Drape: Despite Thrilling Finish, Belmont Stakes ‘A Letdown’ After American Pharoah

by | 06.13.2016 | 9:49am
American Pharoah
American Pharoah

There has been plenty of discussion over the past several months about an ‘American Pharoah effect' in horse racing – would those fans drawn to the sport because of the Triple Crown winner's exploits remain involved, and could racing continue to attract new ones?

Although it may be too early to definitively answer those questions, to some pundits there seemed to be somewhat of an American Pharoah ‘hangover' effect through the Triple Crown.

In his latest column in the New York Times, Joe Drape writes that with no Triple Crown at stake this year, the Belmont Stakes was “a letdown”, despite the race having an exciting finish determined by just a nose.

“Last year, though, while American Pharoah sent some people home with less dough, he pushed all of us out of the racetrack with a priceless feeling of elation,” Drape writes.

“Great horses do that, and they are rare. So appreciate what American Pharoah accomplished, and be patient until another one comes along.”

Read more in the New York Times

  • Jil McIntosh

    It’s unfortunate, but in a world of “bigger is better,” I think we’ve lost the ability to enjoy what we have. I sobbed tears of joy when it was obvious American Pharoah was going to do it, because I’d waited 37 years for it. But it also really annoys me when, as soon as a horse crosses the wire at Churchill Downs, the first thing out of everyone’s mouth – even the interviews while the jockey is still on the horse – is “can he win the Triple Crown?” The horse has just won the best-known race on the continent. Sit back and enjoy it for at least a couple of minutes before you have to start searching for the next high point.

    • Quilla

      I’m ready to put duct tape on all those interviewers who interfere with the big moment to ask clown questions.

      Donna – get off your horse; Costas – go find a hockey game; Pincay – stay behind your desk, we’ve seen your suit. All of you, please just let the event unfold naturally because (here’s a clue) that’s what most of us tune in for.

      • Rideonruffian

        They’re broadcasters…that’s their job.

        • Bev

          well, they’re In The Way. I think Quilla hit the nail on the head, myself.

      • Ida Lee

        Well said …. but can we just keep Laffit Pincay out of it please…speaking or not speaking, I love looking at him.. sigh … (usually I just sigh for my favorite horses).

        • Quilla

          He’s very a very sharp dresser, Ida. You may keep him. ;)

          • Ida Lee

            …just tell me where I can pick him up ….

  • Rideonruffian

    Wasn’t a letdown for me.

    • Romanella

      Me either
      I enjoyed every race and so did many fans
      If you love racehorses and horseracing we look forward to every year of the TC races
      Negative point of view and means absolutely nothing

    • meaghanedwards

      Wasn’t a letdown for me, either. I enjoyed the campaign throughly.

  • secondlife

    It’s sad when horse racing people themselves are the ones who think a Belmont race is boring just because no Triple Crown was on the line. You’d think they should be trying to promote the sport in general, and making outsiders aware that there are many more tracks & races besides just the TC.

    • Kimberly Beth

      I thoroughly enjoyed all the races on Belmont Day – no letdown for me!

  • shoewiley

    This was the 30th Belmont I’ve attended since 1987. With or without a Triple Crown, it is one of the best days of racing every year. If you follow the contenders throughout their career considering the breeding, training methods, races run, etc. it’s not too difficult to figure out who can or cannot win the Triple Crown. I’ve made some off-the wall predictions which made no sense and I know that people think I’m crazy but I’ve been on the mark every time. I knew Pharoah would do it. I also knew that Nyquist would not. It may be another long dry spell before there is another one. I may not even be around to see it . At my age I’ll keep going every year until I can’t make it. If I owned a horse and could only win one of the three TC races it would be The Belmont.

  • realfan

    While it’s true, the Belmont was somewhat of a”letdown”compared with American Pharaoh’s achievement, it was still a stirring horse race. The horses ran their hearts out. All in all, it was a day of spectacular individual performances by Frosted, Cavorting,and Carina Mia , they truly impressed!

  • frank

    Why does Drape even have an opinion? There’s not a man who is more damaging to the sport than he is, always spewing hate through the major outlet of the NY Times. There’s a difference between investigative journalism that will lead to industry change, and journalism that just damages the public’s opinion of the sport and industry beyond repair.

    • Romanella

      Perfectly stated

      • Noelle

        Perfectly stated? Hello? Have you actually read Joe Drape’s stories? He opposes drugs. He worries about instances of apparent corruption in US racing. He wants racing to be clean and transparent. What’s wrong with any of that?

        I remember a story he wrote about Wanderin’ Boy – a wonderful horse who broke down at Aqueduct a few years ago, the same track where way too many other horses had unaccountably broken down on the same (lousy) track. How can you suggest there’s anything wrong with Joe Drape demanding to know what’s wrong at that track or any track when the breakdown numbers are excessive?

    • disqus_VDMOBiuPfw

      Well put.

      • Noelle

        Well put? Are you nuts?

        • disqus_VDMOBiuPfw

          No, I agree with what frank says. His articles are nothing but muckraking.

    • Noelle

      Why do you thing steroids are illegal now? Who is fighting the good fight to ban drugs in US racing? If not for guys like Joe Drape who keep fighting the good fight, racing would change NOTHING – all the horses would be pumped up on anabolic steroids – clearly, vets and trainers will use anything they think might give them an edge.

      From what I have read, it looks to me like Joe Drape loves horseracing. He grew up with it and wants it to thrive into the animal-friendly, drug-free 21st century.

      • togahombre

        he put his by-line and ran the peta story just using the material they handed off to him apparently without doing due diligence, not very professional, and when the peta position crashed he just walked away from it without a peep, at those moments he seems to have conducted himself like a short sighted sensationalist not a animal welfare advocate

  • Figless

    We will not know the impact of finally having a triple crown winner until some horse wins the first two legs. Then we can compare attendance and handle apples to apples.

    Frankly, as someone who was actually there (and I doubt Drape bothered to attend, his article has no reference to the actual experience) I thought there was more energy in the building than usual for a non-triple crown try.

    NYRA apparently didn’t expect the big walk up crowd since they ran out of most food items and seemed overwhelmed in all aspects (mutuals, ushers) despite half the attendance of last year, but those that attended were very, very enthusiastic, packing the grandstand and Apron as the big race approached and cheering like heck despite no Triple Crown on the line.

    Much more involved then I remember for the last non-TC Belmont.

    • Marilyn Shively

      Watching the races on TV i was impressed with what looked like a large enthusiastic crowd

      • Figless

        Agree felt like NYRA has achieved their goal of making this an annual event whether a TC is on the line or not. And those critical of moving the Met Mile to this date can go away now, it was the highlight of the card and isnt it great that Frosted’s performance for the ages was viewed by many more people in person and on TV instead of only 25k on Memorial Day.

        • Curt Richardson

          I think Mr. Drape’s attitude is more reflective of society’s “Instant gratification” then anything else. I’ve seen four TC winners, and while nothing could compare to Secretariat’s performance, I’ve enjoyed all the Belmonts since. It was very exciting to see a full starting gate of entrants, three grays complete the trifecta, and a thrilling finish. Belmont is such a massive, versatile track. I wish we could see more 1.5 mile races on a regular basis.

  • Bryan Langlois (ShelterDoc)

    Only letdown for me was that the nose of Creator hitting the wire ahead of Destin cost me the pick 4. I, like others have stated, am really growing tired of horse racing reporters feeling they have nothing better to write about for the sport than any little negative things they can pull out of it. Mr. Drape, if the sport is that much of a letdown and depressing to you…don’t cover it. Go find something else to report on.
    How many truly amazing and great performances did we see that day? Frosted, Carina Mia, Celestine, Flintshire. Horse racing is more than American Pharoah and until the mainstream media and even people like Mr. Drape realize that and start covering it as such, it will just further the masses thinking the sport is on the way out.

    • Marilyn Shively

      Joe Drape is not dissing horse racing in this article– he is making an observation which i agree with–and i greatly enjoyed every race on belmont day

    • Bev

      hey, don’t leave Lani out. He was pretty darn good when he fired up and took 3rd in the Belmont. He passed some “awesome” horses who seemed they were standing still when the 3 front runners left them all in the dust. I love the Belmont race too every year. With or without the crown. Each race is special.

      • Curt Richardson

        Is he definitely headed back too Japan immediately? I would love for him to stay for the Travers, JCGC, and perhaps, the Breeder’s Cup.

  • Canarse

    The fact that this guy won a couple Eclipse awards is mind boggling. He must be mailing it in these days. The story read like he wrote it a week or two ago and added a couple paragraphs near the end after the race. What a great day. I won’t soon forget the efforts of Destin, Creator, Frosted and Pure Sensation on Saturday. The NYT should get a scribe that actually likes the track.

  • Ida Lee

    If it was easy to be that special horse who can win a TC, we would not have had to wait 37 years for Pharoah. TC winners do not grow on trees (that’s obvious). But, we’ve had great and exciting Belmonts without the TC being up for grabs (Rages to Riches/Curlin Belmont for example). And this one, was a great race. I had a number of people watching and we were all on our feet yelling for anybody to win…we didn’t care … it was just fun. And when Creator and Destin got into it, we went psycho (2 grays -can’t remember last time that happened). I think it just depends on who’s watching and what they’re watching for…we just wanted to have fun and fun is what we got by the truckload ….

    • Manny AZ

      3 grays with Lani also making a late move outside… It was a great race, I had Destin in all my plays including the pick 4, but it was a thrilling finish and a great day overall.

      • Ida Lee

        For sure ….

  • Marilyn Shively

    I watched every race on Belmont day and loved every minute of it— however, after last year, with the triple crown on the line, it was a let-down this year without that possibility–by the way Joe Drape wrote a great book about American Pharoah

  • A penny for your thoughts

    Horse racing’s success is based on the handle numbers, period. Down $36 million all sources compared to the 2015 numbers. You can run in front of 75,000 people and it means nothing if they aren’t betting.

  • Rosemary Carlson Peavler

    I love to watch the Belmont. For the sake of that race. The big, sweeping track. The stamina of those beautiful horses. One of my favorite races. This year was no let-down at all. Last year, however, was special. Not really because a Triple Crown could be won. But because the horse was American Pharoah. Having seen him myself, there is something special about him. I don’t know if he is special like Secretariat who I also had the pleasure of seeing or Seattle Slew who was wonderful. But, he is special. To watch him win that race, tougher than anyone thought he would be, was a particularly poignant moment in horse racing for me. He is gentle and kind and he is a champion.

  • Noelle

    I know exactly what he meant. I was at Belmont Park last year, and I was there last Saturday. What happened with American Pharoah was so shatteringly, enormously wonderful, nothing I can imagine could compare. Perhaps those who saw Secretariat win 25 years after Citation experienced something similar? Sure, Creator won an exciting race, and I enjoyed seeing it (despite having ignored advice to bet on him) but at the end of the day it was just another race – well and fairly run, fun to watch but lacking historical significance. What American Pharoah did last year was transcendent.

    I met Joe Drape at Belmont Park last weekend just before the Met Mile was run. We all watched the race together and he was entirely delighted that Frosted had won, said he thought Frosted was a wonderful horse who (maybe like Sham?) would have won more races had he not come up against the Pharoah phenom.

    Having read his NYT pieces over the past several years, I am quite sure he loves the sport and wants it to thrive. Sure, he’s critical. Why not? There’s a lot that’s wrong out there.

  • Kimberly Beth

    As always, Drape’s writing is eloquent and on the mark. I lost a piece of my heart to American Pharoah when he won the Arkansas Derby, and continued to lose pieces every race he ran. After the Belmont, he had it all. I didn’t want to see a Triple Crown winner this year. Selfish, yes, but I wanted American Pharoah to continue to bask in the glory he so well deserves. Although some were disappointed with the Belmont this year, I found it quite exciting. Watching Destin and Creator battle it out was thrilling. And Lani – I have liked him since the Kentucky Derby – Lani coming from behind and finishing 3rd, hopefully quieted all the naysayers who said he couldn’t do it. Yes, it may have been a letdown for some, but certainly not for me. And an added bonus was watching Frosted tear up the racetrack in the Met Mile. No, the day was not a letdown. It certainly wasn’t last year, true, but if you love the horses, you watched some awesome races on Saturday. Congrats to the grays, it was a great race.

  • Karjo

    Drape has it wrong…..Yes the feeling this year WAS different from last year but it wasn’t disappointment….it just wasn’t “euphoria”. Last year was the stuff dreams are made of…..This year was just great horse racing. No, it wasn’t a Triple Crown but it was Nyquist (JV Champ) vs Exaggerator (his arch rival) racing their eyeballs out and the awesome Frosted coming down the stretch in the Met Mile. Topped off by the dueling Destin and Creator bobbing noses to the finish line. For real racing fans….that’s a not to be missed, great day of racing!!

  • Noelle

    Could’t agree with those who know one can’t understand the significance of KY oe TC wonner.

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