Pimlico fans hoped to share winning ticket with history

June 08, 2008|By Patrick Gutierrez | Patrick Gutierrez,Sun Reporter

The usual suspects were at Pimlico Race Course yesterday, clutching their racing programs in one hand and their hopes in the other, a cold beverage nearby to help combat the heat. The last day of the live racing season looked, sounded and smelled like any other day at the track.

Of course, it's not every day that you get a chance to witness history.

While handicappers of all shapes and sizes were making their way to and from the betting windows, particular attention was being paid to Belmont Park, where Big Brown attempted to become the first horse to win the Triple Crown since 1978.

"Everyone's here to see a Triple Crown," said Ryan Strawcutter, 26, who set up shop outside despite the high temperatures. "That's why I'm here."

Inside the grandstand, bettors kept pace with not only the live racing, but also with six other racetracks via simulcast. Todd Paradise, 31, was among many gathered around a bank of televisions as the eighth race at Belmont was being shown.

Just as his horse was making his move on the backstretch, all the screens went black, and Paradise and several others let out a collective scream.

"What the [heck] happened?" Paradise asked his friends nearby. That wouldn't be the last time that question was asked.

As the big race drew closer, a buzz filled the air as bettors made their final decisions. Some plunked down two dollars for a winning ticket on Big Brown as a potential keepsake, while others were looking simply to try to cash in.

When the race began, fans cheered as Big Brown set up comfortably in the third position, coasting behind the leaders, ready to make his move. Some got up from their chairs to get a better view of the low-definition screens, which looked as if they hadn't been replaced since Affirmed won the Triple Crown in 1978.

But the historic move never came, and the second-guessing began. There was no shortage of opinions about why Big Brown came up so small.

"That horse was hurt," one man who went by the name "Big Man" said, referring to Big Brown's cracked hoof.

The excitement dissipated as quickly as it had built up during the race.

After all, it was three minutes to post until the next race at Hollywood Park.

patrick.gutierrez@baltsun.com

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