Local horse racing aficionado reacts to Belmont news, recalls past local races
“We had an awful lot of support from the businesses and the county, and without that we never would have been able to do it. That’s a tribute to how much the people here enjoyed [horse racing].”
Pete Pleasant, lifetime Craig resident and former member of the local committee for horse racing, about the success of the Colorado Fair Circuit Racing Association coming to Craig for three weeks every summer.
Triple Crown winners
(Year Horse Trainer)
1919 Sir Barton H.G. Bedwell
1930 Gallant Fox James Fitzsimmons
1935 William Saunders James Fitzsimmons
1937 War Emblem George Conway
1941 Whirlaway Ben A. Jones
1943 Count Fleet Don Cameron
1946 Assault Max Hirsch
1948 Citation Ben A. Jones
1973 Secretariat Lucien Laurin
1977 Seattle Slew William Turner, Jr.
1978 Affirmed Lazaro S. Barrera
The Belmont Stakes run today, but I’ll Have Another will not be racing for a Triple Crown, and will not ever race again.
The Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner was the 4-5 favorite to win the Belmont and complete the first Triple Crown in thoroughbred racing since 1978, but the horse’s trainer, Doug O’Neill, confirmed the horse would not be racing due to a “little problem with his left front leg,” on the Dan Patrick radio show. The late scratch came as a disappointment to members of the horse racing community in Craig.
“That’s a kick in the side of the head to horse racing,” Craig resident Pete Pleasant said. “Having a horse going for the Triple Crown creates a lot of interest, especially among the media, which creates more interest among the general public.
“The TV audience is going to go down and the Las Vegas bookies are going to be disappointed. I would think a lot less money will be bet on that race now.”
He added, however, “Those things happen. Those horses are fragile.”
Pleasant has been in the area all his life, and was heavily involved in horse racing when it came to Craig in the 1960s.
During that era, the state of Colorado organized the Colorado Fair Circuit Racing Association, which sent horses, jockeys and trainers around the state each year starting in May, according to Pleasant. The traveling racers would start in Southeastern Colorado and make their way to cities all over the state, eventually coming through Craig for a few weeks each summer. Races took place at the Moffat County Fairgrounds.
Pleasant recalls the first year for racing taking place in the late 60s, and said he was the track announcer that summer. In the following years, he was a member of the local committee which organized the event, found race sponsors and put together programs for each weekend.
According to Pleasant, the first day of racing in Craig only took in about $8,000 in bets, but it continued to grow and was regularly boasting numbers from $75,000-$90,000 in bets on a given day.
The horse racing weekends in Craig became big enough for restaurants in Steamboat Springs to charter buses to Craig after breakfast on race days, he said.
Eventually, the economy took a hit, the Fair Circuit Racing Association fell apart and racing at the Moffat County Fairgrounds came to an end.
Pleasant doesn’t remember the final year of horse racing in Craig, but the Museum of Northwestern Colorado has photos from as late as 1987 of races at the Fairgrounds.
Despite the abrupt stop to the racing, Pleasant remembers it fondly.
“We had the same group of people involved most years. Everybody had a job to do and everybody did their job,” Pleasant said. “We had an awful lot of support from the businesses and the county, and without that we never would have been able to do it.
“That’s a tribute to how much the people here enjoyed (horse racing). It was a popular thing for the whole area, not just Craig. We’re talking Rawlins (Wyo.), Baggs (Wyo.), Vernal (Utah), Meeker, Rifle. Everybody was into it.”
Pleasant still follows thoroughbred racing and remembers the run of Triple Crown winners in the 1970s, when Secretariat, Seattle Slew and Affirmed won in 1973, 1977 and 1978, respectively.
The 1978 Triple Crown is still the last one to be achieved in thoroughbred racing. I’ll Have Another was the 12th horse to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness since Affirmed won the Triple Crown, and due to the scratch, will be the 12th to fall short at the Belmont.
The Belmont posts at 4:40 p.m. local time. The second and third favorites to win the race before I’ll Have Another’s scratch were Dullahan and Union Rags.