August 27, 2009

The Jersey Boys

If you are looking for my critique on another rousing rendition of “Big Girls Don’t Cry” by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, you can find it a few blogs over at the Totowa High School 45th Reunion Page. But…since I have you here, why don’t you stay a while. I have a story to tell.

You see, for me, the real Jersey Boys are three of the finest colts ever to set foot on the Monmouth Park racetrack. It was smack dab in the middle of the season for the finest crop of 3-year-olds the decade would see. Besides the Haskell Three, you had other sharks like Java Gold, Cryptoclearance, Polish Navy, Gulch, Gone West and Demon’s Begone swimming in the 3-year-old pool that year. But this is about the three colts who on the first of August, 1987, would run the greatest race ever run at Monmouth Park.

The Jersey Boys were Alysheba, Bet Twice, and Lost Code. Alysheba had become a national hero after being bothered twice, almost falling and still rallying to run down Bet Twice in the Kentucky Derby. He once again would wear down the game Bet Twice to win a hard fought Preakness and America was thinking Triple Crown. Bet Twice would have none of that though, as the Derby and Preakness bridesmaid would run away from a strong Belmont Stakes field to win by 14 lengths. Alysheba lost a three-way photo for 2nd and finished a weary 4th. Lasix, or the lack thereof, was a big story in the Belmont, as New York racing did not allow Lasix at that time. Many surmised that was the reason for Alysheba’s disappointing race. While Alysheba and Bet Twice were dominating the Triple Crown races, something was brewing in Alabama and again Lasix was part of the story.

No great horses ever came out of Alabama…until now. Lost Code was a horse-a-fire. With the addition of Lasix, he became a force, traveling from state to state, collecting other Derbies on a regular basis. Lost Code ended his races early with his blazing speed and left the other horses behind to vie for 2nd place. Seven straight stakes victories and they were easy. The stage was set. Alysheba and Bet Twice would renew their Triple Crown rivalry and Lost Code, the hottest horse in America would join the fray.

For those in attendance that day, including yours truly, the energy in the air was palpable. They called it the ‘War at the Shore’ and I had never seen so many fans at Monmouth Park. The ballyhooers were ballyhooing, this was big. Statistically speaking there were five horses in the race, but it was all about the three stars. Bettors would make little difference between them and everyone had their own choice as to which would be victorious. The Derby winner, the local star, and the speedball. As the gates sprung open, the crowd roared and Lost Code assumed early command. Bet Twice and Alysheba stayed together and very close though and the race was on. After a solid half mile, the three horses started to show off their immense talents. Lost Code streaked to the 3/8’s pole in 1:09 and change and his lead over Bet Twice on the outside and Alysheba on the inside was now slimmer. They would not let him get away.

As they turned for home Bet Twice cornered like an Italian sports car and was breathing down the neck of Lost Code. Alysheba and Chris McCarron had swung out and lost considerable momentum to the other two who were accelerating by the fence. Lost Code with Gene St. Leon aboard was giving Bet Twice everything he had and they would ding-dong it down the entire Monmouth stretch. Alysheba was now finding new gears on the outside. The crowd was deafening. As they approached the wire Bet Twice edged ahead of the gallant Lost Code and Alysheba’s desperate attempt to catch up would fall just short. Craig Peret pumped his fist and whip in exultation as Bet Twice defeated Alysheba by a neck and it was another neck back to Lost Code. The Monmouth horse had won. Bet Twice’s trainer Jimmy Croll and rider Craig Perret were Monmouth through and through and they had done it. What a race. Bet Twice had defended his home turf and in defeat Alysheba, who did not run with Lasix, and Lost Code proved that they were stars no matter the situation

Even as I ripped up the biggest win ticket I had ever placed, I knew I had just seen something very special.

These were the real Jersey Boys.

3 comments:

LDP said...

What a great post Brian. Race recaps always grab my attention, and this was fantastic. I could picture myself at the rail watching this battle unfold. I had never seen the race, so i did not know the winner. Personally i was hoping for Alysheba, but it was still a great, imaginary race, lol. Thank you very much.

Celeste said...

Brian, I couldn't agree more with LDP! Your telling of this race story had me hanging on every word I read - great writing! Thanks!

Heather said...

agree with both of the above comments!! i was just beginning to get into horseracing (as a fan) at the ripe old age of 7, when this race took place so i don't remember this race, but it was written beautifully and almost like i am at the rail, watching the race unfold....NICE!!!!