Michael Kinane had just reined Go And Go to a stop in front of the Belmont Park clubhouse last Saturday afternoon when Dermot Weld, the colt's lanky trainer, took a dozen giant steps across the racetrack, stopped before the mud-spattered horse and rider and announced: "Anybody can win a Derby, but no one has ever done this! No horse ever."
Just five minutes earlier, Go And Go had come bounding off the turn for home to run down Thirty Six Red nearing the eighth pole and, with Kinane flailing at him lefthanded, had drawn off explosively to win the 1½-mile Belmont Stakes by 8¼ lengths in 2:27[1/5]. It was not only the definitive performance of the 1990 Triple Crown series, but Go And Go thus became the only foreign-bred horse in 122 years to win the Belmont Stakes immediately after arriving from Europe.
Only four days before the race, Go And Go had been lolling about in his stall at the Curragh, Ireland's training and racing center outside of Dublin, after having paddled around a swimming pool for his morning exercise. The next day, Wednesday, Weld had him trucked to Shannon Airport and loaded onto a cargo plane bound for New York. Twenty hours later, Raymond Carroll, who doubles as the colt's groom and exercise rider, was bedding down Go And Go in a stall in the quarantine station at New York's Aqueduct racetrack. On the morning of the Belmont, the white-faced chestnut was finally let out of jail and, for the first time ever, galloped around the Big A. A few hours later the colt was standing in the receiving barn at Belmont Park as Carroll talked about him and the race.
"I don't know about his chances," Carroll said. "But he looks very well, and he has a beautiful temperament. I don't know how he'll like the track since it rained—back home he likes a firm turf—but I have my fingers crossed for luck."
June 17, 1990
As things turned out, Go And Go did not need luck any more than he needed a hard, dry track or Lasix, the performance-enhancing, antibleeding drug that had en-snarled the Triple Crown in bitter controversy all spring. Unbridled, a pulmonary bleeder, won the Kentucky Derby with the aid of Lasix, a diuretic whose use is legal in Kentucky. Two weeks later another bleeder, Summer Squall, who finished second in the Derby, won the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico while legally on the drug; Unbridled finished second. Belmont Park appeared to be the perfect venue for deciding both the leader of the 3-year-old division and the winner of the $1 million bonus that goes to the horse who winds up with the best record in the Triple Crown.
But the rubber match never materialized. Horses are not permitted to run on any medication in New York State. And while Unbridled's trainer, Carl Nafzger, decided to risk running his colt in the Belmont without Lasix, Summer Squall's handlers chose to pass up the race and a shot at the bonus. So the last leg of the series was deprived of a showdown between the two best 3-year-olds in the land and appeared to have been reduced to a forum in which the pro- and antidrug forces could blame each other for ruining the Triple Crown. Unbridled won the bonus—all he had to do was finish the Belmont to get the $1 million—but he ended up fourth, beaten nearly 13 lengths.
Go And Go's victory may well have an important impact on U.S. racing. This year's Breeders' Cup will be held on Oct. 27 at Belmont Park, and the Irish colt's Belmont Stakes victory should embolden other Europeans to send their horses to New York this fall to compete against American Lasix-users coming off the drug. It is illegal to race horses on medication in Europe, making New York racing closer to the European game than any other circuit in the U.S. Go And Go is not even among the best 3-year-olds in the British Isles this year. "I picked him for this race because he's a tough, solid horse," Weld said. "We wouldn't consider him a superstar at home."
Weld began seeing what he had last July 31, when Go And Go won his second start, at Galway, Ireland, by 2½ lengths, after running the last two furlongs uphill. "I mean, uphill!" said Weld. "It looks like one of those hills in San Francisco, up towards heaven. The way he quickened away from those horses, I said then, 'He can stay! He can go a distance.' "
Go And Go won his first stake, at the Curragh, in his very next start, and two months later Weld shipped him to Laurel Race Course in Maryland for the Laurel Futurity, a 1[1/16]-mile race that was scheduled to be run on grass until rain forced it to be switched to dirt. To almost everyone's surprise, Go And Go won the Futurity by a head. After he finished eighth in the '89 Breeders' Cup Juvenile, Weld gave him six months off to grow up.
Twenty years ago, before he turned to training, Weld worked as a veterinarian in New York, and there he began to dream of winning the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont. In Go And Go he thought he finally had the colt for it, a good traveler who had some speed. He decided against the Derby—"It was so much easier to fly to New York," Weld said—and opted instead for either the Epsom Derby in England on June 6 or the Belmont. When Go And Go finished fourth in a May 12 race in Ireland, beaten only 4¾ lengths, Weld began pointing him toward New York. "Had he won that last race impressively, he would have gone to Epsom," Weld said.
Weld drilled Go And Go on his all-weather training track and meticulously planned his New York invasion. A week before the Belmont, he fitted the colt with blinkers for the first time—"To make him zone in and concentrate a little better"—and had him work 11 furlongs in the company of two pacesetters. Go And Go dusted the first one, then left the second one reeling as he charged the last three furlongs uphill. "I said then, 'It will take a good horse to beat him,' " said Weld. Three days later he had the colt swimming. "I swim him for psychological reasons. To relax his mind."
Nafzger had seen enough of Go And Go at Laurel last fall. "Who do I fear?" he asked two hours before the Belmont. "Go And Go. Shipping in-from Ireland. Ran good on the dirt at Laurel. Drop in just before the race. Boom! Run. Turn around and leave. I think he's the horse to beat."
Nafzger was absolutely right. In the end, Weld's decision to make a run at the Belmont was a daring and resourceful, one, defying convention and ultimately suggesting that the 1990 Belmont Stakes was something more than another seminar on Lasix. "He's going back to Ireland for the Irish Derby in three weeks, and we'll look at the [Aug. 18] Travers at Saratoga for him," Weld said. "I think it all means that the world is not as big as people think it is."