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Monday, September 17, 2007

I Liked Cam

- I mentioned the "Belle of Belmont" buttons in honor of Rags to Riches that were distributed to the sparse crowd at Belmont on Saturday. I was surprised to receive such a trinket - it seems so primitive here in the digital age. I was even more surprised when I saw a lot of people wearing it. If she never races again, the button will become a poignant reminder of a(nother) horse with superstar potential prevented by injury from fulfilling its mission to help save our sport.

I don't recall receiving many buttons at the track, except for one, which I still have. In 1983, the Meadowlands staged a showdown between the two top older pacers of the day. Cam Fella was the defending Horse of the Year; but It's Fritz had burst on the scene with a string of dominating wins. This was to be there first-ever meeting, and as I recall, there was quite a lot of anticipation for it...probably as much as for just about any thoroughbred race to be run around here at least since Smarty Jones' Triple Crown attempt. 1983 doesn't seem like that long ago, but harness racing still received its fair share of media coverage then.

Over time, the mind sometimes transforms events as they actually happened, and my recollection was that this was a match race. It wasn't. But it was enough of one in effect that patrons were offered a choice of two buttons as they walked in - 'I Like Cam' or 'I Like Fritz.'

I liked Cam. It didn't look good for the son of Most Happy Fella as Fritz swept by on the turn and opened a solid lead in the stretch. But the champion pacer and his driver Pat Crowe fought on, and unleashed an improbable final surge that carried him by the spent It's Fritz. It's Fritz would never get the better of his rival in two subsequent meetings. Cam Fella won an amazing 30 of 36 races at four that year(!), and enjoyed a successful career at stud as well until 1997, when he was castrated due to testicular cancer.

I found a video of the race on You Tube, which should be of interest at least for any of you harness guys out there. But perhaps of more interest to most readers here is to hear the young track announcer who called the race. The next year, he burst upon the national scene as the voice of the Breeders Cup. (That doesn't give it away, does it?)

4 Comments:

Jim L said...

A Breeders' Cup wager that would rival Megamillions and Power Ball.........a person could pick the winners of each race and then for the Mega Ball or Power Ball equivalent, the order of finish for the Classic of the races. Minimum amount -- 10 cents. Open to all states that have lotteries.

Anonymous said...

Call me primitive, but I love the buttons. I still have mine from King's Swan's retirement and the anniversary of Sectretariat's Triple Crown. I missed the one on Saturday - guess I'll have to go to E-bay.

Anonymous said...

Somewhere I have an old green and white "NY Bets" button from NYC OTB's debut.

Marketing campaign, "NY has the Mets, Jets and Nets, now you can join the Bets".

Steven said...

Alan,
Thanks for the memories. I was at that race with my dad and was 17. My father usually bet for me (under 18) ,but I made my "first" bet and nailed the exacta. Fritz folded at the end. I was in love with racing.
Steven