James Leroy Wilson's blog

Monday, June 09, 2008

Da' Tara Wins Belmont Stakes

Bloomberg has the headline right, even if its story focuses on Big Brown.

Da'Tara led the Belmont Stakes - the longest race in the Triple Crown - from beginning to end, in 96-degree heat. And it began to pull away just when the other horses would make their move. It was clearly the best horse on Saturday, and it annoys me how little credit the horse has received.

That said, Big Brown's race in the Belmont Stakes was the biggest flop in a major sporting event that I've ever seen. For "most overrated athlete," the new champ has to be Big Brown, replacing the last "inevitable" Triple Crown winner, Smarty Jones.

Foot injury, not training for three days, being taken off steroids, uncomfortable heat, the "buzz" which these Triple Crown hopefuls must sense - who knew these things would add up?

That said, as a casual observer (that is, not one who normally watches horse racing), it appeared to me that jockey Kent Desormeaux fought too hard at the beginning to get Big Brown out of the crowd and into the outside #3 position. It's a long race and he had plenty of time to get there by taking advantage of gaps as he did in the Preakness. Trainers are also suggesting that the jockey didn't let his horse run, and that by the time the Desormeaux did want Big Brown to cut loose, he was unwilling to do so.

Then there's the "fix" option. What if a great horse is healthy enough to race, but not to win? I could see insiders talking him up, making him an overwhelming favorite - and then secretly betting against him. I'm not suggesting this is what happened here, but I believe it is plausible in the same way an NBA referee can bet on 100 games he officiated before getting caught.

In any case, I think there's too much wishful thinking in the media these days. The next time a horse enters the Belmont with a chance at the Triple Crown, I'd watch the race to see what happens, but I wouldn't believe the hype.

The only flop bigger than Big Brown on Saturday was the media. First, by overrating Big Brown, then by dissing Da' Tara's victory and making the whole story about Big Brown.

Take everything the media says with a grain of salt - in sports and everywhere else.

I'll be looking to see if Da' Tara's next race will be televised.

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