I am a Triple Crown atheist.
Real Quiet strained and affirmed my belief: so close. If he could get so close, surely someone could bridge that gap.
War Emblem completely shattered that belief. I still remember exactly where I was and how I felt when he stumbled out of the gate. Spring and summer of 2002, my first year of college, watching the Derby and the Preakness on the big screen, then home for the Belmont, in my parents’ living room, kneeling in front of the television, hoping, then heartbroken.
So I will watch the Belmont tonight, and I will have a faint, desperate hope, but in my heart of hearts, I don’t believe. I wish I did.
I’m choosing today to remember instead the greatest racehorse who ever lived, in his greatest race.
He is galloping to the beat of twelve. Aglide, he turns for home in full flight. He opens twenty-one lengths. He increases that to twenty-two. He is running easily. Nor is the form deteriorating. There remains the pendulumlike stride of the forelegs and the drive of the hindlegs, the pumping of the shoulders and neck, the rise and dip of the head. He makes sense of all the mystical pageant rites of blood through which he has evolved as distillate, a climactic act in a triumph of the breed, one horse combining all the noblest qualities of his speed and his ancestry – of the unbeaten Nearco through Nasrullah and Bold Ruler, of the iron horse Discovery through Outdone and Miss Disco, of the dashing St. Simon through Prince Rose and Princequillo and of the staying Brown Bud through Imperatrice by way of Somethingroyal. He defines the blooded horse in his own terms.