My first horse racing experience was the Preakness in 1996. The ordeal started out as an idea from my friend to go to this racetrack where there was to be a huge infield party. It sounded like a great idea to me: thousands of people drinking beer and having fun, anticipating a big horse race breaking out once they were all good and tanked. Thinking back, it was a great idea and always has been.
My buddy informed me that he was to put all his money on Editor's Note and that I should accordingly, and quite frankly I wasn't really sure what the heck he was talking about.
So we put our money down on the "big race," the Preakness, since we didn't know any other races were going on that day, which was quite naïve of us. Then we watched as Louis Quatorze won the Big Race. It was interesting at least, but got me wondering why and how.
The next year we watched on TV as Silver Charm won the Derby and then went and bet his short odds accordingly in the Preakness infield, this time with more success, albeit low payouts. Then he lost the Belmont as most Kentucky Derby champions do. The year after that was even more exciting as I went to Las Vegas and bet on Indian Charlie to win the Kentucky Derby only to find that Real Quiet was a bit better at that distance.
That year, we went to the Preakness again to watch Real Quiet establish his presence with authority, which he certainly did. The $17,000 yearling won with conviction and looked like he was on his way to being the next Triple Crown Champion for the first time in 20 years.
In that same year, my gambling friend and I went to the Belmont Stakes for the first time ever to see this historical event of a horse winning the Triple Crown. I would love to change history and say he won it, but "Fish" as his trainer Bob Baffert fondly called him, came up a nose short. Never did I even remotely think this was a possibility.
In fact, nearly all my wagers started with Real Quiet, had Victory Gallop in 2nd, and various others for 3rd. My wildest dreams did not include Victory Gallop actually running him down in the end, which he did. Although having seen the entire race live, we went inside to watch replays in horror for 10 minutes as they confirmed the photo finish that Victory Gallop had actually won the race.
Having worn a "Fish" button all day that was handed out near the front gates, my buzz was destroyed. I was so sure this underpriced horse would win the Triple Crown. On the way back from Elmont I lamented and wondered why this happened. He was certainly a high quality horse, by virtue of his winning several more Grade 1 races in his career. After a decade of consideration I chalked it up to a subpar ride. Kent Desormeaux simply moved him too early.
In the past 15 years I have seen several horses win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, only to come up short in the Belmont stakes, the "Test of Champions." Half of them I expected to actually go through with it. Many other people who have been watching thoroughbreds since the 1970s when I was just a wee lad, have been stumped by not having a Triple Crown Champion since Affirmed in 1978.
In that decade, they had no less than three Triple Crown winners: Secretariat in 1973, and then two consecutive with Seattle Slew and Affirmed. The Affirmed over Alydar Triple Crown is especially interesting, since it has drawn comparisons to this year's battles between Bodemeister and I'll Have Another. The main difference being that the closer role was shifted. 1978 belonged to the frontrunner, Affirmed.
I'll Have Another may have a silly name, but his closing performance from way back in the Preakness is one of the greatest efforts of all time. After that race, it does seem like there is no horse he can't run down in the stretch. For one, Bodemeister won't be participating, and there's not really any other legitimate speed in the race, which could actually be a cause for concern.
However, this horse has the perfect running style and great late kick to win a race of this distance and the Triple Crown. If Mario gives him the right cue, and he's in good form, I'll Have Another should win it. But we know that all others since 1978 have failed this "simple" hat trick.
The horse racing world has been collectively waiting for over 30 years for another Triple Crown champion, only to be disappointed every time. What it means to me personally is indescribable, but could possibly erase at least some of the heartbreak of the past 7 contenders who came up a head short, particularly the Fish debacle that I have yet to get over.
I believe the collective joy of just one more Triple Crown champion could set off an exuberance that could erase the shortcomings of the past. For me it means everything. I know that I'll Have Another can have another consecutive victory, but it is dependent on many factors. I just hope he's in good form and gets the best ride possible, and maybe, just maybe, I can finally get over the Fish defeat.
-- Dalton (HorseRaceBetWin)
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