Friday, October 03, 2008

The Champagne Stakes

The 137th running of the Grade 1 $400,000 Champagne Stakes for 2 year olds will take place this Saturday at Belmont featuring A.P. Cardinal, Break Water Edison, Cribnote, Girolamo, Gone Astray, Hello Broadway, Munnings, Reynaldothewizard, Ventana and the winner of Saratoga's Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes- Vineyard Haven.

This race always brings me back to the 1972 Champagne, where Secretariat won but was disqualified and brought down to 2nd for interfering with Stop the Music. That year I became hooked on two sports that remain my favorite sports to this day-Baseball and Horse Racing. My team was the NY Mets who I started watching because, like most 9 year olds at the time, that is the team my Dad liked. The Mets were horrible in 1972, but I was hooked and I remain a Met fan to this day, more bad years than good. As for racing 1972 is also my earliest tangible memory of racing. Like many, I was intrigued by a 2 year old horse named Secretariat, who came into the Champagne Stakes off 5 straight wins including the Sanford Stakes and Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga and the Futurity Stakes at Belmont. His only loss thus far was his maiden race at the Big A.

He would next run in the Champagne Stakes on 10/14/72. After staring out slow, described as "void of early foot" in the Daily Racing Form, Secretariat made a move on the outside at the top of the Stretch. He veered in toward the rail and brushed Stop the Music (2nd in the Futurity Stakes) at the 3/16th pole. Secretariat continued to charge in on the outside of Stop the Music, easily passed him and finished 2 lengths ahead to get the win. Or so we thought. The inquiry sign went up, and after a long look, Secretariat was disqualified and placed 2nd to Stop the Music.

The decision was controversial as many felt the contact had no bearing on the outcome and no interference had occurred. Veteran Sports Illustrated Writer William Nack was quoted later as saying that Secretariat should never have been disqualified.

Only 2 weeks later Secretariat avenged the loss by beating Stop the Music by 8 lengths in the Laurel Futurity. He closed out his 2 year old campaign by winning the Garden State Futurity. He won 7 of 9 races as a 2 year old, and was voted Horse of the Year. It was an a amazing year, 7 wins for a 2 year old and really 8 if you count the Champagne Stakes.

This "unofficial photo" taken in the winners circle before the stewards made the final call shows Trainer Lucien Lauren apparantly anticipating the bad news, judging from the look on his face.

Sources: NY Times, Daily Racing Form, Sports Illustrated,


Winston...not really said...

Wow. They actually took the picture before it was official. Never knew about that. Thanks.

Tempting fate like that is probably why Secretariat never amounted to much after the Champagne...

SaratogaSpa said...

..and than had the nerve to run him 9 times as a two year old, actually exposing him to the fans and building a fan base leading into the 3 year old dare they!

thanks for reading.

Kevin said...

Great stuff....