With the decision as to whether Rachel Alexandra will run in the Belmont Stakes another five or six days away and the rest of the field still in the process of being assembled, we have plenty of time to revisit this year's race next week. Until then, I thought it would be fun to take a look back at history.
My question to you is very simple: Since 1979, which is your most memorable Belmont Stakes?
I used 1979 as a cutoff because it is an even 30 years, plus, if I went back any further I'm sure mostly everyone would agree that Secretariat's Belmont was their choice.
Of course, since 1979 we have had 11 horses go into the Belmont with an opportunity to win the Triple Crown, and all have failed. Since the question is your "most memorable" Belmont and not your "favorite" Belmont, I'm sure the disappointment of one of these 11 resonates with many of you. My guess is either Spectacular Bid's shocking defeat in 1979 or Smarty's heartbreaking loss to Birdstone in 2004 will win this informal poll. We shall see.
For me, the choice was not a near Triple Crown winner, yet a dominating performance. As many of you know from our previous conversations, Point Given has always been my favorite horse. His massive physical presence and ability to just run horses into the ground really grabbed me from the first time I saw him race in the Kentucky Cup Juvenile, and it made me fall in love with the colt with each race thereafter. His 12 1/4-length Belmont romp will always be one of my most memorable races.
Going into the race, I remember thinking that I was never more confident that a horse would win. That feeling still sticks with me because I have never felt that sure about a winner in any subsequent Triple Crown race. I knew he couldn't lose.
At the start of the Belmont I was a bit concerned because Gary Stevens had him up close to a pretty quick opening of quarter of :23 and change. I remember still being upset with Stevens from the Derby, and I think I screamed at the TV, something to the effect of, "Stevens, don't rush him up again!" It may have been a little more profane than that.
Once I saw that "T-Rex" had settled in nicely while running three-wide and Stevens was practically standing up on him, I started to feel more confident. He made his move approaching the far turn and easily took over from Balto Star. I still wondered for a few seconds if Stevens had made his move too soon when A.P. Valentine came up with a bold run on outside. Derby winner Monarchos and Invisible Ink also began a huge run from the back as they neared the quarter pole.
But at the top of the lane my heart began to leap, not because of fear that Point Given would be caught, but because he was about to do something spectacular. As he drew away with every stride, I began to get goose bumps. My favorite moments were when Tom Durkin said, "And here is a powerful, compelling performance by Point Given!" I didn't stop talking about the race for the rest of the day.
To this day, I still believe that Point Given should have been a Triple Crown winner. Bob Baffert and Stevens will tell you the same thing. For whatever reason, it was not meant to be.