“In Defeat”

On the 14th of October, 20 years ago today

Two Triple Crown winners met again face to face

Seattle Slew was the favorite; 3-to-5 he would pay

Affirmed was the rival; JC Gold Cup was the race


The track was rated sloppy as they loaded into the gate

A mile and half was the distance, once around the track

The crowd had placed their bets–some with love, some with hate

When two such champions meet, usually one of them does crack


“And they’re off!” came the cry, and Affirmed and Slew

Rattled off six furlongs in one oh nine and two

They say his saddle slipped; I believe it was true

Slew looked home free, and Affirmed was burgoo


But meanwhile Bill Shoemaker, far, far, far in the rear

Was asking all of Exceller, a champion in his own right

As they rounded the far turn, what was that I did hear?

Seattle Slew was shortening stride and in for a real fight


Exceller and Shoe cut the corner and soon made the lead

Many in the crowd wished them “good luck and godspeed”

“Beat that nag!” they screamed; Slew had a mind of his own

And recognizing the problem, he began to atone


They hit the sixteenth pole, Exceller on the rail

Slew on the outside, willing himself NOT to fail

They battled to the wire, the bitterest of foes

And the photo revealed . . . still Exceller by a nose.


Some loved Slew; some hated him; some just loved him not

But in that Jockey Club Gold Cup he showed what he had got

From the highest scribe down to the lowest scab upon the street

The universal verdict was: “He showed true greatness in defeat.”


Decided to take a little break from statistics. I wrote the above back in 1998. I published it (more or less) originally in the “Daily Dispatch,” a newsletter I was editing at that time. I still like it well enough to repeat it here. Think “Casey At the Bat,” only with a slightly different twist at the end.

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