Saturday was a horse racing kind of day. The buzz in the air was obviously due to California Chrome’s run at the Triple Crown. The movie qualify plot was all but written. The only thing left was a proper ending. Life does imitate art sometimes, but it didn’t on Saturday at the Belmont Stakes. California Chrome raced gallantly (in my opinion anyway) and fell just short.
Laura and I were certainly in the racing spirit and threw a little neighborhood party. Many patrons had no experience with racing and their kids had probably never watched a race. We all gathered around the TV and were treated to two and a half minutes of “Go Number 2! Go Number 2!” It was off the charts cute. Especially since Jordan was clapping along while I held him. I was excited that I was going to be able to tell Jordan that we watched Chrome win the Triple Crown when he was just 15 months old. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be, but as I’ve said before horse racing isn’t always just about the wins and losses. It’s about making memories. While the race result was disappointing, I’ll always remember that little party we had while we all cheered on California Chrome.
Hopefully for the connections of California Chrome, the run at the Triple Crown is just a single act in the script of his racing life. While the owners were certainly disappointed (and angry), I’m here to offer them some good news. With a horse like that, there are certainly more acts to come. If he follows the path of another horse I know, acts two and three may lack some of the pizzazz of act one, but they will be as rewarding…and maybe even more so.
The Belmont Stakes captured the national headlines on Saturday, but for Team In Over My Head, the main event took place Saturday evening at Balmoral Park where our main character was about to provide some new plotlines of his own.
Before I get into what happened this week, I want to take a trip back to last week. Mo won. Not only did he win, but he set a new lifetime mark of 1.50. He battled Holdingallthecards (also owned by a Wisconsinite) to the wire in a great finish. It was honestly one my favorite Mo wins. So why didn’t I write about it? Admittedly, I was a little superstitious.
We are creeping up on the two year anniversary of Mo’s last great run. When he rattled off five wins in a row from late May to late June of 2012. On the night we went for win number six, he suffered an injury and was out for months. We never knew for sure what caused the injury. We speculated that it was because he got knocked a bit sideways in the first turn that night. We also thought it could have been the speed of some big miles just catching up with him.
While that lifetime mark of 1.50 was pretty cool, it also left me a little bit nervous. Would it just prove to be too much for Mo? Would something bad happen this week? After the excitement of the win wore off, I really didn’t want to think about it. And really didn’t want to write about it. Apparently, I wasn’t alone.
For about the twentieth time in the racing history of In Over My Head, Danny and I were totally aligned in our thinking about Mo….and we didn’t tell each other. Sometimes when this happens, our concerns aren’t revealed until after the next race. This week was no different. He was nervous too. Can Mo handle back to back 1.50 miles? The nice thing was we didn’t have the conversation until after In Over My Head answered the question.
The field this week was very similar to last week with one major addition of Fort Silky. With Mo’s stablemate in the race, we needed to find a driver and were lucky Todd Warren was available. Todd had experience with Mo and just got nipped at the wire by Al’s Hammered early in the season. Those two clicked well their first time out and the proved to be the case again on Saturday.
With a small six horse field and plenty of speed on the inside, Warren just took Mo to the back of the field and waited for his time to go. That came when Casey pulled Fort Silky first over and we followed him all the way into the stretch. Both driver and horse patiently waited for the right time to move and when Mo’s head jerked to the right, we knew Todd had pulled the line. It was time to see if he could mow the field down.
Last week Mo looked like he was going to blow by everyone, but Holdingallthecards locked on and fought gamely to the wire. Mo won by a neck. This week was different. Once he got rolling, Mo looked like a machine. He powered past everyone to win by almost two lengths and he was on absolute cruise control. Warren sat comfortably in the bike, knowing there was no reason to ask any more of his drive. Mo tied is lifetime mark of 1.50.
After every race, there is almost always a very distinct feeling. Last week it was purse exuberance. Mo had elevated his game yet again in setting a lifetime mark. The win gave him three wins in his last four starts and Balmoral handicapper Jeremy Day remarked that In Over My Head was in “career form” coming into this Saturday. I couldn’t disagree, but when factoring in the concern we had about his durability going these high speed miles, my feeling after this most recent win was different.
I was very humbled. Humbled by just how good this horse is. Humbled by all of the work people have put into making this happen. Humbled by just how lucky we are that he has somehow managed to find “career form” at age eight after all he’s been though.
A couple years back, Greg stated that we will never own a horse as good as In Over My Head. His wisdom battled my youthful exuberance (36 is still “youthful” in horse ownership circles by the way) and I thought I could find another Mo at some point. Well, I’m here to tell you that Greg was right and I was wrong. I am 100% convinced that I will NEVER EVER own another horse as good as Mo. This is a million dollar + horse. This is a 1.48+ horse. Period. There is no debate allowed. He won’t get to those numbers because of his injury shorted career (he’s missed 32 prime racing months), but it’s a fact. If you disagree, I will invoke the words of the great Ron Burgundy by saying “I will fight you.”
I was chatting with my good friend Brien Duroche this weekend. He’s heard me tell the tale of In Over My Head for years now. He’s as shocked as anyone that Mo is still racing. Brien said a bunch of folks were talking about California Chrome this weekend at his country club near Minneapolis. They were astonished by his story. Brien broke in and cut them all off. “You want to hear a story about a horse? I’ve got one that will blow the California Chrome story away!” For the next fifteen minutes, they were all hanging on a story about a horse none of them have ever seen on TV or read about in traditional media. They loved it. They were so fired up about the story that some of them went and placed a bet on Mo to win that night. Mo delivered. Again. No one should be surprised. The legend of Mo continues to grow.
Unlike California Chrome, there will never be a movie made about In Over My Head. No big book deal. But the fact that Mo’s story means so much to someone like Brien, makes writing this little blog worth every minute I’ve put into it. Mo’s story needs to be told and it is an easy one to tell since Mo keeps delivering incredible content.
Act 1 took place at the end of his three year old and early four year old season winning the Windy City Pace and briefly making a name for himself at the big track out east. That was back in 2009/2010. Act 2 was a summer win streak at age six in 2012. Either one of those could make a career, but In Over My Head has decided that two acts are not enough.
We find ourselves smack dab in the middle of Act 3. A horse as hot as the impending summer sun has found a new and improved version of “career form.” Where does it go from here? Only Mo knows. And in Mo I trust.