I’ve already received at least three condolence messages following Saratoga Russell’s performance in the Gotham, and I can’t say that it wasn’t awful to be there, to watch him in the paddock (though I didn’t think he looked great, and his intestines didn’t seem to be exactly calm, if you know what I mean), to see him at even-money, and to watch him go to the front fairly easily. The damn fog (more on that in a later post) made it impossible to follow him, but as the horses turned into the stretch and he got passed, I knew it was over. I didn’t know how badly it was over until the horses came out of the fog near the wire, and at that point, I knew something had gone terribly wrong, and I was just hoping that it wasn’t anything serious. He looked fine coming back, his stride was fine, so that made me hopeful.
I am happy to see that what was suggested late yesterday was confirmed to me today: he displaced a palate. According to my source, Coa said that he “stopped breathing” at the five-furlong mark. So it looks like my favorite is off the Derby trail, but I’ll see him again later this spring, and that’s totally fine with me. It might be racing sacrilege to say, but as someone who grew up in Saratoga, Saratoga racing is always more important and exciting to me than the Derby. The highlight of the racing year for me is those six weeks, and seeing the horses I’ve followed race at the Spa.
The excellent Ernie reminded me this morning, “I’ve had my heart broken by horses and boxers too many times to remember. And will happen again, and again, and again, and very soon…” He is of course right. Three years ago this week (March 5th, 2005), I watched as my last big crush, Afleet Alex, finished last in the Rebel (the only time Jeremy Rose was off him—and Johnny V headed west just for him), and my father, standing next to me, said, “Well, so much for your horse,” with some gentle ribbing about my reputation as “the worse handicapper on the planet” (according to him). Turns out that Afleet Alex had been sick that day, and we all know the rest of the story (so there, Dad). Older, wiser, tougher, I’m sad about Saratoga Russell, but looking forward to his return to the racetrack and to, I hope, seeing him race at Saratoga—something I never got to see Afleet Alex do.
There was, fortunately, some excellent news about other racing faves yesterday, and I’ll be back tonight with those.