Belmont brings out Columbia’s horse racing enthusiasts

Saturday, June 7, 2008 | 8:56 p.m. CDT; updated 4:29 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Lonnie Pritchard of St. Louis shouts in disappointment as Big Brown loses his shot at a Triple Crown win at Belmont Stakes on Saturday. Sports Zone at Columbia's Holiday Inn hosted a watch party for the event.

COLUMBIA — Seated comfortably at a four-top booth at the Holiday Inn’s Sports Zone near the Columbia Mall, Ila Irwin, Kim Scholl and Lynn Rossy gathered for an afternoon of horse racing. Amid a subdued crowd of about 25 men and women glued to the big-screen coverage of the Belmont Stakes, the women boisterously discussed the sport of horse racing.

These horses are “incredible athletes,” Irwin said.

The three horse lovers were rooting for Big Brown, the projected favorite to win the Belmont Stakes.

The women said they believed Big Brown had a good chance of winning, especially once they heard that Casino Drive, Big Brown’s major competitor, was scratched from the race.

“You’re kidding,” exclaimed Rossy upon hearing of Casino Drive’s absence.

The issue that stirred up the women’s conversation most , however, was the treatment of the horses. They unanimously agreed that racing a horse at three or four years old is too young; the horses are not fully mature by that age. At the mention of steroid use on Big Brown, Scholl made a quiet gasp of dismay.

Despite the women’s apprehension toward the horses’ treatment, there was a palpable excitement among the group as they waited for the race to begin.

Race time. Gun sounded. The crowd in the bar cheered.

The beating hooves of the horses resonated throughout the bar — an audible manifestation of the tension in the room. The horses were neck and neck, but one pulled away.

Da’ Tara, a long shot, pulled ahead and won the race, ending any hope of a Triple Crown victory for Big Brown.

The crowd grew quiet in a state of shock and took in the upset.

Resigned to the outcome, the women gathered their belongings. On her way out of the bar, Irwin summed up the unpredictable nature of the sport.

“There you go, it’s a horse race,” she said.

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