Horse Racing Nation Intern
So here we are with yet another potential Triple Crown on our doorstep. We've seen this many times before. Spectacular Bid, Sunday Silence, Silver Charm, the list goes on. We all do the same thing when it happens, too. This year's Belmont Stakes is no exception. We'll go out and buy t-shirts, hats and buttons to support them, we'll even put a $2 win ticket on the horse as a souvenir. Leading up to race is almost always the same. You hear everyone in the racing community talk about how this one is "The One". You'll read articles talking about how some previous Triple Crown champions feel that this horse is "The One". The betting public will even make "The One" a heavy favorite at the windows, and then when the horse loses everybody wonders what happened.
That's when the excuses get thrown around. The jockey made their move too soon, the horse can't have his races too close together, there was a thumb tack in the horse's stall. I've lived through plenty of close calls to know how it goes.
Then you start hearing explanations as to why we've had to wait so long. Many people blame it on the breeding patterns, stating that horses are more bred for speed rather than stamina. Others blame it on the rides some horses got, or the way the horses have been trained going into the race. There are also those who blame it on the timing of the three races. They've been talking about moving the Preakness to the first Saturday in June and the Belmont to July 4th weekend for as long as I can remember. Just earlier this month Stuart Janney III, owner of last year's Derby winner Orb, came out and said that the structure of the Triple Crown races need change. Trainer D. Wayne Lukas in previous years has spoken out in favor altering the structure a bit, and even Maryland Jockey Club president Tom Chuckas plans on talking to Churchill Downs and Belmont about considering spacing the races apart.
So many racing fans have their own explanations, but it appears as though it simply has to do with bad luck. It was bad luck that Spectacular Bid had a thumb tack in his stall, it was bad luck that Real Quiet lost the "5 million dollar" photo finish to Victory Gallop, and it was bad luck that I'll Have Another was injured and thus could not compete in the Belmont Stakes. Contrary to what many people will tell you, the Triple Crown is still winnable. The fact that we've seen six close calls in the last 15 years says that it still can be done.
Racing fans have lived through 36 years of this bad luck. Throughout that time, we have seen some special horses come very close to American racing's greatest honor, some a little closer than others. As racing fans, let's just take a minute to appreciate what we have going here. Let's stop asking the questions of "Can he do it?", put aside the arguments about changing the Triple Crown and just appreciate the fact that we have a potential Triple Crown winner in one of the most unlikely ways possible. He isn't royally bred with Eclipse Award winning parents. He wasn't bred on a prestigious horse farm in Versailles, Kentucky and owned by a bunch of rich millionaires. Instead, he is a California-bred colt whose father was nothing more than a non-graded stakes winner and whose mother was nothing more than a cheap claimer. A jockey who was once afraid of horses. Two "dumb asses" who met through a Blinkers On racing partnership and spent only $8,000 on the mare and $2,500 to breed her. And then you have Chrome's trainer Art Sherman, a man who has waited a very long time to live out his dream and is finally able to at the age of 77.
Let's appreciate the fact that the sport is getting some attention from outside of the racing world. All of our friends, girlfriends, parents, etc. who otherwise could care less about the Belmont Stakes are talking about the race and even plan on watching it. You even hear them talking about the race on Fox News, CNN and other news channels talking about how big of a deal it will be if California Chrome wins the Belmont. Let's also appreciate the fact that this really brings racing fans together. We can put aside arguments about synthetic surfaces, or Lasix and come together to cheer on a Triple Crown hopeful, something that every racing fan wants to see.
It's easy to get excited when we have a Triple Crown on the line. After all many young racing fans, such as myself, have not yet lived to see a Triple Crown winner, but I've lived through enough close calls in my life to know not to hold my breath when there's a Triple Crown on the line. In horse racing, just like in any other sport, anything can happen.
So Chrome, I think I speak for every racing fan in America when I say that I'll be cheering you on next Saturday. I'm tired of all the close calls, and Triple Crown "hopefuls". I've watched War Emblem fall to his knees leaving the gate, I've watched Smarty Jones get passed up Birdstone in mid stretch, and I've watched Big Brown get eased as Da' Tara took the 2008 Belmont field from gate to wire. I've heard every reason in the book why a horse hasn't done it yet and I've heard every excuse from every horse who didn't. I've heard people talk about changing the structure of the Triple Crown and spacing the races out more. I'm tired of hearing all of it. Are you "The One"? I guess we'll find out next Saturday. Go get 'em!