Tag Archives: Triple Crown

Justify

Justify belmont-time-nbcsportsA big chestnut colt won the Belmont Stakes on Saturday. Five weeks ago, Justify won the Kentucky Derby. Three weeks ago, he won the Preakness. So he won the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred horse racing. It’s the second Triple Crown in three years, also second Triple Crown in forty years.

The jockey of another big chestnut colt was there watching Justify baffert-greets-ron-turcotte-2018 belmont stakes-nbcsportsdo it. Ron Turcotte could see the blue and white pole at the side of the track. It is 31 lengths from the finish line, marking the distance by which he and Secretariat won the 1973 Belmont, and the Triple Crown. No horse ever has matched that margin (76 metres) or Secretariat’s track record time.

Secretariat-pole-2018-Belmont-nbcsports
Frontrunners passing Secretariat pole 2018 Belmont Stakes

But Justify won the extraordinarily long race, at 1 1/2 miles, wire to wire. He was first out of the gate, and he kept his lead. For what felt like a long, long time, all the other horses were keeping up with him, just back a bit. Keeping up but not increasing their speed. Still, I was terrified. Someone was going to go into overdrive somewhere in that last half- or quarter-mile. “Pull him back, Mike, he’s got to save something for the stretch.”

Justify 1st, Gronkowski last to 2nd

gronkowski-last-2018-nbcMike Smith knows more about riding horses than I do. Justify did have something left. He pulled ahead a bit right near the end, finishing 1 3/4 lengths ahead of Gronkowski. That order of finish was a total surprise. Gronkowski was a long shot who wasn’t even near the pack for much of the race. And then he flew past horses to the front, almost. If you’d bet that unlikely combination, you’d have made some real money.2018-belmont-official-results-nbcsports

Justify is the 13th horse to win the Triple Crown in its 99 year history. His name and silks join theirs in the small field at Belmont Park honouring the winners. The silks of red with yellow stars justify 2018-triple-crown-plaque-nbcbelong to the China Horse Club, co-owners of Justify. In the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, he wore the colours of WinStar Farms, the other owners in the partnership.

With luck, we’ll see Justify run again this year. Maybe the Travers Stakes at Saratoga in August and the Breeders’ Cup in November at Churchill Downs. In 2015 American Pharoah won the Breeders’ Cup but finished behind Keen Ice in the Travers.

Justify_2018_Belmont_Stakes-Mike-Lizzi-wikicommonsjpgJustify is the son of Scat Daddy and Stage Magic. He has a lot of Northern Dancer in him, through both parents. 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew is his mother’s great-great-grandsire. A  Man_o_War_winning_Belmont-1920-wikipedia chestnut big redgeneration back from there on his dad’s side, there’s Big Red, Secretariat. Another few generations back and you’ll see the original Big Red, the big chestnut champion Man o’ War.

Ron and Secretariat

Last weekend, my dog and I went to Grand Falls/Grand-Sault in secretariat-and-ron-photo-d-stewartnorthern New Brunswick to see a statue unveiled. It is Ron Turcotte and Secretariat crossing the finish line at the Belmont Stakes in 1973 and thereby winning the Triple Crown.

As you cross the falls on the Ron Turcotte Bridge heading to the town’s centre, the statue is the first thing you see in the middle of the beautiful Broadway Boulevard. New Brunswick artist Yves Thériault made it, and it is magnificent.

In an article I read, M. Thériault said he wanted to convey the sense of turcotte-statue photo dorothy stewartthe race itself, that moment of victory. How can you do that in bronze, I wondered. He did it. The long narrow dirt-filled base is the track, with M. Turcotte’s career wins and awards engraved on the sides. Beside Secretariat, the finish line tower shows the time (2:24). Crouched over his neck, Ron Turcotte looks back to unseen horses, way way back.

The monument was under wraps of course, and the wrap was Secretariat’s blue and white checkerboard. The statue was unveiled secretariat-unveiling-photo-d-stewartby little kids dressed in The Meadow’s silks, complete with boots and helmets. During the removal of the cover, the actual race call played over loudspeakers. That was a truly inspired moment of theatre.

After unveiling the statue

Ron Turcotte, his wife Gaétane, children and grandchildren and his brothers and sisters were all there. Horse racing dignitaries were there, fans from all over Canada and the US and hometown people ron-and-leo-photo-d-stewartcelebrating their own local hero. A lovely message of congratulations from Secretariat’s owner Penny Chenery was read out.

It was a party, with cake and plush-toy Secretariats. Everyone wanted to talk with M. Turcotte and have their picture taken with him. As he headed to the tent from the statue, he kindly stopped to allow me to take a photo of him with my dog.

In the tent, he signed autographs on small cards and large posters. He turcotte-signs-3-triple-crown-printsigned the glass of large framed prints. For me, he signed a photograph of another dog of ours standing beside the Secretariat statue at the Kentucky Horse Park. That made the day complete for me.

I stopped at the Falls on my way out of town. I couldn’t quite see the statue from there. Probably in winter, when there are no leaves on the trees, you’ll be able to. I didn’t stop at the town’s museum across the road, but I wish I had. M. Turcotte’s riding boots and goggles are on display.

motel-leo-photo-d-stewartLeo and I enjoyed our stay at the Motel Leo. Lovely people and a fine room. Merci, thank you.

See my Secretariat movie for the picture I had autographed and thoughts on the movie.

Also see my Turcotte, the movie for more on the excellent 2013 NFB film Secretariat’s Jockey about Ron Turcotte’s life and horse racing career.

American Pharoah

american pharoah in belmontSaturday, I saw something I’ve never seen before: the winning of the American Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing. I hadn’t expected it to happen, but I hoped. American Pharoah made it look easy. It’s not.

He’s the 12th horse to win it in almost a century. The last time the triangular statue was handed to an owner was 1978. Thirteen times triple-crown-trophy-2015in the 37 years since, it’s sat in a secure storeroom at Belmont, waiting to be given to a potential winner, only to be put in storage again. The trio of 1970s winners were represented Saturday: Secretariat’s owner Penny Chenery, Seattle Slew’s trainer William H. Turner Jr., and Affirmed’s jockey Steve Cauthen.

five-and-a-half-lengthsAmerican Pharoah is bred and owned by Zayat Stables. He will stand at stud at Coolmore’s Ashford Stud Farm in Kentucky. It will cost a lot to get one of his babies. Breeders are likely poring over his pedigree and those of their mares, trying to choose one with performance and conformation in her background that, with luck, will enhance and balance his.

unofficial-winnerBreed the best to the best, and hope for the best, is the rule of thumb. Getting the “superhorse” is the dream, and they’re one in a million – literally. Stats on NBC’s Belmont broadcast showed that, since Affirmed won the Triple Crown in 1978, 1.4 million Thoroughbred foals have been born.

American Pharoah Pedigree

American Pharoah was born February 2, 2012 to Pioneerof the Nile and Littleprincessemma. Look through his pedigree and you will see well-known names. On his sire’s side are Mr. Prospector, Northern Dancer and Bold Ruler, sire of Secretariat. On his dam’s side are Northern Dancer, Secretariat and Raise a Native.

Amer-Pharoah-pedigreeThe great Man o’ War is found in eleven of American Pharoah’s 16 great-great grandparents. Man o’ War could have, should have, been a member of the Triple Crown club. He won the Preakness and Belmont in 1920, but did not run in the Kentucky Derby. At the time those races were simply three of many, so whether to run or not had no great significance.

silks-belmont-parkBeing only five weeks apart with differing distances that test a horse’s ability, the three stakes races were first called the Triple Crown by a journalist in 1923. But they didn’t become that officially until 1930. That year, Gallant Fox won all three. Sir Barton in 1919 was the only other horse to have done so. Therefore, in 1947, ten years after his death, Sir Barton was included as the first Triple Crown winner. I’m sure that, had he run the Derby, Man o’ War would be in that select group.