What an excellent sesquicentennial is shaping up for Saturday. That’s the 150th working of the Belmont Stakes, the place all eyes will probably be on Justify, the contender for the Triple Crown.
Simply don’t fall in love, I say.
It’s true that Justify slopped by the mud to win each of the Triple Crown’s first two legs, the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. And, true, rain is predicted for Saturday.
Beware, although, of what occurred within the astonishing final 4 seconds of the Preakness — when, from nowhere, a horse named Bravazo lunged out of the fog. He was half a size behind Justify and accelerating on him once they hurtled over the end line. He’d have nosed him with one other few yards.
Which is simply what — an additional Three/16 of a mile — the Belmont is about. It’s the longest and hardest check of the Triple Crown.
It’s a heartbreaker.
What a glory for New York, although, the place racing has an extended historical past. Saratoga, considered one of its jewels, opened in 1863, Aqueduct in 1894 and Belmont in 1905.
At present, New York accounts for roughly a fifth of all cash wager at thoroughbred tracks within the nation. For the house of the Triple Crown, a sublime growth is deliberate.
After the Belmont settled at a mile and a half, it got here to be generally known as the Take a look at of Champions. Seventeen horses have gained the primary two legs of the Crown solely to fade at Belmont.
That occurred dramatically in 2003, when a powerful big named Large Brown arrived at Belmont. He had convincing victories on the Derby and the Preakness.
I introduced two of our youngsters out to Belmont and stood within the sweltering mugginess. Large Brown went off the favourite, at odds of Three-10. We had been going to look at historical past.
But as soon as on the monitor, Large Brown failed to reply. The gang was dumbstruck. Earlier than the highest of the stretch, the steed was pulled up, probably for a free shoe.
Large Brown turned out to be the one Triple Crown contender to fail to complete the Belmont outright. And a lesson for the youngsters, to not point out me.
The best Belmont ever run was undoubtedly in 1973, when Secretariat arrived having damaged the race information in each the Derby and the Preakness. The large purple steed ran the primary half of the Belmont neck and neck with a horse known as Sham. They had been approach in entrance of the opposite three horses within the race.
Then one thing unimaginable, virtually eerie occurred. The digicam panning throughout the infield misplaced them momentarily as they disappeared behind an American flag.
I’ve half-joked that at that second, God reached down to the touch Secretariat. He out of the blue began pulling away, shifting like, the announcer exclaimed, a “super machine.”
By the point Secretariat barreled into the highest of the stretch, he was 18 lengths in entrance. He would virtually double that distance by the point he careered over the end line.
Stupefied, the group had fallen virtually silent, gasping in amazement. Many, it was extensively reported, started weeping. Secretariat’s report has by no means been approached.
Neither is it prone to be on Saturday. The information this week trumpets that the put up for the Belmont landed Justify on what one headline author known as the “dreaded rail.”
Meaning he’s going to begin closest to the within fence, which his coach, Bob Baffert, doesn’t like. It’s not dispositive although.
As soon as a whacky horse ran to the skin rail — and nonetheless gained. That horse, Whirlaway (“Mr. Longtail”), went on, in 1941, to win the Triple Crown.
Which brings me again to the hazard of Bravazo. Within the final moments of the Preakness, shrouded in fog, he appeared to return out of nowhere.
In simply two seconds, he rocketed previous Lone Sailor, Tenfold and Good Magic like they’d stopped for groceries. He completed second by lower than half a size.
With the added distance of the Belmont, he’d have overtaken Justify. That’s not a prediction — only a warning, although even that’s with a warning.
I issued the same warning in 2014, when California Chrome was practically overtaken by Commanding Curve late within the Derby and by Trip on Curlin within the Preakness.
On the Belmont, none of them was within the prime three. Which is what, little question, makes horse racing. Right here’s to a different 150 years on the Belmont.