Today I dust off This (Non) Sporting Life, the blog post about sports from a guy who doesn't know much about sports, to ponder upon the subject of horse racing.
There are three times I pay attention to horse racing: the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes. And, to be honest, if different horses win the first two, then Belmont falls completely off my radar. In other words, I'm interested when there's a Triple Crown at stake. That may seem like a very narrow perspective on horse racing but that pretty much is the limit of attention I give to the sport. And I dare say there are a lot of people who share that perspective.
A fan of horse racing or no, there is something that taps the imagination when it comes to trying to achieve something that is nearly impossible. The American Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing appeared to be one of them.
It had been done with eleven Triple Crown winners between 1919 and 1978.
- Sir Barton (1919)
- Gallant Fox (1930)
- Omaha (1935)
- War Admiral (1937)
- Whirlaway (1941)
- Count Fleet (1943)
- Assault (1946)
- Citation (1948)
- Secretariat (1973)
- Seattle Slew (1977)
- Affirmed (1978)
You'll notice that most of those winners were from the 1930's and 1940's. After a 25 year drought, the 1970's saw three more winners of the Triple Crown.
Then came the longest stretch of time without a Triple Crown winner, 33 years. For over 3 decades, sports reporters and analysts have read from the same script: "No horse as won the Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978."
Oh, there were some possibilities. In the 33 years since 1978, thirteen horses won both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes but not the Belmont. And it was starting to look like no horse was ever going to pull of the perfect trifecta of races again.
That changed on Saturday with American Pharoah.
(By the way, my spell check hates that name. Yes, Pharoah is correctly spelled Pharaoh, I know that! But apparently whoever named this horse did not.)
I was watching the race with my father in law, a really nice man who can use the company...and he has a better TV.
Anyway, I'm not really into horse racing but here was a chance to see history being made. Granted, there had been chances before to see history in the making only to have history not show up. In the programming before the race (I only tuned in around 6:00 and it still seemed to go on forever), I began to wonder if once again history would be denied.
Here's the thing: almost every analyst and reporter were pegging American Pharoah to win this thing. Hell, they ran a computer simulated horse race which showed American Pharoah winning the Belmont.
Me, I'm...I don't know, superstitious? Paranoid? Whatever you call it, but hearing all this pro-American Pharoah chatter just made me cringe. They're gonna jinx this thing!
Finally...FINALLY!...we get to the actual horse race. American Pharoah immediately takes the lead.
And stays there!
It could be said there was some suspense missing from the race what with one horse at the front of the pack for the entirety of the race. But no one wanted suspense. Well, I didn't. I wanted to see a damn horse win a 3rd consecutive race and that's exactly what I got to see.
It was an amazing moment as the crowds at the Belmont took their feet, shouting and applauding as American
Pharoah led the pack of horses around the track. The crowd exploded as this magnificent horse crossed the finish line to win the Belmont and take the American Triple Crown, the first horse to do it in 33 years!
The crowd was not quite loud enough to drown out rider Victor Espinoza who expressed himself over this astounding feat as follows and I quote: "Holy shit!"
Yeah, NBC will be hearing about that from the FCC or at least from the EOMOCWHAHHSSOTPASAHT.*
*The Easily Offended Mothers Of Children Who Have Already Heard "Holy Shit" Said On The Playground At School A Hundred Times.
My sentiments exactly, Victor. "Holy Shit!" indeed!
Here's the thing why I think that a horse winning the American Triple Crown is such a big deal to me. It had become one of those things that looked like was never, ever going to come again. And there are more than enough things in life that don't occur everyday; history fails to show up, significant events don't happen.
What we got Saturday with the win of American Pharoah was a reminder that some things we may have come to believe to be impossible are truly not. They're just very rare but made all the more precious for that when they do happen.
Something to ponder as we begin this new week.
Everyone be good to one another.