Tag Archives: triple crown

the people’s race

preakness

“It’s the people’s race! It’s the people’s party! It’s the people’s event, which means a lot to the city and the state. I think the Preakness will be here in 2010 and for many years to follow.” -Maryland Jockey Club president Tom Chuckas Jr., in the Washington Post

There’s always something a little disappointing about the second installment of a trilogy. The first part is usually fresh and full of possibilities, all exposition and introductions and hobbits in the Shire. The final part, of course, is climax and conclusion, where the guy gets the girl and most of your favorite characters make it out of the battle unscathed. The middle is full of necessary evils: slow plot and character development, red herrings, and unsatisfying cliffhangers. It’s easy to argue against this on a case by case basis–I’m no “Star Wars” fan, but I enjoyed “The Empire Strikes Back” a hell of a lot more than the others—but as a general format, it often holds true, and the Preakness Stakes, the second leg of thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown, is no exception. It lacks the glamor and Southern charm of the Kentucky Derby, and it has none of the Belmont Stakes’ grim finality, something you’d expect from a longer-than-usual race held just outside of Queens. Despite its storied history and important role in the racing calendar, the Preakness seems to be more famous for drunken (and dangerous) revelry than for anything that has to do with horses.
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belmont 2008

“Big Brown had a bad day, but things have could have turned out worse, as we all know. Horses humble men on a regular basis. Here is to the smooth and steady Da’ Tara, the sweet-riding Alan Garcia, and a superb conditioning job by Nick Zito. The beauty of horse racing is overcoming great odds to win, rising out of the dust to prevail in the big race. The Da’ Tara team did just that.” -Sid Gustafson, “Horse Racing Prevails,” The New York Times

In the paddock, the mutuel clerks watched the Belmont Stakes play out on peoples’ faces. They’ve taken most of the televisions out of the bays – a futile attempt to curb employee gambling – so we leaned out our windows and watched the crowds gathered in small groups. There were cheers with the starting bell, but they faded quickly. “Who won?” the clerk next to me shouted, cupping her hands around her mouth and sounding like Rosie Perez. The silence was unnerving, the kind of hush that accompanies a horse’s fall. The race ended without ceremony and people dispersed, muttering and tossing ripped tickets on the asphalt. “It was the six,” someone called out from down the row. We pulled up the odds; the six was a long shot, largely ignored by my customers. “What about Big Brown?” someone else asked. “Last,” a man near the windows announced, grimacing as he flipped through his losing tickets. “Dead last.”

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