Belmont sure to be one to remember

While I’m not 100 percent certain, I’m thoroughly convinced this is the first time in the lengthy history of the Fort Frances Times that a sports writer has decided to talk about horse racing as the main subject of their weekly column.
In fact, I’m pretty confident I’m the only sports writer in Northern Ontario wanting to extol the excitement over what is taking place this Saturday.
For those of you who may not be aware, early Saturday evening at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y., three-year-old thoroughbred “I’ll Have Another” will have a chance to become the first horse in 34 years to win the Triple Crown if he can capture the Belmont Stakes.
Now I know what most of you are thinking.
“Seriously, Lucas. You are excited about a horse race?”
Yeah, I know, it’s a bit out there. But let me try to explain.
More than likely stemming from my massive love of auto racing, as a kid I happened to stumble across the Kentucky Derby while surfing the TV channels one day. And in the time it took for the horses to burst out of the starting gate, I was pretty well hooked.
Now I’m not one of those people who goes out to nearest track and blows my life savings on every single long-shot over the course of a day. Far from it.
However, I basically stop whatever I’m doing whenever one of the Triple Crown events (i.e., the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes) is about to get underway, and seemingly have developed a knack of remembering a high number of horses.
For instance, during a discussion one night with a friend of mine back home in Sault Ste. Marie, I proceeded to keep naming horses that either won, or were close to winning, one of the three events.
At one point, my friend turned to my dad and said, “Aren’t you proud that your son can name 50 horses?”
(Chalk that up to reason number 3,532 as to why I’m single, but I digress).
But when it comes down to it, I think the reason why I enjoy these big events so much is because of the chase for that elusive Triple Crown.
As I mentioned above, it’s been 34 years now since a horse has won all three races in a year (the last to do it was “Affirmed” in 1978) and many pundits have since declared it nearly impossible given the short amount of time in which these horses have to run between the events.
However, that same thing was thought of back in 1973, when no horse had won a Triple Crown in 25 years.
That year saw the legendary “Secretariat,” considered by many the greatest race horse of all time, dominate everything in his path to win all three events, including a mind-blowing 31-length victory in the Belmont Stakes.
Though it may seem hard to believe in our current world, “Secretariat” became nothing short of a national icon south of the border after its accomplishment, with a movie being made a couple of years ago.
Heck, even “Pardon the Interruption” Tony Kornheiser once said he considered “Secretariat” one of the 10 greatest athletes of the 20th century.
Okay, I have to admit even I find that to be a bit insane. But if someone like Kornheiser thinks that, who am I to doubt him?
Sure, horse racing doesn’t command the same attention it once did back in the 1970s, but I suspect there’s going to be a lot of eyeballs on Belmont Park this Saturday.
Since 1978, 11 horses who have headed to the 1.5-mile track with a chance to make history, with some wilting under the pressure and failing to finish (“Big Brown” in 2008) while others have been edged out in narrow finishes (“Real Quiet” in 1998).
Thus far, “I’ll Have Another” has roared from behind in both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness to catch the front-runner, “Bodemeister,” which should of set the stage for a classic duel in the final race.
However, with “Bodemeister” withdrawing just before the event, it now looks more likely that “I’ll Have Another” is one step closer to victory
Now do I think history will be made Saturday in New York? Personally, I’m leaning towards it not happening as I’ve seen too many horses fall short in their quest to complete the Triple Crown.
But if “I’ll Have Another” is able to pull it off, he’ll not only be remembered for years to come, but he’ll also out-run those claims that something like this could never be done again.
And for a sport that I would love to see in the public eye once again, that undoubtedly would be amazing.