It feels different. I've been in this spot eight times since I've started watching horse racing, but somehow, someway, this feels different. Maybe it's the first two I didn't understand the history that was on the line. Maybe it's because the last two times a Triple Crown was on the line I didn't want it to happen. Whatever it is, the hype, the excitement, the nerves - it's different this time around.
The owners get it, the trainer gets it, the jockey gets it. They know the importance of the Triple Crown. It's not about the money. They've turned down millions thrown at them to buy California Chrome for the experience. They get it, they deserve it - not something that can be said for all of the past eight attempts I've witnessed.
The horse is right. People say his pedigree is obscure but I see the opposite. He's simply one generation removed from what people would consider a 'blue blood pedigree'. His sire, Lucky Pulpit is by a Claiborne stallion. His dam is by one of the best active broodmare sires in country and one of the best Maryland has ever stood. He's California bred, not Wisconsin bred people - lets stop acting like a horse from California is some strange concept.
|Feeding California Chrome's grandsire, Pulpit, peppermints at Claiborne farm.|
The track announcer. Tom Durkin is possibly one of the most recognized voices of the sport and he is retiring. This will be the last Belmont he'll get a chance to call. While he's been the voice of many amazing races from the 1995 Breeders Cup Classic to the 2007 Belmont Stakes - he's a track announcer that'd be sure to give us chills, goosebumps and tears with his Triple Crown winning call.
The gods aren't angry. It's something unspoken in the sport, the racing gods. They're cruel and they're kind. They aren't easily Google'd I tried. You know when they're angry, you know when a great horse passes that they're now in the care of the racing gods, etc. California Chrome's connections haven't ticked off the gods yet. They're old school, outspoken against wrong doings in the sport, etc. The last thing you want to be against you on race day are the racing gods. Maybe the gods spoke this morning when they gave him the post position #2. Secretariat was the #2 horse as well when he took the Triple Crown after a 25 year drought.
The superstitions he'd be breaking:
- The color trend. Sir Barton in 1919 was a chestnut colt. Ever since his Triple Crown sweep, the winners colors have alternated between chestnut and bay/brown. Affirmed in 1978 = chestnut. So in theory the next one should be bay. This... I have justified in my mind after talking to my Mom. She simply said 'maybe this means there was a bay that was suppose to win that didn't get the chance'. To me immediately, it means Barbaro. Barbaro was the closest I felt to this year's hype and he obviously never got the chance.
- The Belmont trend. All 11 winners have previously raced at Belmont Park before they won the Belmont Stakes. Big Sandy is a Big Beast and is possibly the most difficult track in the US.
- No Triple Crown winner has ever faced more than six opponents in the Belmont Stakes. California Chrome might be taking on 10.
- From the time Sir Barton won in 1919, there was never a period of time a Triple Crown winner wasn't alive until the passing of Seattle Slew in 2002. Some people, me included especially if 'Chrome looses, believe this indicates there will never be another Triple Crown winner. Only the racing gods really know.