It’s all over the news today, oh boy.
A big horse did a big thing Saturday at Belmont Park in Queens, N.Y.
And I know this will not pass the shrug test this Sunday morning to a lot of you around the U S of A. So gather round, boys and girls, ladies and gentleman, and hear the tale of why the dashing American Pharoah, under the guidance and the backside of the crafty jockey Victor Espinoza, accomplished something special.
It’s about the history of the thing and the excitement of the moment.
Horse racing, thoroughbred horse racing, used to be held high in sporting circles until it, like boxing (and baseball truth be told) took a tumble in popularity from decade to decade to decade. People would watch the big three, the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont, with much interest. And they’d go to tracks around the country, too, not just those most revered places at Churchill Downs in Louisville or Pimlico in Baltimore or the New York park, and put down their two dollars to root on their horse. They’d care.
So I remember being a high school kid watching on TV with my family in 1973 when a huge horse by the name of Secretariat thundered past the field at Belmont by an amazing 31 lengths to win the Triple Crown and the hearts of America. The feat had not been accomplished since Citation in 1948, a 25-year-gap that might as well have been forever to me. I sat amazed and the country went ago.
Oh, after that, Seattle Slew won it in 1977 and Affirmed in 1978. Slew was big and fast and I remember less about Affirmed except that it seemed easier to do this than I thought.
I was still hooked.
I watched the Belmont and cheered others as they failed in this third jewel of the crown, a longer race than the first two, a tougher test for the length and the accumulation of the effects of the previous pair and maybe even the horse’s sense of the pressure mounting on the humans surrounding it.
spectacular Bid failed the very next year after winning the first two legs, heartbreak in 1979. There was the three-year run of almosts from 2002-2004 with War Emblem, Funny Cide and the wonderfully named Smarty Jones. Last year I pulled for California Chrome.
Yesterday American Pharoah look strong among the field of eight on the parade to the gate.
Yesterday Espinoza guided the horse smoothly left from the fifth starting position and ran the rail like a champion.
Yesterday I stood and cheered in a bar in Cape Cod as American Pharoah pulled away in the stretch, two, three, four, five lengths to give silver-haired trainer Bob Baffert his Triple Crown.
Everybody in the joint clapped spontaneously at this magnificent horse crossed the finish line, collectively feeling the moment, witnessing history in the making, at last after 37 years.
Do you pay attention to horse racing? Did you watch the Belmont Stakes yesterday, and if so, where and which horse did you want to win? Do you think too much attention was given to this accomplishment?