Bud Lamoreaux: Rooting for a Triple Crown
E.S. “Bud” Lamoreaux III, the former Executive Producer of CBS News Sunday Morning with Charles Kuralt and a four-time Eclipse Award winner, takes a unique look at this year’s Triple Crown bid by I’ll Have Another. Lamoreaux has been around the racetrack a few times and was with CBS News when the network offered extensive coverage of Thoroughbred racing in the 1970s, including the Triple Crown.
In addition to offering his thoughts on the 2012 Triple Crown and on some past winners and their connections, Bud dug into his treasure chest of photos of him with colleagues like the unforgettable Heywood Hale Broun (he of the flashy sports jackets) and Chic Anderson, whose race call of the 1973 Belmont Stakes (“Secretariat is moving like a tremendous machine”) is perhaps the most famous in history. – Ray Paulick
The connections – why is it always about the connections? I don’t know about you, but when it comes to rooting for the next Triple Crown winner it almost always comes down to those connections. Are they appealing the way Secretariat’s were, or do they cut the wrong way?
I’ll Have Another is a nice horse with a genial owner and a refreshing jockey, but trainer Doug O’Neill has a spotty record when it comes to mixing cocktails for his animals. Not such good timing for O’Neill just when the whole issue of Thoroughbreds and their drugs appears to be reaching a crescendo.
When Seattle Slew won a few years after the big red horse, I was a huge supporter. But that didn’t turn out so well when the connections, the likeable majority owners from Seattle named Taylor, got into it with their trainer, Billy Turner, and he wound up in a bad place in life.
And then there was Affirmed. Nothing not to like about him, what with that thrilling Triple Crown against the spirited Alydar. I was there that day in 1978 at Belmont Park and I have the program to prove it. But there was something about the owner, Louis Wolfson, who spent time in federal prison for securities fraud, that didn’t sit well. I rejoiced for the kid jockey Steve Cauthen and the engaging trainer Laz Barrera. But that Wolfson thing still nagged at me.
I guess it was the greatness of Secretariat that had set the standard for me, and Citation 25 years before him, and I was just not going to accept any pretender that didn’t measure up. I mean I put Secretariat and Citation on the highest pedestal I could find and if you were going to climb up there you had to have impeccable credentials – and connections. Secretariat had Mrs Tweedy and Seth Hancock. Citation had Calumet and Jimmy Jones, although his father did smell things up a bit by claiming he trained the horse. But that’s horse racing.
I’ll admit it, I’m an unabashed “racing” fan. That’s a big admission for me. I spent 40 years in the television news business walking that fine line in the middle, never admitting a connection to anything.
Which leads me back to Secretariat. As a producer for CBS News back in the early 1970s I stumbled into the greatest racing story of my time. My colleague, Heywood Hale Broun, and I went to the Meadow Farm in Virginia where Penny Chenery Tweedy was celebrating the victory of Riva Ridge in the Kentucky Derby. It is by now a well-known story, but it had such heart. Riva’s win helped save the farm for Mrs Tweedy, who faced a huge federal tax bill when her father, Christopher Chenery died.
America was wallowing in Watergate and worrying about having enough gas to drive to work and along came Mrs America and her big red stallion to set the world right. But she still had to syndicate Secretariat before the Triple Crown to ensure keeping the farm. And that’s where a 25-year-old “connection” of the legendary Bull Hancock earned his spurs. Seth Hancock raised six million dollars, which was worth ten million a short time later when Secretariat won the Belmont. Who doesn’t remember Mrs Tweedy sharing her joy on television with the rest of America, looking like a school marm whose class had just earned straight “A’s.”
So, will I be rooting for I’ll Have Another on Belmont Day? He does get the blood boiling when he barrels down the stretch. But his times are nowhere near Secretariat’s and he wasn’t the campaigner that Citation was. Plus the venerable New York Times actually devoted an editorial on Preakness Day hoping that I’ll Have Another would lose because of that one seemingly bad “connection.” And fittingly it is now the Times, which has spent a great deal of time and money helping to break open the case of Thoroughbreds and their drugs, that finds itself in its own conundrum. Does the paper continue to disparage a horse that could bring an excitement to Belmont Park that hasn’t been seen since Affirmed beat Alydar by a head to win the last Triple Crown?
That’s the trouble with taking sides in affairs of the heart. Sometimes you back yourself into a corner.
Back in the days before the 24-hour news cycle. Woodie Broun and I, who were constantly on the road for CBS, would play a little game at breakfast after perusing the sports page. We called it “who do we root for today?” One morning there were slim pickings and Woodie surmised that the only contest that he found remotely competitive was the Davis Cup tennis match between Paraguay and Uruguay. “But I can’t root for either of them,” said Woodie, “both countries are run by dictators.”
So I’m going with my gut – against the Times and with I’ll Have Another. Doug O’Neill probably doesn’t rank down there with Louis Wolfson. And besides, I guess I’ve mellowed a bit.