Ten races I look forward to every year:
Kentucky Derby– The Run for the Roses. Over one hundred forty years of tradition. Mint juleps. Louisville in May. Past winners’ names in the Churchill paddock, watching over each Derby field like knowing mentors. Negotiating a field of twenty, having enough left for the stretch run. A winner’s circle used only once per year.
Preakness Stakes- Triple Crown dreams become tangible or fizzle, all at that interesting distance of a mile and 3/16. Two years older than the Kentucky Derby. The middle child of the Triple Crown. A Baltimore party. The blanket of “black-eyed susans.”
Belmont Stakes– Where Triple Crown winners are immortalized, or where we have to wait for next year. Secretariat winning by 31 lengths. American Pharoah making the grandstand shake. The Test of Champions. Big Sandy. A mile and a half.
Breeders Cup Classic- The stretch duels. Sunday Silence and Easy Goer. Blame and Zenyatta. Ferdinand and Alysheba. American Pharoah, Ghostzapper, “Tiznow wins it for America.” Awesome Again, Skip Away, Cigar. Arcangues wins at 133-1. A.P. Indy. Wild Again!
Travers Stakes– The Midsummer Derby. The painted canoe in the lake. Man O’ War. Whirlaway. Jaipur and Raidan. Easy Goer. Alydar.The storm clouds overhead Birdstone. Alpha and Golden Ticket dead-heating. Keen Ice rolling on the outside to beat a Triple Crown winner.
Dubai World Cup– A presentation and setting like nothing else. Cigar putting the world’s richest race on the map. Silver Charm. Dubai Millenium. Curlin. California Chrome becoming the highest earning Thoroughbred ever.
Santa Anita Handicap-The Hundred Grander, The Big Cap. The San Gabriel Mountains watching the best older horses in the country. Whittingham, Shoemaker. Seabiscuit, Affirmed in 1:58 3/5, a record that stood for 36 years. Game On Dude. Shared Belief.
Pacific Classic-Best Pal. Dare and Go beating Cigar, stopping a sixteen race win streak. Bobby Frankel winning five in ten years. Beholder making that move on the far turn. California Chrome in “one of the greatest performances you’ll ever see.”
Hopeful Stakes-The Labor Day bittersweet goodbye to each Saratoga season. The promise and potential of a two-year old Thoroughbred. Maybe the next Man O’ War, Nashua, Secretariat, Foolish Pleasure, Affirmed, Summer Squall?
The next race- Always looking ahead. The racing fan’s blessing and curse.