We watched the Belmont Stakes on Saturday.
For the uninitiated, The Belmont Stakes are run in Elmont, New York, on the first Saturday in June and is the third race in the prestigious Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing, or more informally, just the Triple Crown. The Kentucky Derby (first Saturday in May at Churchill Down, Kentucky) and the Preakness Stakes (third Saturday in May in Baltimore, Maryland) are the first two races.
Now before you think I am among the initiated, I’m not. I’ve watch the Derby twice in my life on television, and I only recently saw my first actual horse race live. I placed one bet…and lost. And enjoyed the rest of the day in the sun.
But for some quirky reason, we ended up seeing the Derby and the Preakness on television this year, so by the time the Belmont came along, I kind felt obligated to watch. Plus the hype around the favorite, California Chrome, winning the first two and having a real shot at the Triple Crown, kind of drew me in.
The Triple Crown is not only prestigious, but challenging to actually win. There has not been a Triple Crown winner since Affirmed won in back in 1978. But California Chrome looked to have a shot. And his back story had a Cinderella undertone to it. His training was unconventional, and the horse himself also had some idiosyncrasies that made the racing community question his ability to seriously compete. His natural curiosity about things around him made it challenging at times to get him in the starting gate and keep him focused for a good start out of the gate. His owners, DAP Racing, was a tip of the hat to folks who questions the wisdom of purchasing California Chrome’s mother. Steve Coburn, co-owner, was a “regular, down home” kind of guy, and seemed to be a fun interview. A cowboy at heart, Coburn looked like the average rancher from Texas, cowboy hat and bushy white mustache, a little out of place among all the celebrities and outrageous hats at the Kentucky Derby.
Despite having no personal interest in the race, and despite my husband wanting anyone but California Chrome to take first (he had placed a bet which could have paid off big), I was kind of pulling for California Chrome. I usually like the underdog. But it was not to be. In the end, he came in fourth, tied with another horse.
While this was disappointing, I was more disappointed in Mr. Coburn’s reaction. I get that he is disappointed – even more so than me obviously – but to have the tantrum he had was a bit out of line. The reason that the Triple Crown is so prestigious is because it’s NOT easy to win. The field changes from race to race, and while there are some that run all three, there are “fresh” horses that enter each time.
If you have seen any of the post-race coverage, or ESPN at all in the past day or so, you will hear the talk. But I have to admit, the whole thing tarnished the Cinderella story for me. But I still find myself hoping that California Chrome comes back next year for post time.