Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Triple Crown

Once again we are poised on the brink of perhaps seeing sports history in the making.   I'll Have Another has won both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness.  Still to go, the longest of the three, the Belmont (1-1/2 miles).  We'll all find out June 9th.
The last horse to win the Triple Crown, horseracing's highest honor, was Affirmed, who won in 1978.  Since 1978, eleven horses have won both the Derby and Preakness and failed to win the third race in the Triple Crown.

Today I watched Secretariat, the movie of perhaps the most amazing horse to ever win the Triple Crown.  He won in 1973, by 31 lengths, a distance and a speed that will probably never be equalled, in my lifetime.  According to the movie, he went on to sire 600 offspring.  Nice payoff for a work horse--go home to the lush green fields of Virginia and make babies all the time.

I don't remember watching that race in 1973.  It was during the years when I was busy with toddlers. I'm sure I would have remembered the unbelievable win, but I'm glad that I already knew the outcome of the race when I watched the movie today...much easier on the heart than watching the live broadcast! I'm also glad that I didn't know how Secretariat won that race, so I was still able to be surprised and thrilled.

It seems strange, even to me, that I have such an interest in horse racing, since I am generally so blasé on sports in general.  But I was that old cliché, a young girl with a passion for horses.  My friend Stephen Calegari set me on that course when we were both 10, when he loaned me his copy of Walter Farley's "The Black Stallion."  I loved that book and I still remember the embarrassing conversation I had with Stephen when I was looking at the list of other books by Farley on the book cover and noted, with excitement that all of Farley's books were about horses except the last one, Random House. I had no clue Random House was his publisher.  (I seem to remember a lot of embarrassing conversations I have had throughout my life....I should do an journal entry about that some day.)

I became obsessed with Farley's books.  Following the story of Alec Ramsey and The Black and the horse's offspring, I learned a lot about horseracing and that is where I first encountered the Triple Crown.  I started following horse races.   I still remember that Eddie Arcaro was one of the top jockeys at that time.

But it was his second equine hero that I really loved, Flame, "The Island Stallion." Steve Duncan meets this wild stallion and his herd while doing an archaeological dig with his friend Pitch on supposedly deserted Azul Island. I remember reading more than once about how, when riding bareback, both Alec on the Black and Steve on Flame (and later the heroines of Dorothy Lyons' horse books) would become one with the horse.

I dreamed about becoming one with a horse, getting on the bare back, leaning into the neck holding on to the mane and galloping off into the sunset, along a beach, with the waves lapping at the horse's feet.

Of course, I think I have been on a horse maybe 3 times in my life, always plug horses with heavy western saddles and I never got faster than a teeth-rattling trot and returned home with a very sore butt.  But in my mind's eye, I was racing along, one with a horse, the wind blowing through my hair.  And so I live vicariously with the jockeys during these races.

But I remember reading Laura Hildebrand's "Seabiscuit."   Now there was an eye-opening book, learning the reality about the life of a jockey.  You certainly don't hear those secrets when reading Dick Francis mysteries, which all take pace in the racing world in Great Britain.  I don't know if Britain is much more genteel than in this country, but Hildebrand's description of what the racing life is like for a jockey (to say nothing of the punishment they put themselves through to be able to make the weight limit, etc.) is not for the faint of heart.

I seem to have become a born-again voracious reader since (a) I got my Kindle and (b) started working in the book store.  At the end of last year, I had read forty books, which was one more than I had read in 2010 and double what I had read in 2009.  I felt very proud of myself, but as of today, which isn't even June yet, I have read 38 books.  I am also reading a greater variety of books, thanks to my exposure to such a wide variety of books at the store.

Last week at the store, I read Pat Conroy's book, "My Reading Life" in which he has such words of praise for Barnaby Conrad's "The Death of Manolete" that I found it for the Kindle and read it this morning.  Like many of the books I read at Logos, this is not a book I would have ever read on my own,but it was fascinating and I have a better understanding of bull fighting, a sport which I still think is unnecessarily cruel, but at least I understand its finer points now.

For sport, I'd rather watch horse racing ... and I will be eagerly watching to see if I'll Have Another can finally break the 34 year dry spell since the last Triple Crown winner.

1 comment:

Harriet said...

I have always said that there are two kinds of books: those I would be willing to pay for with real cash, and those I would read only if I could find them in the public library. You have a new category: books I would read on Kindle -- someday when I actually have a Kindle.

I also read all the Farly books I could find, but my first horse novel was Black Beauty, which colored everything else I ever read about horses.