Anyone who is a horse racing fan knows that yesterday was the running of the 133rd Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, MD. The Preakness is the second leg of the most illustrious of Stakes races – The Triple Crown.
It is, in fact, such an arduous task to win all 3 legs of the Triple Crown that there has not been a winner since the fantastically much-the-best Affirmed in 1978. That was 3o years ago! With all of the care of veterinary medicine, money, mapped out breeding lines and tricks that trainers pull out of their hats, there has not been ONE horse who has been good enough to withstand the grueling task of The Kentucky Derby, followed 2 weeks later by the Preakness Stakes, followed finally 3 weeks later by the Belmont Stakes in my entire lifetime. In fact, since the inception of the Triple Crown, there have been only 11 winners overall. And Saturday was the 133rd running.
It is with all of this in mind that you must understand that horsemen everywhere are foaming at the bit at the possibility of seeing the next Triple Crown Winner in the Derby and Preakness winner and pre-race favorite – Big Brown. He was much the best in the Derby taking the wire by an easy 4 and 3/4 lengths and winning the Preakness by over 5 lengths has already brought whispers of Triple Crown winners to the lips of all who know what it is. The horse demonstrated his unbelievable turn of foot right around the 3/8ths pole where Kent Desormeaux just gave him his head and he opened up about 5 lengths on the rest of the field. He didn’t even get stuck.
However, I’m almost certain that Rick Dutrow nor any of Big Browns many owners are daring to whisper such things, even in the sanctity of their homes, tucked away in darkened closets, as horseman are some of the most superstitious folk you will ever meet. I could almost bet that Dutrow isn’t going to deviate from his normal pre-race workouts and exercising for Big Brown, even though he’s essentially preparing this horse for the literal race of his lifetime. He’ll eat the same grain, will get the same amount of hay, will follow the same routines and will get the same pamperings that he always has. I can almost guarantee that Big Brown’s groom is gonna rub that horse until his coat shines, and I bet that he’s gonna get to run the barn for a few days, too. Peppermints will be flying off the shelves and laughter will fill the shed rows off of such spectacular victory. To an outsider, it will appear “Business as usual” but everyone knows you don’t attempt to fix things that ain’t broke.
Unfortunately, so much of the superstitiousness is about keeping yourself in check with reality. Too often we have seen tragedy overtake the most resilient at the least suspecting times. There have been many to make it through the first 2 legs of the Triple Crown, only to be denied the Belmont. We’ve seen Charistmatic snap his leg in 2 places at the end of 131st Belmont Stakes. I watched War Emblem eat track as he stumbled out of the gate in NY in 2002, thus putting him out of the running before he even started. We learned that Funny Cide just wasn’t much the best that day in 2003 and we watched in horror as fellow horsemen were accused of denying the Belmont win and subsequently, a Triple Crown Win, to Smarty Jones in 2004, a horse who had won every race he had ever run in, until that day. Not to mention the many horses whose lives have been lost due to broken ankles and broken legs.From Barbaro to Eight Belles, horseracing is a here today, gone tomorrow kind of business, and no one EVER forgets that. You just can’t afford to.
In honor of this potential once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and in honor of racing itself, I am hosting a Belmont Stakes party which will be 3 weeks from yesterday at 4pm. Giving us time for festivities, drinking and chow, then race watching, then more drinking, more chow and lots of good times. Grilling, beer drinking, reveling at my newly fenced in backyard and s’mores making are a few of the things that await you. I’m hoping for a Triple Crown win to add to the joyousness of the day, but I’m not counting my chickens before they hatch, and I can only hope that Big Brown is much the best on that Saturday afternoon in early June. I do know that it’ll be a good time none-the-less. So, for those of you who actually read my blog, consider this your invite. Maybe I’ll send out an email, too.