From the moment a horse crosses the finish line in the Kentucky Derby (and sometimes even before that), Triple Crown obsession begins. The racing world, in which few interested parties, from track executives to marketers to bettors, can agree, comes as close to consensus as it gets in hoping that a horse will sweep the Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont for the first time since 1978.
But 30 years ago, the allure of the Triple Crown was less seductive, especially when the siren song of an unheard-of payday beckoned from New Jersey.
Destroyed by fire in 1977, Garden State Park re-opened its doors in 1985 after financier Robert Brennan spent nearly $200 million to re-build it. Opening day was April 1, 1985, and five days later, the track ran the Cherry Hill Mile for three-year-olds, an ungraded stakes race won by Spend a Buck—a horse aptly named for the man who had spent millions to raise the profile of his racetrack.
The Cherry Hill Mile was the first step on a journey brazenly conceived by Brennan to attract attention—and money—to his re-born racetrack.
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