View From The Eighth Pole: The Impossible Dream - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report
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View From The Eighth Pole: The Impossible Dream

Workers paint Peter Callahan’s colors on the infield cupola weathervane after Swiss Skydiver won Preakness 145 Hosted by 1/ST at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Md.

Well, we got through it.

The 2020 Triple Crown was different, that's for sure.

A Belmont Stakes that began the series, not at its traditional mile and a half but at a truncated nine furlongs around one turn.

A Kentucky Derby run in eerie silence on the first Saturday in September in a city on edge for months because of growing racial tensions.

A lost in the shuffle Preakness Stakes that brought the series to an end in early October on a day when tracks in New York and Kentucky were showcasing horses gearing up for the autumn Breeders' Cup world championships.

It was unprecedented. It was beautiful. It was 2020 personified.

The stars of this Triple Crown in the year of the coronavirus pandemic were, as always, those magnificent Thoroughbreds.

The  New York-bred Tiz the Law demonstrating his dominance at Belmont Park for octogenarian Barclay Tagg and the everyman Sackatoga Stable partners, proving that age is just a number when it comes to training a racehorse.

The Derby showed us, once again, why they run the race.

While Tiz the Law looked unbeatable on paper, having gone on after the Belmont to win the Travers Stakes over the same mile and a quarter distance, he hadn't yet taken on the aces from the Bob Baffert Travel Team. Sure, Nadal was retired, Charlatan had been sidelined with an injury and Eight Rings, Cezanne and Uncle Chuck just weren't up to to the task at this stage of their careers, but the white-haired wonder still had the once-beaten Into Mischief colt Authentic and the resurgent Thousand Words in his arsenal. Well, scratch the latter…literally…just minutes before the Derby after acting up in the saddling paddock.

Authentic proved just that, denying Tiz the Law in the Run for the Roses and looking like a cinch to repeat in the Preakness a month later – especially after the Belmont winner's connections decided to sit this one out. A cinch, at least until forgotten rider Robby Albarado seized the moment to resurrect his career, boldly sending the gallant filly Swiss Skydiver to take on Authentic for a throwdown in the final three-eighths of a mile the likes of which we haven't seen at Old Hilltop since Sunday Silence and Easy Goer were hip to hip in that glorious Preakness of 1989. Or maybe since Albarado, aboard Curlin, engaged and defeated Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense in another memorable running of the Preakness in 2007.

Trainer Kenny McPeek calls this Daredevil filly – one he bought for just $35,000 on day nine of the Keeneland September Yearling Sale – a throwback. Sure nuff, she is. Her past performances read like the announcements echoing through a train station: Tampa, New Orleans, Miami, Hot Springs, Arcadia, Lexington, Saratoga Springs, Louisville, Baltimore.

All aboard.

This was David beating Goliath, Main Street outperforming Wall Street. It wasn't just a filly against colts, it was a victory for the little guys against the conglomerates. Likewise, Belmont winner Tiz the Law came from an ownership group that won all of four races last year from a five-horse stable.

But this game isn't about numbers, at least not for everyone. It's about dreams. Seemingly impossible dreams. And when they come true, as Don Quixote said, the world will be better for this.

That's my view from the eighth pole.

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