The Triple Crown consists of three big races: the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes. The races occur in Churchill Downs in Louisville, Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore and lastly, on the border of my home borough of Queens, in the Nassau county town of Elmont.
Despite having the final leg of the thoroughbred race, and what is considered the most demanding race of the three in close proximity to my whereabouts, I can’t say that I grew up interested in horse racing. I’ve paid more mind to it in the last decade, primarily because of Trator, who truly loved the event and appreciated a mint julip. If anything the races make me think of my friend who I miss dearly. We had an especially good time years back at the appropriately titled Churchill’s in Rockville Centre, where we got hammer smashed face and placed bets on horses. Trator won some money. I did not. Trator had to school me since words like “trifecta” and “exacta” meant nothing to me. I don’t usually bet or gamble, but once in a blue it’s fun.
Last year, the longshot Rich Strike, with 80 to 1 odds, won the Derby. The day before Ethereal Road was scratched, allowing for the 21 horse to join and upset the race. I can’t say that I would have been present but I can guarantee if Trator was still with us, he would have been somewhere betting heavy on Rich Strike. XXI is our crew, our tight knit groups of friends, our family, for better or worse, and no distance or time apart changes that. I learned of the win and the numerical significance after the fact, but wish I’d known sooner.
The Kentucky Derby was yesterday and the number 8 horse won. The name of the horse was Mage. I received a few texts about this particular horse, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have known.
Mage was the tag name of a childhood friend, someone I was once very close with but as time went on, and for reasons I won’t get into here, we lost touch. In July of 2021, Mage overdosed and was in a coma until he passed on August 10th.
I was driving back home from a family party when my phone started to blow up with friends who had just made a little coin betting on our old pal. I knew I should have asked someone to place a bet for me. God damn it!
I answered the first call, “He fucking won, didn’t he?” That he did, at 15-1 odds. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t make me smile. I had been so angry and very critical of him over the years, but the animosity is gone now and I spent last night doing shots of Powers, thinking about our youth, and reflecting on the memories we made collectively, good and bad.
Another interesting connection, albeit purely coincidental is that Mage grew up on 149th street, and a few blocks down heading toward Flushing, you can find Memorial Park and PS. 21 where we spent a lifetime hanging out and causing trouble on and off that same street. Mage won the 149th Derby. Way to go, man. It might be the only thing you ever won.
As you get older, especially with families and careers, it’s hard to be as close as you once were with your boys, with anyone for that matter. The insanity of the last three years didn’t help connectivity either. The group chats and FaceTimes help but it’s not the same. Tell the people who matter to you that they matter, and maybe it’s time to go out for events like the Derby, or for anything just to get the fellas together, cause it’s going fast, and don’t forget to always bet on anything referencing the team. Love you, guys.
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