than Social Outcast.
Nice sentiments and research. I like reading your posts, seem like a good guy to eat chinese food and talk horse with.
Having lived in Essex Junction, Vermont for 12 years, Johnnie, you were lucky to find any restaurant open in tiny Fair Haven on Christmas Eve. I'm glad you did, as now I know who won big in the year of the horse, and who just missed. Shut Out (sired by Equipoise) is not one I hear about as a horse who almost took the Triple Crown. A bit of an appropriate name, for sure. He and Devil Diver were both from Greentree Stable. Eddie Arcaro was given the choice between Devil Diver or Shut Out for the Derby. As we know from your post, he chose wrong, finishing sixth. Perhaps this is the year that a three year old shows us magic on the track not seen in 36 years?
I was born in a year of the horse! Interesting connections between those Chinese years and horse racing! Have a great 2014, Johnnie.
1978 was indeed one of the best years in the history of American horse racing, Affirmed and Alydar were both great, but The Greatest ever also raced that year in his first season of racing as a two year old, The Great Specatcular Bid graced us with his spectacular career.

Categories

Meet Johnnie Carrier

 

With 10 years of writing a humor column for his home town paper under his belt, Johnnie Carrier has decided to try something different. He is a graduate of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey’s Clown College Class of 1977 and traveled the West with Circus Vargas in 1979.

 In the 80’s, Carrier lived in New York City and Boston, but he settled down however in the smallest city in Massachusetts late in the decade and married Dawn Luskin in ’88. David was born in 1991 and has been blessed with his father’s sense of humor, but luckily his mother’s good looks.

 Racing has been more than a casual interest having lived so close to Saratoga. He started going to the track at a very young age with his parents and has tried to instill that passion into his son by taking him at the same age. In 2003, Carrier started to write as a freelance writer with the North Adams Transcript and can be followed there at the paper’s website.