The last time a horse entered the Belmont Stakes starting gate with Triple Crown hopes on the line was when I was 13. It was 2008 – Big Brown. And I was willing to look past the character flaws of his connections and a litany of other issues in my eagerness to see a Triple Crown winner. I made lists of reasons why he would win the Triple Crown. (Spoiler alert – he didn’t.)
Now, six years later, we find ourselves mired in Triple Crown debate once more. Granted, we still have to run the Preakness, and the Belmont after that, but California Chrome won the Derby so well…hope springs eternal! So why, now, do I keep thinking of reasons that he won’t win the Triple Crown?
Only six years have gone by and I find myself transformed from a dreamy optimist to a skeptic. The childlike, innocent hope that I once had for horses is gone. It cheers me to see it in others, those who wholeheartedly answer “Yes!” to the question, “Will California Chrome win the Triple Crown?” I’m left in the “probably not” crowd. And it’s a little bit sad.
I keep thinking that he’ll get beat. He’ll get injured. He just won’t be good enough. And why? Why can’t I just push aside my negativity and cheer alongside the others?
Because the truth is, I want to see a Triple Crown winner so badly. So badly, it breaks my heart. Just like it broke my heart when Big Brown finished up the track in the Belmont. Just like it broke my heart when it was learned that I’ll Have Another wouldn’t even contest the race.
Both of those hopes – gone. Snapped. Just like that, in a matter of seconds. Hopes that had been building for weeks. So I have to reason with myself in all the wrong ways, figuring out scenarios in which California Chrome loses the Crown, so if it does happen, it won’t hurt as bad. It’ll still hurt – but not as bad.
I very much hope that California Chrome can win the Preakness and the Belmont, just like the horses of old, horses that I never got the privilege to watch. I hope he wins it all. And I envy those who will stick by him the whole way, confident and loyal. But for now, to safeguard my heart, I will keep thinking of reasons why it won’t happen.
A stride from the Belmont wire will be when I finally let down my guard.