Sports

144 Belmont Stakes Results & NBC Sports Recap

union ragsWell, after the very disappointing news that was delivered on the morning of June 8th, 2012, which stated that Kentucky Derby, and Preakness Stakes winner, and Triple Crown hopeful I’ll Have Another would be scratched from the 144th Belmont Stakes and retired. Track workers at Belmont Park, and track officials had to as they say, “suck it up,” and keep on going and prepare for the race to be run on Saturday June 9th as schedule. Like the great British band Queen sings, the “Show Must Go On,” and on the show went.

Saturday, the race was run with post time of approximately 6:40pm with a field of 11, instead of 12, had I’ll Have Another been able to run. I’ll Have Another is only the third Derby/Preakness winner besides Burgoo King, and Bold Venture to not contest the Belmont. Both Bold Venture and Burgoo King did not enter due to injury. More news came to light during the broadcast (which I will get to in a bit) about “Another’s” injury. The tendon had some tears, and was the beginning of tendinitis. It was minor and he could have run but the connections felt he had done enough. Again, disappointing but I am glad the horse’s health was put first.

The favorite in the race wound up being Dullahan, by a slim margin over Union Rags. Strangely Dullahan never won on dirt and only got up in the Derby to get third because of the fast pace. Union Rags had a win over the Belmont track as a 2 year old in the Champagne Stakes. Paynter, the Bob Baffert trained, lightly raced three year old (the race is for three year olds at a mile and a half), was second choice. He was to go to the front, and Union Rags, who had tactical speed, would lay off the speed, and Dullahan who was 0 for 4 on dirt, would come from the back of the pack.

When the gates opened, Paynter, as expected, went to the lead. He went the first quarter in 23 and change. Union Rags was bottled up in 4th. Going down the backstretch, it looked like Paynter was having his own way. When they got to the top of the stretch, Paynter was hanging on to the lead, a horse named Atigun made a threatening move, but down on the rail, Union Rags with John Velasquez aboard came through in deep stretch on the rail and nailed Paynter by a head.

The race was very exciting, and thrilling. A crowd of a little over 85,000 in attendance roared as the horses raced. Michael Matz, Union Rags’ trainer was very happy, and felt vindicated as this horse lost several races, and always seemed to have some sort of mishap in his losses. Union Rags was seen as a potential Triple Crown threat, but due to these losses, and the fact that his sire was Dixie Union, there were doubts “Rags” could get the 1 1/2 mile distance. Union Rags proved his critics wrong. His victory was a great experience for his owner, Phyllis Wyeth, who after a car accident has been confined to a wheelchair since 2001. Wyeth sold Union Rags for 145,000, and then bought him back for 390,000 as she had a dream that the horse would be a champion. Wyeth before her accident was a fearless steeplechase rider as well.

While the race was fantastic, despite the unexpected withdrawal of I’ll Have Another who, had he ran, was going to try to be the 12th Triple Crown Winner, I have something to say about the coverage of NBC. I am referring to the NBC coverage featuring Bob Costas, et al which started at 4:30 p.m EST.

The coverage by NBC was terrible. Bob Costas, in my opinion, should stick to baseball. That is where he is best. I don’t like him much at all. He is terrible at other sports. I still remember his “Old man on the porch” tirade during last NFL season on “Sunday Night Football on NBC” over Buffalo Bills’ WR Stevie Johnson’s end zone celebration (I hate that penalty anyway.) in that game against the Jets. God, Costas sounded like these old battle axes yelling at the kids. Costas says some of the dumbest things, and he said some real “winners” during the Belmont Stakes broadcast.

When he started talking about I’ll Have Another’s being scratched, Bob Costas compared it to going to a Broadway play, and when you sat down, you find out that the star of the play is out sick, and you are seeing the understudy getting his or her chance to shine. He was saying the other horses were getting their chances to shine. I was ready to throw something at the TV. He doesn’t quite get it. The Triple Crown races are NOT like a Broadway play where if you miss the star that one night, you can buy another ticket and see it again. The Triple Crown races, particularly if there is a Triple Crown on the line, are for THREE YEAR OLDS ONLY. In other words, a ONE SHOT DEAL. It was one reason why the scratch was so shocking and heartbreaking. The horse’s shot to try to win the Crown was GONE. It is not like if they ran it, and he could try to win it next year. In 1999, Paul Stanley (KISS) did Phantom of the Opera at the Pantages Theater in Toronto, Canada, and I believe he became ill, and the understudy had to do a show. That was awful for an out-of-towner, but if someone who lived in Toronto wanted to, they could buy another ticket to see Paul Stanley a week later. “Another” only had ONE shot. Bad comparison.

Later in the broadcast, Costas is interviewing both Javier Castellano, Dullahan’s jockey, and John Velasquez, Union Rags’ jockey, and Costas was talking to Velasquez and was talking about the time he rode the excellent filly, Rags to Riches to victory in the 2007 Belmont, and said “Do you think there is a connection? You had Rags to Riches the filly, and now Union Rags here?” I was ready to fall through the floor. No wonder people think the sport is a joke when you have people like Costas asking such dumb questions.

The next issue I had with the broadcast was Tom Hammond, Bob Costas, etc spent a solid hour talking about I’ll Have Another’s withdrawal, and injury, and VERY LITTLE of his retirement ceremony. I get that it is a huge deal. I understand that there are people who don’t pay attention to horse racing, and only watch during the Triple Crown, who may have missed the news. However, the news, and the withdrawal of I’ll Have Another WAS announced yesterday morning. The news blew up Facebook, and Twitter, and Google+, and every other social network device. I barely could keep up with the Tweets on my twitter as the news and comments were coming in. It wasn’t exactly a secret. Even ESPN and the other TV networks had reported it. I just think NBC could have spent a little LESS time talking about the retirement, and showed us MORE of the retirement ceremony.

What was shown of the retirement ceremony lasted about 2 minutes, if that, at least that is what I saw of it. He was in the paddock with a saddle on him. I remember seeing a still shot of his jockey, Mario Gutierrez on him, and Mario was in a suit with no jacket, and that was it. NBC should have shown a lot more than that. That is what I remember of the ceremony.

The one last thing that drove me nuts was in the middle of the broadcast, we horse racing fans were subjected to a Michael Phelps interview by Ryan Seacrest. Man, I nearly had a coronary. I know NBC and its affiliates are showing the Olympics, but good grief, let’s get real. Seriously? Bad enough fans had a Triple Crown attempt yanked out from under us, and even though we horse fans were disappointed, we were still trying to enjoy the Belmont, we have to see THAT? Really? Come on, man. There is a time and a place for that. This was a HORSE RACING event, not an Olympic event!! I even went off on Twitter. I said (cleaned up) “Why are we being subjected to Ryan Seacrest interviewing Michael Phelps???” I was frustrated with the terrible broadcast in the first place, and seeing that just set me off.

The only good thing about the broadcast was the great race, and interviews with the trainers and jockeys and such.

Well, this was a heck of a ride that I’ll Have Another gave us. It was a pretty fun Triple Crown series. We were introduced to why Thoroughbred racing, unlike most other sports, can bring fans, and those who work in the sport to the highest of highs, and the lowest of lows.

Of course, the question remains, Will there be another Triple Crown winner, or are we going to be stuck forever seeing the replay of that infamous stretch drive of Affirmed, and Alydar, with Affirmed just nosing out the great Alydar at the wirer? I tend to be the optimist, so I think as we have been close so, SO many times, that there WILL be. He or SHE (after all, the races are for three year olds gender doesn’t matter) is out there grazing as a foal, or a weanling, or is yet to be born. When will the 35 year old streak of no Triple Crown winner end? Only the racing gods know.

Terri Bey currently blogs for CamelClutchBlog.com about Wrestling, NFL, and other sports/pop culture related subjects. Her work has appeared in BleacherReport and for F4WOnline.com. Terri can be found here at Facebook- http://www.facebook.com/TerriBey and at Twitter- http://www.twitter.com/missedgehead

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Eric G.

Eric is the owner and editor-in-chief of the Camel Clutch Blog. Eric has worked in the pro wrestling industry since 1995 as a ring announcer in ECW and a commentator/host on television, PPV, and home video. Eric also hosted Pro Wrestling Radio on terrestrial radio from 1998-2009. Check out some of Eric’s work on his IMDB bio and Wikipedia. Eric has an MBA from Temple University’s Fox School of Business.

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