For Johnny Campo, today was as routine as a day can be when you are saddling a horse for the last race of the Triple Crown.
Campo, trainer of Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Pleasant Colony, supervised the training of his large stable, gave some late instructions and went home to sleep at about 11:30 a.m.
At 4 o'clock he was back at the track, talking with his foreman and exercise boys and awaiting the start of the 113th running of the Belmont Stakes, the most arduous of the Triple Crown series.
Campo's wife Peggy said her husband "was cool, but I got out of his way. . . . I usually take the two boys with me on big race days."
Pleasant Colony was not so serene at saddling time and Campo had to cool him off by quickly grasping a towel that had been used to wipe off the horse's head and ears and waving it from slightly behind the animal. It worked nicely and Pleasant Colony, who had scared the onlookers with his wild backward retreat, was calm when Campo put the saddle on him.
In the paddock parade, jockey Angel Cordero, scheduled to ride Paristo, wished Campo luck. Tap Shoes' jockey, Ruben Hernandez, also said nice words to Campo, who replied, "Save all your luck for yourself. Then Tap Shoes is going to need all he can get to beat my horse."
Jockey George Martens came by with Summing and smiled at Campo, who said, "This is one good kid and he's smart. Can't beat my horse today, though. Sorry."
The field was loaded into the starting gate and Pleasant Colony fidgeted while a cameraman was ousted from the area. The field broke and Pleasant Colony had no mishaps as he saved ground early and made his move late around horses.
When it was over, and Pleasant Colony had finished third, Campo's first words were "The best horse won, that's the game."
Back at the barn, Campo had time to reflect. Did he blame himself? Should he have done anything differently?
Campo paused, then replied, "No, I did nothing wrong. That was my first reaction. I still feel that way almost a half-hour after the race. It was not my fault."
Was Campo implying that it was jockey Jorge Velasquez who blew the Belmont?
"I didn't say that," said Campo, "but I will tell you one day exactly why he lost today. I know why, exactly why, but I won't tell you now. Someday, maybe. Not now."
Pressed further, Campo did blame Velasquez: "Look at the fractions. They went slow. Jorge asked him to run, then took it back. He went, then he didn't. By the time he moved he could never have caught that other horse (Summing)."
Talking to newsmen, Campo, tugging on a cigar, said, "Who cares about Triple Crowns, anyway? I'll win so many classic races before I'm through it may not even be noticed whether or not I train a Triple Crown winner. I really don't care that much.I stopped loving a particular horse early in my career when one horse I loved like a child, broke a leg and died. I can't get too involved. I'd snap if I did."
Responding to his questioners with answers and anecdotes, Campo closed shop with the information he was leaving for a four-day vacation in Las Vegas. "And when I get back," the fat man said slyly, "that's when I start to get that big baby I've got put away in my barn. You think this Triple Crown series was something? Wait 'til you see this one. He's so fast it scares me. Yeah, we lost today. But we'll be back."