During the last week of April in 1994, turf writers were looking ahead to the Kentucky Derby while hockey writers were following the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. On the April 16, the Wood Memorial had been won by the Steven Young-trained Irgun; he beat Go for Gin by a length and a half, but by the time those first round playoff series were wrapping up, Irgun had been sidelined by a sore right foot. He wouldn’t race again for two years, returning on April 3, 1996 at Santa Anita, finishing fifth and never racing again.
In 1994, the Times still covered local stakes races. Joseph Durso wrote about the Excelsior on April 23, when Colonial Affair returned to the winner’s circle for the first time since the previous June, when he’d won the Belmont Stakes. Jose Santos rode him in the Excelsior, but his jockey for that Belmont, Julie Krone, was also in the news in late April, 1994.
Out of racing since a terrible spill at Saratoga the previous summer, Krone was returning to the track; the Times reported that on an April morning, she came to Belmont to exercise two “easy horses,” Uncharted Waters and Vel Vel, for Scotty Schulhofer. “I feel,” she was quoted as saying, “a little bit cocky already.”
On the Derby trail, Durso was writing about Garrett Gomez, who over the weekend had ridden Southern Rhythm (trained by James Keefer) to victory in the Lexington a day after he had won the Arkansas Derby with Richard Small’s Concern. Also in Lexington, Holy Bull worked five furlongs at Keeneland in 1:02 ½.
Back home at Aqueduct, Minetonightsfirst (a “strange name,” said Durso) won the filly division of the New York Stallion Series with Gash taking the colt’s division. The filly was ridden by Robbie Davis and trained by Dennis Manning; Davis also rode Gash, who was trained by Mary Eppler and owned by Alfred G. Vanderbilt
And on April 25, the Rangers completed a first-round sweep of the hated Islanders in a series that left Rangers’ fans exulting and taunting. Beating the Islanders 6-0 in each of the first two games of the series, the Rangers crushed their eastern neighbors, moving on to face the Washington Capitals.
The win, said Robin Finn, was “embarrassing for [the Islanders] and ennobling for their metropolitan rivals.”
Should the Rangers emerge victorious tonight, no one will call the win “ennobling” for the home team. These Rangers do bear some similarity to that 1994 team, both having dominated through the regular season, both having a seemingly invincible goalie. But this team is more vulnerable and less experienced than that team, and in this series, that’s been evident. This series shouldn’t have gone seven, but it has, and here we are.
1994 was the last time that the Rangers played a game 7, and they played two. The first one came at the end of May, against their rival to the west, the New Jersey Devils; they played their second game 7 of the tournament on June 14, 1994. Both came on the Garden ice.
The horse that finished second in the Wood Memorial that year, Go for Gin, vindicated himself with a win on May 7, 1994, and later that summer, hockey and horse racing came together on the Belmont backstretch.
The first round in 1994 was easy; this year, not so much. Tonight, the Rangers play game 7 for the first time in 18 years, and I break my game 7 maiden at the Garden. Once more, all together…
Durso, Joseph. Horse Racing; Colonial Affair Surges to Take Excelsior. New York Times, April 24, 1994.
Durso, Joseph. Horse Racing; The Road to Louisville Is Taking Cruel Twists. New York Times, April 24, 1994.
Finn, Robin. Hockey; Rangers Sweep as Islanders Can’t Even Find Any Moral Victories. New York Times, April 25, 1994.
Sports People: Racing; Krone to Return in 30 Days. New York Times, April 22, 1994.
“The Kenucky Derby winner, the hockey player, and the Stanley Cup.” Brooklyn Backstretch, June 14, 2010.
8 thoughts on “April, 1994, in horse racing and hockey”
The Spring of 1994 was a great one in NY. I forgot some of the details you recount here, but recall vividly the 1994 Kentucky Derby. Our older daughter was born that January, and the ‘94 winter was a very cold one. When the 1st Sat rolled around, I went to the old OTB parlor on 5th Ave in Brooklyn and bought a Win ticket on Go for Gin, then went home and held my 4 month old Bella on my lap and she saw her first Derby from that vantage point. It was a fun day and a great memory. But the takeaway I have from this piece is we better bet Alpha to win this year. I would sure hate not to have him given these parallels you point out. And good luck to the Rangers tonight!
Let’s Go Rangers! I will have to disagree with you about expecting that this series with the Senators would be an easy one, despite them being the 8th seeded team. They played the Rangers tough throughout the season, and the Rangers always seemed off-balance in their play and their rhythm when they played them. If there was one team that I dreaded having the Rangers face (even in the first round of the playoffs), it was the Senators. The officiating has been without a doubt, abysmal to say the least. I’m still waiting for the NHL to issue fines and suspensions to both, itself and the referees for incompetency. But, I suspect that I’ll be waiting a long, long time for that to ever happen. I’m definitely looking forward to tonight’s game. I believe the Ranger crowd at the Garden will make it’s preference known in “a very subtle manner” don’t you think? I know I’m pumped, and I won’t even be there.
By the way, I thought they did a superb job with the Union Rags videos. I’m sure you’ve seen the various chapters but, for others who haven’t:
I’m told by a freind of mine who keeps track of all things sports in his head that the NYR played a seven game series after 1994, but that 7th game was away, at Washington. Don’t know the year. He’s the same guy Richard Bomze named FourstarDave after, but that’s a completely different story.
The Rangers were great!!!
And, sometimes one never realizes the true value that can come from a little luck, huh?
Scott, I was hoping that people would share their memories of that month–yours are pretty spectacular! Congrats on that Derby win & good luck this year.
John — I think they went to a game 7 against Washington a few years ago, but not at home.
August: I’d like to think it was more than luck that got them the victory, but whatever it was, I’ll take it.
“……….a Senators team that had given them fits all year.”
My point was that the Senators matched up and played throughout the playoff series in a tough gritty manner, similiar to the the way that they had played the Rangers during the regular season. I dreaded seeing that match-up in the playoffs. I thought that of all the teams that the Rangers might face in the playoffs, the Senators would be the most formidable foe, that they could face. Even though the Rangers have a long way to go to get to the Stanley Cup, after the match-up with the Senators, I consider it to be almost anti-climactic in a way. Imagine having to face your toughest opponent in the many that you’re likely to face in the first round?
The World Cup would be 2 weeks later, we had the entire package for the Meadowlands. The Italy-Ireland first match was so hyped in NYC and in such high demand for tickets (which strangely on the day of the game a lot of tickets were available in the parking lot) that we were able to trade a pair for Italy-Ireland for Game 5 and the same person also sold us Game 2. The day of Game 5 was great, walking into MSG the energy of winning the cup was incredible (“We Want the Cup”). Esa Tik’s goal which was not off sides and set the place off in a frenzy, but soon to be quelled by the linesman. Then I really thought they would win the Cup after Mess tied it up midway through the third, such excitement and anticipation back in the building (“We Want the Cup”) now after 3 Canucks goals deflated things, but this only lasted for 29 seconds, we didn’t get to see the cup in Game 5. Watched Game 7 on TV, but totally excited for all the Rangers faithful and the team itself, a couple weeks later the Germany-Bulgaria World Cup QF was also incredible. It really was a tremendous month or two of sports in NY (and I’m not even that much of a Knicks fan who had a nice little run themselves which we watched).
KOW: it was an amazing time in NY sports. I’ll never forget, though, coming home from the parade with my brother on June 17…and watching the OJ debacle unfold that evening, totally overwhelming the Rangers’ celebration and famously interrupting the Knicks’ playoff game.