I went to see a hockey game and a horse race broke out!
The talented, but oft-troubled, speedster Sean Avery picked up the puck from behind his own net and had a full head of steam before he hit the blue line. Chased by Calibrachoa and Apriority, you could tell early on that Sean Avery, being ridden by experienced rider, Jersey Joe Bravo, had an idea of going all the way in the Grade 1, $250,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap today at Saratoga Coliseum. The fact that Sean Avery could get the early lead on the other skaters should not have come as a huge surprise. Just two games back he had run like a New Jersey Devil when he blitzed the field with a natural hat trick to win the Longfellow Stakes by more than 11 goals.
You had to wonder though if this five-year-old gelded son of former Stanley Cup Champion, Cherokee Run could take it all the way. Not only has he been besieged by injuries during his career, but just last week the winger was arrested for allegedly shoving a police officer outside his stall. That made little matter on Saturday, as clearly Sean Avery was responding well to work he has done with team trainer, Allen Iwinski. Skating like a horse on fire, he opened a two-length lead over Calibrachoa while speeding through the red line, and hitting the opponents blue line in a snappy :44.56. With Apriority battling on from his right, and Calibrachoa fighting hard on his left, Sean Avery remained resolute as he skated to the finish line.
But like the old Red Army teams of the former Soviet Union, heavily favored Trappe Shot was gearing up for one final slapshot from the point. The Trappe Shot momentarily knocked Sean Avery off balance, but as the horses hit the wire, the red light went off, signifying the narrowest of victories for the longshot winger. Final time on ice rated as good, was a respectable 1:09.71. Calibrachoa, always game near the boards finished in third, 1 3/4 goals behind Trappe Shot.
For Sean Avery, the victory raised his record to 6 wins and 4 losses, and lifted him in to third place in the Eastern (formerly known as the Wales) Conference. In a surprising twist, parimutuel wagering was allowed for the contest, and with the second highest odds in the game, he paid $36.20 for the win.
Now healthy, Sean Avery is a legitimate threat to win the Stanley Sprint Championships, which will be held in Louisville, Kentucky in three months. A threat that is, provided he can keep himself on the ice and out of trouble.