June 6, 2015

Horse racing's historic day

Now that Belmont morning has finally arrived, you all should be very well aware that it has now been 37 years since Affirmed swept thoroughbred racing's coveted Triple Crown over rival Alydar. Horse racing and US history has been closely intertwined through racing's glory days, which ended several decades ago for most Americans and casual sports fans.

Coincidentally, a personal such moment was when I attended the 2004 Belmont Stakes hoping to root home Arkansas' adopted KY bred son, Smarty Jones, to end the TC drought dating back to 1978. But that day started on a bad note when the track announcer came over the loudspeakers to inform the 120,000 plus at "Big Sandy" that former President Ronald Reagan had died. The hush that covered that crowd was fitting of the grey skies and fog that blanketed Long Island on that depressing day. This morning I woke up at about 5:00am just 8 miles from Belmont Park to light rain and the first thing I heard on tv was that Vice President Joe Biden's son will be buried today. I ask myself, "Is this some kind of bad dream?" But that's where I fully expect the similarities to end.

Some rays of sun (and hope!) are now beaming through those clouds and the track should be sunny and fast by early afternoon. There are a host of quality stakes races (including several Oaklawn runners like champion Untapable and undefeated filly Promise Me Silver) and perhaps a few chances to cash some nice tickets by the time American  Pharoah hits the track in race 11 for the capped crowd of 90,000 fans to simply enjoy the moment.

But whether or not this 2015 version of Smarty Jones can make history and finish the sweep will NOT be the most significant historical event of the day - not even for a loyal fan like me. For 71 years ago today American and allied forces hit Omaha Beach as part of the D Day invasion.  And while I don't mind if people my age don't recall or care about horses like Secretariat, Seattle Slew or Affirmed, it would be a shame if all Americans were not absolutely aware and thankful for those soldiers and their families who sacrificed everything to beat the odds 71 years ago. I hope Belmont Park will recognize this special day. Speaking of which, if you want a "historical" tip, go with V E Day in race 6. He is appropriately named, being a son of English Channel.

Now off to Belmont Park!
Eric

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