Photo: Bob Coglianese
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
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
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.