There’s a thickening “air of inevitability” around the notion that California Chrome will soon become the first Triple Crown winner since the Carter Administration, writes Joe Drape in the New York Times. But the greatest obstacle facing the 3-5 morning-line favorite is not to be found among the 10 other horses racing at the Belmont Stakes this afternoon.
Can the colt overcome the Curse of Mamie O'Rourke?
That's the "Mamie" who is the heroine of "The Sidewalks of New York," the sing-songy 1890s tune that begins "East Side, West Side, all around the town." "Sidewalks" was the Belmont's post parade song until it was abruptly jettisoned in 1997 for the more contemporary—if bombastic—tempo of Frank Sinatra's recording of "New York, New York." And it is "New York, New York" that has remained Belmont's answer to "My Old Kentucky Home" and "Maryland, My Maryland"—apart from a 2010 experiment with the self-absorbed dreadfulness of "Empire State of Mind" (whatever happened to the adage about doing anything as long as you don't scare the horses?).
When Affirmed, the last Triple Crown winner, took the track in 1978, it was the venerable "Sidewalks" that serenaded the field to the post. With all subsequent Belmont bids by Derby and Preakness winners frustrated by near misses, crippling injuries, and jockey miscues, the Triple Crown dry spell now exceeds by a full decade the quarter-century gap that separated Citation's trifecta in 1948 and Secretariat's in 1973. One common explanation to this unprecedented and mystifying record of prolonged futility: Belmont's decision to drop "Sidewalks.” In the run up to this year's race, the "curse" supposedly triggered by the rejection of Mamie has figured in reports from both the Washington Post and the New York Times.