Saturday, June 27, 2015
Watching American Pharoah win the Belmont to become the first Triple Crown winner since 1978 was a real "sports bucket list" item for me. Even though there were three Crown winners in the 1970s, the decade when I rarely missed any of the races, I'd never managed to see the Belmont live in a Triple Crown winning year. When Secretariat won in '73, I was on a beach in Ensenada, Baja California, on a YMCA caravan. In '77 when Seattle Slew turned the trick, I was working at McDonalds. And the following year when Affirmed prevailed in the last of three stirring battles with Alydar, I was on my high school graduation trip in Hawaii, and for some reason we thought they were going to show the race on tape delay. They weren't.
I saw enough of the Belmont failures in the intervening years to think that maybe I was the jinx, and through (briefly) about not even watching this time. So it was a pleasant surprise to actually see this great horse finally do what so many before him had failed to do. And I don't throw around "great" loosely; Pharoah's time in the Belmont was one of the best ever. Not in Secretariat's league, of course, but there was a reason on that sunny day in June 1973 that Chic Anderson said "He is moving like a tremendous machine!"
It's doubtful that Pharoah's win means that we're on our way back to another golden age of thoroughbred racing, but it was a nice throwback nonetheless.