In 2001 and then again in 2011, Ocala experienced Horse Fever when the Marion Cultural Alliance sponsored the life size horses painted or embellished to represent a variety of themes which decorated city streets while raising over 1.75 million dollars for MCA and 35 other local charities.
This week, Horse Fever in Ocala and across the country refers to the excitement many felt as American Pharaoh won the Belmont Stakes on Saturday to become the twelfth Triple Crown Winner, and the first since Affirmed, a Florida-bred thoroughbred, won the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont in 1978.
In the past 37 years, twelve horses had been in the same position as American Pharaoh having won both the Derby and Preakness, but all had fallen short.
Horse racing was ready for another Triple Crown winner, and this year, I cheered for one as well. I couldn’t cheer for California Chrome last year because my loyalty remains with the horses with ties to Florida. I don’t cheer for the Dodgers, or Lakers, or Raiders. I’m not a fan of USC or UCLA or any other California team so I just couldn’t root for California Chrome, a west coast horse, but with connections to Marion County, this Kentucky bred horse seemed perfect for the honor this year.
This print has hung in my parents’ house for years, but they gave it to Sarah and Daniel this year as an Engagement gift, and now it’s missing the latest Triple Crown winner, the one they cheered on last Saturday during their first Belmont as husband and wife. I wonder if this had anything to do with the American Pharaoh breaking the long drought of Triple Crown winners?