I love horse racing. Sometimes I watch it on HRTV or TVG when I don’t know the horses competing.
So, of course, I watch the Triple Crown races, including Saturday’s Belmont Stakes. Congrats go to Palace Malice, who won that race and capped a really entertaining series that produced three different winners.
But what horse racing really embodies, for me, happened the day before at Belmont Park on a sloppy track during the running of the $200,000 Brooklyn Handicap.
That race revolved around a 10-year-old horse named Calidoscopio, who previously won the Breeders’ Cup Marathon and was bred in Argentina.
When this eight-horse field hit the half-mile pole, a third of the way through the race, Calidoscopio, ridden by Aaron Gryder, was 22 lengths off the lead and about a dozen in back of the seventh place horse. He was so far behind that the cameraman lost track of him during much of the race.
But as the field turned for home, Calidoscopio began to make his move.
“He wasn’t even in the race and before you know it, he started gobbling up ground,” the horse’s trainer Mike Puype told Claire Novak of the Bloodhorse magazine. “He absolutely just exploded when it was time to do his thing. I couldn’t be happier. Belmont is such a long track. You have so much running to do here. Aaron hit him left-handed and got him in the sweet part of the track. He got them at the right time.”
This was no collection of nags that Calidoscopio had to catch. One of those horses in front of him was 2011 Belmont Stakes winner Ruler On Ice. But by the far turn, Calidoscopio had completed most of his trip back into contention. Not far past the top of the stretch it was only a matter of whether he had enough time to catch leader Purcussion, who was trying to wire the field.
It turns out he had enough to not only catch that horse, but to win by a length. Calidoscopio made history as he became the first horse in history to win a stakes race on dirt at the age of 10.
Bettors didn’t have confidence in Calidoscopio as he was 7-1 when the gate opened. He had only finished fifth in his only 2013 start to date. His betting payoff was $17, $7.50 and $4.70.
His jockey said, “That’s the way I rode him in the Breeders’ Cup and it works, so I have a lot of confidence in him making up that kind of ground. You never know until you try it, but the last time we laid a little bit closer and he didn’t have that kind of kick. We went back to what worked.”
Yet it took so much courage for Gryder to allow the horse to fall that far off the pace.
“He gallops pretty much for the first mile, mile and an eighth, and then from that point on, we pick it up and he just continues to grow in his stride,” Gryder said. “I felt good at the three-eighths pole … at the eighth pole, I said ‘I think I can get there,’ and at the sixteenth pole, I said, ‘I’m going to run them down.’ He’s such a character. He’s been racing for eight years and he’s seen it all.”
And now it seems, so have I. This type of finish and the story it produces is one of the biggest reasons why I will be in love with this sport for the rest of my life.
Sports Editor Rick Teverbaugh’s columns appear twice weekly.