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Baseball is nearing the All-Star break. Tiger’s impossible full-swing chip-in and Dufner’s balancing act between trophy collecting and impending mouth cancer have been nice stories, but the PGA is between majors and we have to wait another week before discussing the United States Open Championship. The NBA is actually pretty exciting right now if you’re into that sort of thing, except many of us aren’t. And football is a few depressing months away. If you need some dramatic sporting action to get you by, turn your attention to our four-legged friends on the dirt track at the 144th running of the Belmont Stakes this weekend. They’ll certainly whet your sporting excitement appetite for the time being. Plus, unlike people, horses aren’t assholes. They make for a boring post-race interview, but they’re a nice change of pace.
Just over a month ago a 15/1 no-name swallowed up the favorite at Churchill Downs to win the sport’s most prestigious race. This week, I’ll Have Another tries to convert the full transition from no-name to legend, and the Belmont Stakes is the venue.
The Belmont Stakes
There is rich tradition and hallowed history that comes with the final leg of the Triple Crown of thoroughbred racing, as the race track dates back to 1866. The Belmont Stakes is the oldest of the Triple Crown races and takes place in Elmont, NY on a 1 ½ mile dirt track. The track is known as the most challenging of the big three. The distance is long, the dirt is soft and deep, and the turns are long and gradual. Endurance becomes a vital attribute for the horses, as this final “Test of a Champion” is designed to crown the sport’s best all-around racehorse. The winner of the race is donned with a white carnation blanket. Patrons have witnessed 11 Triple Crown winners reach the winner’s circle, the last being Affirmed in 1978. However, none were as iconic as Secretariat’s dominating performance at Belmont in 1973. In the photo below, check out the jockey’s “Fuck you” stare back as he approaches the finish line.
The Belmont history books look to add another chapter this Saturday. We have the pleasure of watching a thoroughbred vie for the highest achievement the sport has to offer, the coveted Triple Crown. I’ll Have Another, a 3 year-old Chesnut colt, edged out prohibitive favorite Bodemeister in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness in heartbreaking fashion. In the final stretch of each race, I’ll Have Another closed quickly on Bode from the two position and won by less than one horse length. He’s in his dome at this point. If this same scenario played out again, Bodemeister might just go ahead and check himself into the nearest glue factory. His confidence is already somewhere between the Spurs in game 6 in Oklahoma City and Jerry Sandusky’s defense team. Some racing enthusiasts believe this is the reason for Bode’s decision not to run this weekend. His absence takes some shine off the race, as he was thought to be IHA’s biggest threat. I’ll Have Another finds himself the favorite at Belmont, an expectation that is new to his team. His odds are sitting at 4-5 the last I checked. With a clean race and nice conditions, he’ll most likely become Triple Crown winner number 12.
Watch Secretariat pull away from the field in 1973 on his way to a Triple Crown.
The headliner is clearly I’ll Have Another, and although the well-endowed power horse Bodemeister will be watching from home, this field is still strong. Union Rags is expected to come out of the gate guns hot. He’s the second favorite. The book on him, though, is he’s a sprinter. His best chance was the Preakness, and he didn’t deliver. Expect him to begin tiring around the 1 ¼ mile mark. There is a wildcard with this horse, though – the weather. We’re looking at a 20% chance of rain this Saturday in Elmont, NY. And from what my sources are telling me, Union Rags is hoping that 20% hits, and hits like a motherfucker. This horse loves the slop. Eats it up. His father was a mudder. His mother was a mudder. Also keep an eye on Dullahan. He’s the Prefontaine of horse racing, and he’s my darkhorse. Distance is his game. I believe he’s best suited for the grueling mile and a half race.
The Life of a Champion
The professional life of a racehorse is brief. His retirement, however, is fruitful. And if the retiree is a former champion, it can be downright gluttonous. After his racing days, a successful colt will get to spend his days grazing pastures and dipping his horse meat into any filly fortunate enough to find herself in his stable. Not a bad life. Reminds me absolutely nothing of my college days, unfortunately.
Will I’ll Have Another join the sport’s elite? If not, who wears the carnations in the winner’s circle? Tune in this Saturday, June 9 to find out. To make it even more exhilarating, place a wager on the race. I’m pulling for another Triple Crown, but I have a feeling Dullahan spoils the fun.
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