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Me, My Dad, and the 37-Year Triple Crown Drought

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
October 27, 2022 3:02 am

Me, My Dad, and the 37-Year Triple Crown Drought

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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October 27, 2022 3:02 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, in 2020 Ginsberg retired as the Senior Vice President and Global Head of Communications at SoftBank Group Corp, and he served at the highest levels at both Time Warner and News Corp. He’s here to share how the 37-year Triple Crown drought that was broken in 2015 brought with it a flood of memories of Sundays at the race track with his Dad.

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Purchase all free clear mega packs today. ["The Star-Spangled Banner"] This is Lee Habeeb, and this is Our American Stories, a show where America is the star and the American people. Up next, a story from Gary Ginsburg, a retired executive who worked at such companies as Time Warner and News Corp, a big guy in the media business. He's here to share how the 37-year-old triple crown drought that was broken in 2015 brought with it a flood of memories of Sundays at the racetrack with his father.

Here's Gary Ginsburg. At the rim of the stretch, an American Pharaoh may just run for glory as they come into the final for long. And here it is, the 37-year wait is over. American Pharaoh is finally the one! American Pharaoh has won the triple crown!

When American Pharaoh crossed the finish line in Belmont Stakes on June 6th, 2015, becoming the first triple crown winner in 37 years, I cried. After talking with friends who also watched the race, most of us men in our 50s and 60s, I discovered I was not alone. Many of us were overcome by emotion and, as it turns out, mostly for the same reason. We were thinking about our dads.

For a generation of American men born during the Great Depression, racing was much more than a five-week diversion from the first Saturday in May to the first Saturday in June. It was an obsession. And the obsession was shared with us, their children, so that in many cases, horse racing came to define the relationship we had with our fathers and the little free time they had to share with us. For me and for so many of my friends Saturday, the one person with whom we all wanted to share this historic moment was no longer by our side.

The joy and thrill of the race was tempered by a profound sadness. My dad, Erwin Ginsberg, has had four great passions in life, the law, tennis, his family, and thoroughbred racing, though not necessarily in that order. He developed this fascination with horses as a kid in Buffalo during what was arguably the sport's heyday, following the exploits of horses like war admiral and citation. Between the ages of seven and 18, he had already witnessed an astonishing five Triple Crown winners and he was hooked.

He wanted to make sure I got hooked, too. Sunday, the one day of the week he didn't go into his law office, was race day. We'd pile into our Chrysler New Yorker and head from our home in Buffalo to the Fort Erie racetrack in Ontario. Once there, dad would walk me through the intricacies of the racing form, speed ratings, past performances, class levels, before placing a series of exotic bets on the Phillies and Mares travelling the hard-bitten Southern Ontario racer pit.

When he lost, which was more times than not, he'd angrily crumple the betting slips, ending up with a small mountain under his seat by the end of the day. That horse, named Secretariat, is the reason why one of the greatest crowds in horse racing history is turned out here at Belmont Park in New York. But we were in front of our Zenith TV for the best race of all, the 1973 Belmont States. Secretariat had already run the fastest Kentucky Derby and Pregness in history and came to the race of champions as their prohibitive favorite. For my dad, it represented the best chance to end a 25-year triple crown drought. My 11-year-old self sensed the moment's historic significance, so I brought my tape recorder.

Move, move! Listening to that cassette today, I can hear the tension in my father's voice as the horses make their way to the starting gate. He yells at me to move away from the screen, though the race is still a minute from post.

Everybody's in line and they're off. Then the race starts, and it quickly becomes a two-horse contest, with Secretariat pulling away after the half-mile pole, required at first that the silence breaks when I shout, he's going to win! My father shushes me, and we both go quiet again until Secretariat rounds the final turn. Secretariat is widening now. He is moving like a tremendous machine. My father starts repeating, oh, my God, oh, my God. The Secretariat is all alone. He's out there almost a sixteenth of a mile away from the rest of the horses. Well, I'm unable to control my prepubescent excitement and begin screaming again at the screen. Here comes Secretariat to the wire, an unbelievable and amazing performance.

He hits the finish 25 lengths in front. ["The Secretariat of the Year"] In the years that followed, we watched Seattle Slough and Affirmed win their triple crowns and continued our Sunday traditions at the track, eventually with me adding to the mountain under our seats thanks to my paper route earnings. Then I left Buffalo for college, law school, and life in New York, and another triple crown drought set in. A decade ago, my father found out he had Alzheimer's. His mom, dad, and brother had all had the disease.

He had feared it his entire adult life, and now he was to suffer the same fate. He was forced into a retirement he never wanted, but his love of horses endured. Three summers running, I took him to the Saratoga race course until the betting became too complicated for him. But the Belmont still held a special place. Even as his brilliant mind declined, twice he managed to travel by himself from Buffalo to New York with hopes of witnessing one more triple crown alongside his son, and twice we were denied. Standing side by side watching first Smarty Jones and then Big Brown lose in heartbreaking fashion were among the happiest moments of my dad's retirement and of my adult life. ["The Secretariat of the Year"] My face still flushed from crying. I called my mom and Buffalo to see if dad had watched. No, they hadn't watched the race.

He wouldn't know a horse from a rabbit, she said. Instead, they were sitting at the table having dinner. My father oblivious that his 37-year wait for another triple crown winner was over. I started to cry all over again.

And a great job on the production by Greg Hengler and a terrific father-son story. We love those stories. You're on Our American Stories. My father Irving had four loves of his life, the law, tennis, his family, and thoroughbred racing.

I'm not sure what order that was in. The story of Gary Ginsburg, his father, and the triple crown his father missed here on Our American Stories. Here at Our American Stories, we bring you inspiring stories of history, sports, business, faith, and love, stories from a great and beautiful country that need to be told.

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