June 07, 2004

I had a good time this weekend watching the Belmont Stakes. For the archivists reading this years in the future, 2004 was the year that the 35/1 long shot named Birdstone beat the favorite of both the bettors and the general public, Smarty Jones.

Smarty Jones won the Kentucky Derby in the muck, then the Preakness by 11 1/2 lengths, so it was hard to imagine him getting beat. He went off at about 1/5. A truer sure thing I can't remember, but alas, it didn't work out that way.

A good photo of the finish, lifted without permission from

I went online today to read about Birdstone. He's obviously a talented horse, so I wanted to read why he finished sixth (I'm relying on memory there -- it may not have been sixth, but it was somewhere back there) in the Derby. Was he pinned in? Was he bothered by the mud? I'll let you know if I ever find out. Why didn't he run in the Preakness? Again, I don't know.

No, the news today was about how Smarty Jones lost. But let's face it. Doesn't a triple crown winner demand a better name than Smarty Jones? Imperialism (a strong also-ran in the Derby and Preakness) would have worked. Birdstone would have been okay too. But Smarty Jones? Is that the name you want to have to remember for trivia games forever?

I read several articles about the whole thing on the internet today. Here's something that jumps out at me. Birdstone's owner, Marylou Whitney was described in separate articles as, "Saratoga's leading socialite," and "...nowhere near the social status of Birdstone's owner, the glamorously attired and round-voweled socialite Marylou Whitney of Saratoga Springs, N. Y."

Yet another article points out that Ms. Whitney's family has been breeding racehorses in Kentucky for three generations. Do you think she could be a bit of a biiiitch?

But for all of that, both Whitney and Edgar Prado actually apologized for winning the race. They ruined everybody's good time and felt bad about it. You've got to be kidding me. They pulled the biggest upset of the decade. They should be calling out all of the nay-sayers, saying that they knew their horse was something all along. I truly don't understand that reaction. Fortunately for them, Birdstone had more of a killer instinct than his owner and jockey.

Birdstone (bottom right), with a few other regulars last Christmas

The real story of the day was that Stacie picked Birdstone all the way. Didn't even piddle around with a $2 bet -- she layed a whole Lincoln on him. As the race unfolded everyone jumped up and yelled, but at the end, I think we were the only ones still up and yelling. It's an amazing pick. One to tell your (bored out of their minds) relatives about for the rest of your days. I think everyone should even call her "Birdstone" instead of her real name for a while.

Since this is the only place on the Internet where you can find a story about Birdstone, I'll give you my take on why he won: he skipped the Preakness. Three races in five weeks are a heck of a lot for horses, especially when the first of the three is run in calf-deep mud, and the last of the three is a mile and a half. After the disappointing Derby finish, the set up Birdstone to be the long-shot spoiler all the way. I think that they outsmarted everyone, and they certainly had the best horse on Saturday.