Another? Not for me, thanks.

This spring, I’ve had the unbelievable opportunity to dream  plausibly about seeing two personal sporting milestones in person: the Rangers in the Stanley Cup Finals and a 12th Triple Crown winner.

We know how the first one turned out. And now, the day before the second, I’m not so sure I want to see it.

Of course, I’ve imagined what it would be like to be at Belmont Park, a place that I love, with my brother and our friends, when a Triple Crown is won. I’ve imagined how I would feel, what the crowd would sound like, how the immensity of Belmont would be literally shaken with exultation. I’ve imagined jubilation.

When I think about tomorrow, I don’t feel that way. It’s easy to pick a spot on either side of the fence: Yes, please, a Triple Crown. I want to see history. I want to see this feat attained by this accomplished horse.

Or:

No, thank you. History can wait. Too many questions about this trainer, too many shadows around this owner.

In A Streetcar Named Desire, Blanche Dubois, a faded beauty with plenty of shadows of her own, cries, desperate to keep her carefully constructed facade from crumbling, “I don’t want realism. I want magic!” For her, reality is too cruel, and it’s only in fantasy that she can survive.

When the Triple Crown is won again, I want it to be magic. I want the joy to be unadulterated. I want the celebration to go on for weeks. I want to bask in history until the Kentucky Derby preps start the next winter.

If I’ll Have Another Wins, it will be impossible to, as some suggest we do, separate the horse from the discussion of the owners. It will still be historical, it will no doubt be majestic; it might even be legendary. And by tomorrow night at 7:00, I might even have changed my mind.

But by Sunday morning, dirt will be re-dug up.  Violations will be re-hashed. Hard questions will be asked. Celebration will be mixed with scrutiny.

So for now, I think I’m happy to wait a little longer for the next Triple Crown winner.  Sometimes, delightful elusiveness–if not magic–is better than reality; sometimes, anticipation is better than accomplishment. Tomorrow, I’ll pass on Another, thanks.

11 thoughts on “Another? Not for me, thanks.

  1. Before the dust settles on this one, I shall say: Teresa, your innate sense of right has proven appropriate to the scene. Racing’s own Blanche Dubois resolution shall have to wait at least another year. Perhaps then, our Richard III “My Kingdom for a horse” moment can be answerered with the right one.

  2. Amen, Teresa! I was rooting against I’ll Have Another with all my heart, which was the diametric opposite to what I felt for the Rangers.

    I would have hated to see the Triple Crown tarnished by the likes of Reddam and an O’Neill having a horse of theirs succeed, when so many ethical and honest owners and trainers are striving so hard to accomplish what few have ever been able to achieve. I am relieved that racing gods, in their inimitable fashion, stepped in to intervene when they did. Maybe Burna Dette prevailed on them to do the right thing? Or, maybe Burna Dette, like the tragic Patrick Swazye character in “Ghost,” she was still lingering around as a restless soul, trying very hard to settle a score and bring some sense of justice, without hurting anyone too much in the process. I’d like to believe that her soul is finally at peace, and she can comfortably ascend to horse heaven now.

    In the meantime, we’ll have to resume our wait, in the hopes that some kinder and nobler connections, and their horse, prove themselves worthy enough to earn a crown, a Triple Crown that is.

    • The great thing about sports milestones is that they live on and retain their nobility, no matter who wins them. Questions were raised and skeptical eyes cast on past winners of the Triple Crown–funny that they seem to fade with the passing of time– and I’d like to think that racing gods, if they exist, wouldn’t harm a horse to make a point. The injury to and scratch of I’ll Have Another is a bitter disappointment to many people in the sport, and I’m sorry that I won’t get to see him run today.

  3. “too many shadows around this owner”
    “separate the horse from the discussion of the owners”

    What are the issues related to the owner?

  4. Thank you for the link. I am aware of the owner’s business. Without getting in to it too much, it’s does not seem all that clear to me that J. Paul Reddam is a bad person, surrounded by “shadows.” He is a business man. No doubt most quasi-successful thoroughbred owner’s are business people—all with dirt that could be dug up. It seems a little rough to root against the horse because you don’t necessarily agree with the owner’s chosen business.

    And to “August Song,” the commenter above:

    1) “Triple Crown tarnished by the likes of Reddam and an O’Neill” Do you care to share with us the history of triple crown winners’ owners? What did J. K. L. Ross and Louis Wolfson do to the luster of the triple crown?

    2) “I am relieved that racing gods, in their inimitable fashion, stepped in to intervene when they did.” Some type of god injured a horse?

  5. I don’t disagree, Jack, with what you say about other owners, and I know that I should probably root for a good horse no matter who owns him. I do think that Reddam has shadows around him — not criminal, certainly, but ethical ones. And perhaps Triple Crown beggars shouldn’t be choosers… but I guess I’m going pretty idealistic on this one.

  6. I hear what you are saying—it would be great if every horse had a great back-story.

    Everyone could stand to look in the mirror every once in a while (starting with me), but what surprises me is the scrutiny that IHA’s connections came under. It seems to happen a lot in horse racing, maybe because people need a relatable “human” story, which the animal can’t provide.

    I look at the NY Rangers, for example. The story there is about the team, not about owners/trainers/non-athletes (excepts for Torts). That said, no one asks about Dolan’s business practices. I do not mean to imply that there is anything to ask about, but if there were, I’m not sure people would care all that much. I look at the Derek Boogaard story (the NY Times has written about him, as I’m sure you know). Team doctors/trainers appear to have been less than ethical by providing him with scores of prescription painkillers. That story, while less than complete, is enough to raise questions about how the Rangers/NHL operate. However, I did not hear much about it during the Ranger’s run.

    At the end of the day, I enjoyed IHA’s run. Friends and I were lucky enough to get involved back in February at the Bob Lewis, and it was a great four months. People who were “on the fence” about horse racing were drawn-in and we had a lot of fun. As you said, you are going idealistic, and I guess I’m going selfish. I hate to feel guilty about enjoying a great horse and a great run because his owner makes high-cost loans. It’s a business I don’t understand, and I surely won’t presume I know what’s good for his customers. We may never see a triple crown, and I’m not so sure I care all that much. However, if it happens, I hope the media embraces the horse and not the faults of its connections.

  7. Jack — sorry for the long delay in replying to this. You make great points, and you’re right: I spend much less time thinking about what James Dolan is doing than I do about the connections of horses are doing. And given what’s coming out in the John Branch series about the roles that team doctors and management played with regard to Derek Boogaard, perhaps we should be looking at those organizations with more scrutiny.

    You are unquestionably right: I’ll Have Another the horse was a great story, and he was fun to watch. I had the pleasure of standing next to Doug O’Neill at the Kentucky Derby (completely accidentally), and his pure, unadulterated joy was a pleasure to behold. Maybe those are the moments I should be thinking about and enjoying — but I’m not making any promises 😉

  8. The reason I think I’m drawn to the sport is because there are no humans to root for/against. I watch the races, and get interested in the horses, their style (for example, I love to root for a big closer–nothing more exciting than a horse coming from back in the pack) and the rivalries that are created during the year. No reason to care who owns them.

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