Saturday, June 05, 2010
Belmont Winner, Bar None
bar shoe: Any horseshoe that is not interrupted by an opening between the heels; the most frequently used of all therapeutic horseshoes.
--Horsewords: The Equine Dictionary
There was a winter day at Aqueduct when I was in a betting line behind Mickey Rooney. He had told me earlier in the day how many millions he had lost playing the horses over the years, but now had his betting under control.
"Five-hundred to win on the six," Rooney said.
Harvey Pack came rushing up.
"The six is wearin' a bar shoe!" Pack said.
This Kentucky Derby I had that old horseplayer lament: Too much information. I loved Super Saver on Tuesday of Derby week, but fell out of love by Saturday, when it counted. This Belmont, I didn't have a love affair with Drosselmeyer, but at least it was an infatuation. But if I had known that Bill Mott worked the colt in bar shoes five days before the race, I would have made Drosselmeyer a throwout. I don't care that Mott said he was going to have his horse re-shod with conventional plates the morning of the Belmont, I look at bar shoes, jot down an equals sign, and draw a picture of ticket confetti on the other side. Just as no comedian worth his salt eats a tongue sandwich before a performance, no horseplayer should bet bar shoes.
Remember Unbridled's Song, the favorite for the 1996 Derby? He came out of the Wood Memorial with foot problems, and a blacksmith or two fiddled all Derby week with this shoe and that shoe. Ernie Paragallo, the owner of the colt, was calling the shots, and only if we knew then what we know now. Anyhow, they ran Unbridled's Song with bar shoes. A horse hadn't won the Derby in those protective plates since Lawrin in 1938, and after Unbridled's Song finished fifth, that historical tidbit went unaltered. "We thought that since he trained well in bar shoes, he could run in them," said Unbridled's Song's trainer, Jim Ryerson, and I looked around, to see if Paragallo was skulking in the background, acting like Edgar Bergen.
Drosselmeyer's pre-Belmont work, 59 3/5 seconds, earned him a bullet in the Daily Racing Form. Reports about his bar shoes were widely published, but I missed them. An old chum--how old? From high school--called. He had collected a tidy sum from the Derby, after I convinced him four days before the race that Super Saver was a lock, and wanted to know if my crystal ball was plugged in for the Belmont.
"Drosselmeyer," I said.
"Drosselmeyer?" John said, sounding as though he didn't even know the horse was in the race.
Minutes after the Belmont, John called. He was at Fairmount Park, where he bet the Belmont, and had put an exacta and the rest of a trifecta together on his own, for another juicy payoff.
A half-hour before the Belmont, I got another call, from Kim and Jeff. They are a couple from Ohio, whom my wife Pat and I had met two years ago at a Derby party at the Flamingo in Las Vegas.
Now they were at a dog track in West Virginia, and wanted to know what I liked.
"Drosselmeyer," I said.
"Drosselmeyer?" Kim said, sounding as though she didn't even know the horse was in the race.
The Belmont has been over for several hours now, and I haven't heard back from Kim and Jeff. If they ignored my tout of Drosselmeyer at their own peril, I hope at least they tell everybody in Ohio what a crack handicapper I am.
From Fairmount Park, I could hear the rustle of greenbacks as John gave details of his Belmont score.
"How much did you bet?" he said.
"Nothing," I said. "I got busy at home with some freelance assignments, and skipped going to Hollywood Park. And it's been so long since I've made a bet on ADW, they probably don't even have my account anymore."
"Just like Super Saver," John said. I plan to withhold the Travers winner from him, even if I know.