Triple Crown Horse Racing
Triple Crown Horse Racing, There was a small measure of trumped-up joy during the 144th running of the Belmont Stakes, the kind of artificial happiness one finds among visitors trying to cheer themselves up at the bedside of an old friend who’s dying a slow death.
Saturday’s race did not produce a Triple Crown winner for the 34th consecutive year after I’ll Have Another’s stunning retirement Friday morning, but, as a one-off, it was a spectacular come-from-behind photo-finish victory for Union Rags, a horse that ran seventh in the Kentucky Derby and sat out the Preakness.
For 2½ minutes, it was wonderful theater. But that’s it
The race couldn’t save a long day of racing in which disappointment hung heavy over this venerable Long Island track, where horse racing sadly showed itself once again to be just another niche sport trying to muscle its way into a very crowded American sports calendar.
Even if I’ll Have Another had been in the race, what really would a Triple Crown really have done for this sport?
“One week of interest, and then it would have been forgotten until the horse ran again,” Mike Repole, the owner of last year’s second-place finisher in the Belmont, Stay Thirsty, said beside the track after an earlier race Saturday. “And let me tell you, on ESPNSportsCenter, if we had a Triple Crown winner and the Heat win by two in overtime tonight, the first story on ESPN would be the Heat-Celtics. Horse racing would be the second story. Not even close.”
It would have been asking a lot for one Triple Crown winner, as historic as he would have been, to overcome all of the bad news the sport has had to deal with of late.
The California Horse Racing Board has suspended I’ll Have Another trainer Doug O’Neill for 45 days beginning July 1 — a decision he’s planning to appeal — for total carbon dioxide readings in one of his horses that exceed the allowable limit.
And here in New York, the state seized control of the New York Racing Association last month and placed it under the control of a board appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, which then ordered all Belmont Stakes horses into a single detention barn so they could be under 24-hour surveillance and security to prevent cheating. It was an unprecedented move, one that would lead even the most naive among us to wonder if we can truly trust the horse races that play out before our eyes. (USA TODAY)