Two New Champions

May 20, 1992

Within a few minutes Saturday two new champions were crowned. They are a study in similarities -- and contrasts.

In the Preakness, Pine Bluff proved itself the superior animal, but its Arkansas breeder, its trainer and its jockey each had a great deal to do with its stirring victory in the home stretch. On the California coast, America3 won the America's Cup, a tribute to the superior technology and design skills that $65 million can buy. There were few personal raves for the mastermind of the cup defense, the Kansas chemical engineer Bill Koch, who conceded again that he was not the best sailor in the contest he ultimately won.

Both the breeding and racing of thoroughbreds and the building and racing of 75-foot sailboats are rich peoples' sports. Both trace their antecedents to more genteel times. Horse racing still has an aristocratic air; thoroughbred qualities are painstakingly passed on from generation to generation.

Not so in the America's Cup, where technical innovation as much as sailing skill has been the hallmark of victors for the past decade. But improving the bloodlines of horses has little meaning beyond the tracks and bluegrass farms. New materials in metals and fabric and new hull shapes for slicing through the water are spinoffs from the half-billion dollars spent by the 10 syndicates that sought the best-known trophy in international sailing.

Neither horse racing nor sailboat racing attracts as many fans as baseball, basketball or football in this country. But their classic contests rival the prime events of the other sports in commanding attention.

For John Ed Anthony, the owner of Pine Bluff, trainer Tom Bohannan and jockey Chris McCarron, it's on to the Belmont Stakes. For Mr. Koch, the defense of the cup is three years off if he chooses (or can afford) to compete again. For his veteran helmsman, Buddy Melges, and tactician, Dave Dellenbaugh, it's back home until their superior skills are needed again.

Theirs were jobs well done, on land and sea.

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