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At The Track June 9, 2004

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The Nation in Mourning

When Birdstone collared and passed Smarty Jones in the last 10 seconds of the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, it was more than a burst bubble. Bettors at Les Bois Park suffered total deflation. It was a dirigible. It was the Hindenburg. Oh, the equinity!

We have never rooted so hard for a 1-to-5 shot in our lives, and it wasn't about the money—a $2 win ticket would have only paid $2.40. Smarty Jones is a great horse who ran a great race, but Birdstone also ran a great race on Saturday and won, after racing a mile-and-a-half, by approximately 15/100ths of a second. A lot of people got very excited about Smarty Jones in the weeks leading up to Saturday's race and a lot of people were deflated in the final strides.

And this is racing. Racing remains an eternally difficult game. A lot of people who were excited and who were deflated don't know that some people do this every day. Although many of us were dejected over the outcome of the Belmont, the human connections to the 22 horses that didn't win Saturday's three Les Bois Park stakes races feel a different disappointment. But they will work hard to ready their horses for upcoming races, and they will hope and pray that they are not disappointed again.

Next year's apple-of-the-country's-eye might only now be training for its first race ever. One year leads to the next, and one race day leads to another, which brings us to today and the Wednesday, June 9, race card at Les Bois Park. First post is at 5:45 p.m.

The Winning Colors Stakes—named for the horse that Gary Stevens rode when he won his first Kentucky Derby—highlights the card (Idaho-bred fillies and mares, seven furlongs). Thrill After Dark has recent romps over all but one of tonight's competitors. Somer Wonders, the 9-year-old winner of two Idaho Cup races (2000 and 2001), faces Thrill for the first time. Somer Wonders has not raced since her runner-up finish in 2002's Idaho Cup, and the time away could seriously compromise her chances. Look for Thrill After Dark to prevail at low odds, followed by Cheese Puff or Heyshe'satrader, who defends her 2003 Winning Colors triumph.

Overall, the card looks like a favorites-player's dream. In the first, Stylus Intent at 2-to-1. Max X at 5-to-2 in the second. Mini Me at 5-to-2 in the fourth.

Our first chance for a longshot bet is in the fifth, where 10-to-1 Star in a Hurry could post the upset. She found herself stuck outside of a fast pace around the turn on May 26, and could not make up the extra ground. She should be better tonight coming from the No. 2 post.

The eighth race might be the money-race of the day. The Wine King might have won his first race of the year had not Rakhmones leaned on him. Sir Bovary won here last year and then went on a five-race win streak "in the bushes" (Burley to Blackfoot to Idaho Falls). Ryjilla buried Max X in his first start of the year. Peekachoo and Smoken Pass You both won their first starts of the year. And Street of Gold has two solid third-place finishes. It's wide open, but make sure that Smoken Pass You, at 6-to-1, is a part of your quinella box.

Rumor has it that a deal is struck and that beer and other libations will be available again at Les Bois Park beginning tonight. Are happy days (and early evenings) here again? Phone up the track to verify before you come out if you need to know (376-7223).

Racing continues at Les Bois Park on Saturday, June 12, at 5:45 p.m. and Sunday, June 13, at 2 p.m. Both days feature trials for American Quarter Horse Association championship races.

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