A Weekend at Belmont

Opinions Posted Jun 12, 2014 by Kayla Krause

This past weekend I attended the third largest horse race of the year, the Belmont Stakes. Now, let me start by saying this event isn’t exactly my type of thing, but hey, when in Rome (or New York in this case), right? This year’s Belmont was bigger than most, given that it featured an actual Triple Crown contender – sorry to bring it up again for those of you who put money on California Chrome– and I came away from the experience with a few thoughts.

This was my first time going to any kind of horse race (or race track for that matter) and I was overwhelmed by the size of the venue—and the crowd! I was one of 102,199 in attendance, and every one of them was dressed to the nines. I was warned of the dress code and made sure to wear proper clothing (large sun hat included!) but I had no idea people would take it to the level they did. Picture that scene from Dumb and Dumber when Harry and Lloyd walk into the charity ball, goofing around and having a sword fight – kind of what I felt like.

As a rookie, and unsure how the whole horse racing thing really worked, I followed my more experienced friends and bet on a few of the horses in the preliminary races while we waited for the main event. Partly because of my lack of success with the preliminaries, but mainly because of the long lines at the betting windows I didn’t wager on the big race, but one of my friends put money on Wicked Strong for me because of the Boston connection. The rest of my friends bet on California Chrome because of the possible history about to be made. Both horses tied for fourth, so there were no finish line celebrations for us.

The winner of Belmont was Tonalist – who I’m pretty sure no one outside of the hard-core racing community and Bob Neumeier had really heard of until that day. Thinking back on the whole event and the weeks leading up to it, all you heard about was California Chrome. The colt was all over the newspapers, TV and online news sites due to the potential Triple Crown win and the story of his two blue collar owners. This is what drew me and probably thousands of others to go to their first-ever horse race, not to mention the millions of television viewers who were glued to their screens that day to see the final outcome. California Chrome’s story and potential history-making run raised a lot of visibility for the Belmont Stakes and the sport of horse racing.

belmont race trackEven after the race was over and Tonalist came out on top, it was still California Chrome making headlines that weekend. Disappointed and visibly emotional over California Chrome’s loss, co-owner Steve Coburn had a bit of an outburst minutes after the race was over (and by bit I really mean large).

I guess I wasn’t the only newbie to the race. Coburn and co-owner Perry Martin had such a wonderful story leading up to the race with California Chrome winning both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, but Coburn’s tantrum ruined it. If that were my horse, I’d have been ecstatic to have even done that! It’s unfortunate that California Chrome fell short of the Triple Crown, but it’s also a shame the main story following the winner of Belmont is still the horse who didn’t win.

I feel badly for Tonalist and the other two horses that placed ahead of California Chrome. I still don’t even know where Tonalist is from, or even the names of the second and third-place horses! Instead of celebrating a true champion, Coburn’s sour-grapes antics were the main story coming out of the Belmont Stakes.

California Chrome didn’t win, but I did see an incredible horse win an incredible race. And I also saw Steve Coburn’s outburst. So while I didn’t get to see a Triple Crown winner, I did witness history, just not the kind that I was expecting.