Tag: California Chrome


Even as California Chrome‘s bid for horse racing’s first Triple Crown in 36 years came to a thudding halt in yesterday’s 146th Belmont Stakes, the outdoor track season swept into full summer swing last Thursday from sea to shining sea with plenty of action on the enameled plain in between.

Eric Avila wins Jim Ryun Festival
Eric Avila wins Jim Ryun Festival

In San Diego, Eric Avila and A.J. Acosta, two former area high school stars who have been beset by bad fortune in recent years, returned to top form to cap off the Jim Ryun Festival of Miles at the San Diego High School track.  Avila blasted a near 10-second PR 3:56.89 to edge out Acosta’s 3:57.07 in front of a small but enthusiastic gathering that came to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Jim Ryun’s first high school sub-4  minute mile, a crowd that included many of track’s former stars from SoCal.

Eric Finan leads four sub-4s in Concord, Mass.
Eric Finan edges out New Zealand’s Hamish Carson (blue), Providence College’s Julian Oakley and Leo Manzano in Concord, Mass.


Back east In Concord, Massachusetts Eric Finan of Team USA Minnesota joined Avila in the sub-4 club, his 3:58.73 leading three other men sub-4 at the 6th Adrian Martinez Classic. New sponsor Hoka One One brought in Olympic 1500m silver medalist Leo Manzano as the star attraction, but Leo could only manage fourth place (3:59.31) in the tightly contested race.



Jordan McNamara captures his second FOM title in St. Louis

J Mac captures his second FOM title in St. Louis in record time

And in St. Louis, Missouri Jordan McNamara of Nike OTC Elite posted a 3:54.27 clocking to take down Leo Manzano’s 2009 event record (3:55.29) in the seventh edition of the Nike Festival of Miles. It was JMac’s second win on the St. Louis University High School track.  He captured his first FOM title in 2011.

In all there were 10 men under 4:00 on the same night, two in San Diego, four each in Concord and St. Louis.  And while all three events showcased excellent competition, giving fans much to appreciate and applaud, what also stands out is the parochial nature of it all. Even the name Festival of Miles shows how blinkered and uncoordinated the sport continues to be.

“The Jim Ryun event looks fun, though I was a little disappointed in the name choice,” wrote Ben Rosario, impresario behind the seven-year old Nike Festival of Miles in St. Louis. “But it is what it is.”

But why is it what it is? (more…)



California Chrome wins the 140th Kentucky Derby
California Chrome wins the 140th Kentucky Derby

The day before last Sunday’s Wings For Life World Run, our broadcast production team met up in the hotel bar in Sunrise, Florida to watch the 140th Kentucky Derby.  To ratchet up our interest we each ante upped $5 then blindly pulled a number to give us something to hang our hearts on.  Even the bartender got in on the act.

Then, amidst various hoots and hollers, we watched 2-1 betting favorite California Chrome pull away down the stretch to earn Churchill Downs famous the blanket of roses.  Juli Benson and her husband Bob had the #5 horse, and graciously accepted the $45 first-place jackpot. My 35-1 long-shot Commanding Curve closed like a David Mamet salesman with good leads to place second, bringing me a $22 dollar payoff.

In the aftermath of the race, however, folks on the other side of the bar asked about the winning time.

“2:03.66,” I reported taking a pull from my decidedly non-Kentucky libation. “Four-seconds off the Derby record set by Secretariat in his 1973 Triple Crown year.”

Why so slow, they wanted to know? That’s an interesting question, actually, especially on a day on which we commemorate history’s first sub-4:00 mile.


Bannister on his way to history's first sub-4:00 mile
Bannister on his way to history’s first sub-4:00 mile

Of course, some of how any race plays out has to do with conditions and the size of the field. In this year’s Derby there  was a backstretch headwind along with 19-ponies stretched across the race track in search of a clean line.  In Oxford, England on May 6, 1954 there was a dying breeze and only seven runners on the Iffley Road track for the mile contest pitting three Oxford men against four British AAA runners.

Another factor in racing has to do with the strategy of the race itself.   In the Derby, as in all the Triple Crown races, time is immaterial, as place is all that counts.  For Bannister’s record attempt the strategy was all about producing the time, and he was assisted by two pacesetters, Chris Chataway and Chris Brasher who towed him through three of the event’s four laps.

In Saturday’s Derby California Chrome stayed close to the pace in striking position before coming free in the final furlong.  Even so, looking at the long list of Derby champions and their winning times, one thing becomes quite clear. While the human mile record has plummeted over sixteen seconds since Sir Roger’s 3:59.4 in 1954, the time it takes a handsomely muscled thoroughbred to gallop the 1.25-mile Kentucky Derby distance hasn’t seemed to budge at all. (more…)