Here it is. The very first column written by Jonathan Stettin. This was the “piece” that started what is now Past the Wire and Jonathan’s weekly columns on the Sport of Kings. The column was written as a guest column on Dan Tjordman’s old site “Danonymous Racing.” It was so well received Jonathan Was asked to continue writing columns and that turned into a weekly column. Today it has evolved to the Past the Wire you see today and our Past the Wire You Tube channel. Thank you for reading, watching, and visiting Past the Wire!
No Apology Necessary
Although I had been attending the races with my Mom and Dad for many years, since I was a kid and we spent our Augusts at Saratoga, I always knew it wouldn’t last forever. Nothing ever does in this life so I treasured all the moments as we experienced the highs and lows of the game we loved. I was fortunate my Dad worked at the track so I was introduced to the game very early in life and developed my passion for it before I was even a teenager.
After my Mom was gone, we continued our trips to the track. By now my Dad was retired and living near me in Florida. I made my way playing the horses, which took considerably more work than many a conventional job but I was doing what I loved. I attended the races alone during the week. On the weekends my Dad and I took our regular table at Calder or Gulfstream depending on the time of year.
Driving to the track that particular day had a special excitement, there was a horse going for racing’s prized jewel, the Triple Crown. I had seen Secretariat, Affirmed, and Seattle Slew do it so I knew it could be done. I read and studied the pp’s of all the others who did it, being most impressed by Citation and the fact he actually ran in between the Preakness and Belmont. That was then and this was now however and I had also seen those who failed. There were quite a few. Silver Charm, Real Quiet, War Emblem, Funny Cide, Charismatic, and now the undefeated Smarty Jones was going to determine which list he would go on.
My Dad who bet him in the Derby was a believer. On the ride over we discussed the history making event we were about to see. He felt Smarty was too good for his opposition. I reminded him the breed was different now, and many others had tried and failed. There is a reason the Belmont is The Test of Champions.
We arrived at our weekly table in the Restaurant at Calder. My friend John was there as was an old friend of my Dad’s, Alex, who was spending his last days at a retirement home not far from the track. This was pretty much the Saturday Calder crew. John and I would often bet the pick 6 together and we had had our fair share of success. We took it serious, did the work, and were not afraid to go for it.
We compared our notes on the Belmont card and were pretty much in sync right up until the marquee race,” The Belmont Stakes. “Like my Dad, John thought Smarty was just too fast for these horses. Alex agreed. I, however, had a different opinion. I liked Birdstone. I knew he would get the mile and a half, Edgar Prado was a clutch rider, and most important to me, he had an affinity for Belmont and had run a huge figure over it on the Ragozins and Thorograph both of which I utilize regularly. He ran poorly in the Derby, but I watched his isolated replay several times and his race was not nearly as bad as it looked on paper. He skipped the Preakness and was poised for a career effort over a strip he loved.
Our pick 6 play singling Smarty Jones was $600. It was a losing proposition in my opinion. Smarty was way too vulnerable to single, especially in the last leg. If we got that far, he was not the one I would want to bank on for a big pay day. The table disagreed. John and I were splitting the ticket so the last word was ours. John argued it would be better to add a horse or two in an earlier leg and single Smarty. In all the years we bet the pick 6 together we never had such a spirited disagreement. As we got somewhat heated, my Dad said let me see your form a second. He stared at the pp’s for Birdstone, and then he slid the form back and said “will not win.”
In the end we could not agree. I even went as far as to outline where both Smarty and Birdstone would be at every call in the mile and a half classic. I told John sorry to say but I guess I will put in my own ticket for the $1200. He gave me one of his famous looks and handed me $600. It was the same look he gave me when I made him add Too Wise at the Spa years earlier, but that is a story for another day.
The bet was in and as luck would have it, favorites ruled the day. We were indeed alive into the Belmont and odds on Smarty Jones going for history, and longshot Birdstone who hardly anyone gave a real chance. The excitement built prior to the race as it does when a horse is going for the Triple Crown. The restaurant at Calder was packed and buzzing. The will pays showed Smarty’s pick 6 coming back at $2500. A little more than double our money. They also showed Birdstone at $56k. A wee bit better than Smarty Jones. I was also alive in several pick 4’s with Birdstone so I was sitting on a nice 6 figure score.
The race was off and the crowd was as loud as the track announcer. While all eyes were on Smarty Jones, mine were affixed to Birdstone who I thought was in a perfect spot. The four of us kind of moved in towards the small TV on our Calder table. I pointed to Birdstone and remarked Edgar was in a perfect spot. I saw him starting to move and glanced at Smarty who was full of run and asserting himself. The race was on. As they turned for home I knew the distance was on my side. I started to scream unaware of my surroundings
“Get Em Edgar Get Em Edgar Get Em Edgar”.
At about the 3/16’s pole I knew we had a real chance. I rarely root but I continued. Get Em Edgar. The crowd was loud but I heard my Dad, John and Alex join in and in unison we screamed:
“GET EM EDGAR, GET EM EDGAR.”
As they hit the wire we were jubilant. We high fived, we clapped and hugged and kissed. I accepted the accolades from my people. Then a strange feeling came over us. It seemed to hit us all at once. We looked up to a packed restaurant and it seemed the whole place was staring at us in silence. They weren’t happy stares. It was like they blamed us for Smarty going down. It was quite the Kodak moment.
I heard afterwards Edgar Prado, who I know to be a class act apologized to everybody for beating Smarty Jones out of the Triple Crown. When I saw him at Gulfstream later that year I told him no apology was necessary as far as I was concerned. I now spend the weekends alone, but still have the memories. Thanks for listening.
Jonathan Stettin (The Pick 6 King)
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