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CLOVER VALLEY… I’ve said all along that winning the Triple Crown is a huge challenge and that whoever wins it will be considered immortal in the annals of equine history. The events of last week proved this to be true, but in the aftermath of I’ll Have Another’s withdrawal from the Belmont Stakes, there might be more questions than answers. In addition, he was retired from competition, leaving fans and supporters shocked and saddened at his sudden departure from the chance of a lifetime and from the sport itself. This has also hit NBC hard and the industry, too, since they both would have benefited from IHA’s appearance and try for the Crown.
To add to the mystery and intrigue, his trainer, Doug O’Neill, is soon to be under suspension from the California Racing Board due to a practice with the animals known as “milkshaking.” This is where a trainer or handler gives the animal a mix of baking soda, water, and sugar to aid carbon dioxide buildup, thus easing muscle fatigue. The announced reason for IHA’s departure was an inflamed tendon in his left front leg. All media accounts leading up to the Belmont stated that he appeared to be practicing and training in good condition. That’s why this is such a shock and mystery to me.
I mean, this just doesn’t make a lot of sense. Was IHA being “milkshaked”? Was he about to fail a drug test before or after the Belmont? I heard an expert state that some horses that are or have received performance-enhancing drugs can make it through a test or two before being caught. I must state that I don’t know if that is true or not—it just might be speculation on behalf of the radio guest. But questions abound. Does milkshaking render a horse susceptible to injury?
I must also say that in regard to the suspension imposed by the CRB, many colleagues of O’Neill’s in the racing industry have come to his defense over the allegations and suspension. So, what’s really going on? I don’t know, but what bothers me the most is having to bear witness to cheating of any kind, especially in a sport that I love so dearly. With so few Triple winners in the history of racing, these horses are the most special of the special. They have no idea what these misguided humans are putting in them or on them. They trust that those handling them are doing the right things for them.
And to think that IHA was little more than 24 hours away from the possible run of his life and a shot at horse racing history. It makes me ill to consider what may have happened to force his withdrawal from the race. Or maybe my disappointment is fueling some negative speculation. Either way, I would like to know what really forced IHA to drop out of the Belmont. Right now I have more questions than answers…
WELL, WELL, WELL. Just a mere week ago, many LA Kings and hockey fans all over the continent were busy deciding what brand of champagne to celebrate the Kings’ surefire Stanley Cup victory with. The Kings had just taken a 3-0 lead in the series with a 4-0 whitewash of the NJ Devils, and things were looking like the rest of the 2012 playoff had gone for the West Coasters—that is to say, they were butter (on a roll). They had won games one and two in Jersey, and had just put another one on the Devs.
Then, with a possible history-making game four set-up in Tinsel Town, with so much bubbly on ice that there was an ice shortage from LA to Frisco, complete with a real Hollywood ending, the Devs said, “Hold on, Quicksdraw, not so fast.” The Devs rebounded with a 3-1 victory, and another in game five in Newark (2-1), and suddenly we had a series. As an impartial observer, I have got to say this: with the series at 3-0, my belief was that yes, the Kings had played some excellent hockey. But even without the results, the Devs were playing some pretty good puck themselves.
I think the law of averages has caught up, if ever so slightly, with the Kings. Jon Quick had finally made a couple of mistakes, some Devs stars were coming around to form, Mar-tan Brodeur was finally starting to look like Mar-tan Brodeur, the Devs’ coaches may have found a couple of small items to exploit with the Kings—and voilà! Game six revs up in about seven hours from now, and I can’t wait. I have a feeling that the Devs just might find a way to get this thing back to the Right Coast.
There are some reasons and people on both clubs that will make me happy for whoever should win. I had picked the Kings in six games, but now I just don’t know. But if this thing goes to a seven heaven, the ratings could make up for NBC the stinging loss of the Belmont Triple pursuit gone haywire at the last moment. Whether the greatest trophy in all of sports makes an appearance tonight or Wednesday, I know that the sight of the Cup can bring tears to the eyes of fans everywhere. I have seen it in person and I know…PEACE
MFAN EXTRA: Just for the heck of it, I checked for some tix for tonight’s tilt in LA. The cheapest ducat I found was going for $450, and most were going for four figures, with not many available… OVER & OUT!
Marc Elliott is a freelance sports opinion writer who splits time between his hometown in Illinois and Minnesota. Elliott grew up in the Twin Cities with many of his childhood neighbors working or playing for the Vikings and Twins. He participated in baseball, football and hockey before settling on hockey as his own number one sport. Elliott recently wrote “The Masked Fan Speaks” column for the Lake County News Chronicle for ten years and was a prominent guest on the former “All Sports” WDSM 710AM in Duluth.