I sat in the den with the TV on at 6:00 so I could catch at least a brief glimpse of the horses before the race. I usually look at them and pick who I think will win, sometimes I’m right sometimes I’m wrong but it gives me a horse to root for. This time it was all American Pharoah. I looked at the others but no way did I need to find someone to root for, it came with this day. I’ve watched just about every Belmont in which there was even the slightest hope of a Triple Crown. With this colt it felt hope rose so much higher than in the past, or maybe it was just my desire for one rose each year. Whatever it was, I was in tears before the gates opened.
I was a bit terrified as I watched, thinking bad thoughts of Ruffian and other horses who left their life on the track. These gorgeous, graceful creatures are so fragile. We’ve bred them to run only so far, with legs like toothpicks and hearts enough to break any horseman’s heart.
I kind of tried to narrate my own call of the race as AP walked nonchalantly into the number 5 slot. Moments later number eight, with his butt swinging out a bit, was in. The starter wants to get them off before the horses do something stupid so it took maybe two seconds for the gates to slam open and eight carriers of hope to bound forward pounding for the rail, if they can get there, all but one settling for second best. AP, who didn’t break well but fast enough, took the lead, and totally owned it. I don’t know about anyone else but owners, trainers, and friends of competitors who listend for anyone but AP.
I was truly worried about him staying sound until AP caught his stride and made it look easy. Once he wasn’t going to have to avoid another horse I felt more comfortable that he’d make it home in one piece. By the last furlong I’d actually almost forgotten my worry. As he crossed the wire my prayer of thanks was that he’d made it sound and then that he’d done it, won.
My bet is that even the owners of the horses that didn’t catch him weren’t all that disappointed. Frosted was the other name I kept an ear out for, intrigued by the gray (which is also being called blue roan by some), and was glad he had made it out in second place but certainly would have wanted to trip him if he’d come close to catching up. He’s a lovely horse and ran a good race but he isn’t AP.
I hand-road AP every stride from my couch, no whip, just prayers. I was so excited that the dogs got to barking along with me, the midget jumping up and down on the couch with me. As I wasn’t sure they understood this was like the coolest thing in twice their lives, I figured I’d just catch my breath, clear the tears I was crying off my glasses and hope the dogs would now lie down and relax.
I kept looking for the dun the female commentator who does the interviews usually rides. I wondered if that’s AP’s stable buddy, probably not. I looked at the visage of triumph on the jockey’s face, the joy and pride in the face of Bobby Beathard and the elation of the owners and just grinned. I even tried to let go of a my dismissiveness towards the owners, I kind of liked the son. I have to admit to a level of resentment towards those with all that money when there is so much need in the world. On the other hand, I’m glad their horse won, congratulations, finally.