Trainer Scotty Schulhofer is, unfortunately, quite used to being eclipsed by race-related tragedy at the Belmont Stakes.
His long-shot entry, Lemon Drop Kid, brought the 73-year-old Schulhofer the second Belmont Stakes win of his Hall of Fame career. But after the race, most people at the track seemed more concerned with the health of broken-down favorite Charismatic.
Much the same thing happened six years ago, when Schulhofer saddled long-shot winner Colonial Affair in the Belmont Stakes. But the big story of the 1993 race was not Schulhofer's first win in a Triple Crown race, but the horrific breakdown of favorite Prairie Bayou on the backstretch.
This time around, Schulhofer played down the day's tragic angle. When asked if he was at all wounded by having his win once again marred by such unfortunate circumstances, the trainer merely shrugged and said, "I would feel much better if it hadn't happened."
Bettors had chosen to disregard Lemon Drop Kid's chances, sending him off as a 29-to-1 shot. Lemon Drop Kid had given them plenty of reasons to ignore him prior to the Belmont Stakes. Since winning the Belmont Futurity, a race for 2-year-olds, in November, his only visit to the winner's circle had come in a minor allowance race at Gulfstream Park this winter.
But because of his prized pedigree -- Lemon Drop Kid's grandfather is 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew -- Schulhofer gave the horse a shot at the Kentucky Derby. Against the Derby's crowded field, however, Lemon Drop Kid finished ninth, so Schulhofer withdrew the colt from the Preakness and entered him in the Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont May 23.
Lemon Drop Kid finished third in that lesser stake, but Schulhofer later said that his colt had run "a game race," and decided to give him another crack at the big boys in the Belmont Stakes. Schulhofer followed a similar game plan in 1993: Colonial Affair had finished second in the Peter Pan just two weeks before winning the Belmont Stakes.
Schulhofer deflected credit to Lemon Drop Kid, saying bloodlines are more important than training methods when it comes to running the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes.
"If they can run a mile and a half, they'll run a mile and a half," he said. "You can't make them do it by training them."
During the race, owner Jeanne Vance, who named Lemon Drop Kid after a show horse she worked with before getting into the racing business, cheered and screamed as her horse made his winning move down the long Belmont Park stretch, and cried tears of joy in the winner's circle. But afterward, with the Charismatic saga having sapped much of the good cheer out of the day, Vance, too, bridled whatever bliss she felt at having captured her first Triple Crown race. Instead, she said her thoughts were with Bob and Beverly Lewis, owners of the fallen Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner.
"My heart really does go out to the Lewises," Vance said. "I feel badly for them."
Triple Crown Near-Misses
The 17 horses who won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness only to lose their chance at the Triple Crown in the Belmont Stakes
(listed by year, with Belmont finish; Belmont winner in parentheses):
1932 -- Burgoo King, did not run (Faireno)
1936 -- Bold Venture, did not run (Granville)
1944 -- Pensive, second, one-half length behind (Bounding Home)
1958 -- Tim Tam, second, six lengths behind (Cavan)
1961 -- Carry Back, seventh (Sherluck)
1964 -- Northern Dancer, third (Quadrangle)
1966 -- Kauai King, fourth (Amberoid)
1968 -- Forward Pass, second, one length behind (Stage Door Johnny)
1969 -- Majestic Prince, second, five lengths behind (Arts and Letters)
1971 -- Canonero II, fourth (Pass Catcher)
1979 -- Spectacular Bid, third (Coastal)
1981 -- Pleasant Colony, third (Summing)
1987 -- Alysheba, fourth (Bet Twice)
1989 -- Sunday Silence, second, eight lengths behind (Easy Goer)
1997 -- Silver Charm, second, one length behind (Touch Gold)
1998 -- Real Quiet, second, nose behind (Victory Gallop)
1999 -- Charismatic, third, one length behind (Lemon Drop Kid)
Source: Associated Press