Teresa Genaro is a high school English teacher and freelance turf writer whose work has appeared in a variety of turf publications. A former and erstwhile resident of Saratoga Springs, she lives in Brooklyn and writes about New York racing at Brooklyn Backstretch.
Oh, the gloom and doom! The long faces, the despair...because Super Saver lost, and we won’t be rooting for a Triple Crown this year.
OK, so maybe there are reasons to be downcast, and people are writing about them all over the place: New York racing could really use the boost that a Triple Crown bid would provide; with no Kentucky Derby or Preakness winner, the race could feel a little lackluster; no one outside of die-hard racing will recognize any of the horses that are running.
But come on, people! It’s not as if we haven’t been here before. Only 32 horses have come to Belmont with a chance to win the Triple Crown. 32. That leaves over a hundred runnings of the Belmont without a Triple Crown on the line (and yes, that includes the races when the concept of the Triple Crown wasn’t even a glimmer in the eye of race fans).
I’ve been going to the Belmont only since 2004: I’ve seen two Triple Crown bids denied—Smarty Jones and Big Brown--and one race with neither the Kentucky Derby nor Preakness winner present (2006, when Jazil won).
And you know what? They were all fun. Really, really fun.
Afleet Alex came to the Belmont after that literally death-defying recovery in the Preakness to kick in around the turn and win the Belmont going away.
2006 was a “Wonder what might have been” year, with Barbaro injured and Bernardini taking a rest; still, Jazil was a pretty fun horse to watch, making a run from 12th of 12; it was a gorgeous day, and I cashed both a win and an exacta ticket on him. No wistfulness as I made my way home that year.
2007: Rags to Riches. Most exciting sports moment I’ve ever seen live. Check out last year’s post for more details.
2009: Borel guaranteed victory, but the Other Bird won it on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon.
So what are the ingredients for a memorable Belmont Stakes? OK, yeah, first and foremost, a Triple Crown on the line. No argument. But that’s not an option.
We want good weather, so that we can enjoy the lush expanse of beautiful Belmont Park.
We want good friends, to hang with and handicap with and eat with and drink with.
We want good betting, and the chance to pick up some juicy prices.
We want good stories: Kent Desormeaux’s redemption on Summer Bird after the Big Brown disaster. A filly in the Belmont. A fan favorite.
And what stories might we get this year? We’ve got Zito and Romans; one of them is enough to entertain us for three weeks; three is an embarrassment of riches.
We’ve got a horse named Dude. And we might have two, if Bob Baffert brings Game On Dude. You could bet the Dude-zacta.
We might have Stately Victor, upset winner of the Blue Grass who’s named for the deceased boyhood friend of his owner.
We’re anticipating the entry of Uptowncharlybrown, who vies with Victor for sentimental favorite following the recent death of his trainer, Alan Seewald.
If that’s not enough, how about five other graded stakes races on the card, for a grand total of four Grade I’s and two Grade II’s?
And Belmont Day is still nearly three weeks away! Plenty of time for stories to be generated, friends to be gathered, plans to be made.
So come on, people. If you think that we’ve got the makings of a moribund Belmont, you’re just not using your imagination. Buy your tickets, make your plans, and get your butts to Belmont. Not much chance these days to see horses run for a mile and a half on dirt, and you get to see them at one of the most beautiful racetracks in the country.
See you there.