Kindred: Belmont win a wide-eyed experience

2013-06-12T06:30:00Z 2013-06-12T12:54:51Z Kindred: Belmont win a wide-eyed experienceBy Randy Kindred |

Charlie Pigg is still plowing through voice mails, emails and text messages, replying as best he can.

He is catching up on sleep, too. When the horse you co-own wins a Triple Crown race, the last thing you want to do is go to bed.

So Pigg, 72 years young, was up until 3:30 a.m. Sunday, celebrating a victory that for a few spectacular seconds turned a retired Illinois State graduate from Morton into Jim Valvano.

“I just threw both arms in the air and was yelling at the top of my lungs,” Pigg said of the stretch run of Saturday’s Belmont Stakes. “I was looking for somebody to grab and hug.”

Just like Valvano in 1983, who famously raced around the court in Albuquerque, N.M., after his North Carolina State basketball team shocked top-ranked Houston to win the NCAA championship.

Thirty years later, Pigg’s “One Shining Moment” came courtesy of a 3-year-old colt named Palace Malice, who beat the field and 13-1 odds to win the final leg of the Triple Crown.

Pigg is among six partners who own Palace Malice through Dogwood Stables. After a disappointing 12th place in the Kentucky Derby, trainer Todd Pletcher held Palace Malice out of the Preakness, but had enough faith to enter him in the Belmont.

The result has led to an all-out assault on Pigg’s inbox and cell phone.

“It’s overwhelming to see the outpouring of greetings and congratulations,” said Pigg, a former Caterpillar tax department manager. “I’ve received messages from people I haven’t heard from in a long time. It’s been pretty cool.

“I’ve also had some emotional moments with people I’ve seen face to face.”

One was good friend Dallas Stewart, trainer of Kentucky Derby runner-up Golden Soul. Stewart’s horse finished ninth Saturday, but he didn’t feel much like a loser.

As Palace Malice was making his way to the wire, Stewart had one person in mind.

“A friend who was watching the race with him said Dallas was yelling my name when our horse came in,” Pigg said. “It’s really personal and moving to know I have a lot of people supporting us.”

There were raucous celebrations back here as well. Pigg’s nieces and husbands — Terri and Brad Thede of Normal and Ruth Ann and Mike Petrov of Morton — are “over the moon” with excitement, Pigg said.

They are planning an open house in the near future at the Petrovs’ for their uncle.

“A Palace Malice celebration,” Pigg called it.

There could be others. The horse is tentatively scheduled to run in the Jim Dandy Stakes on July 27 and the Travers Stakes on Aug. 24 at Saratoga Springs, N.Y. If things go well, he is likely to race in the Breeders’ Cup on Nov. 2 at Santa Anita, Calif.

So Pigg’s ride is far from over, though it’s difficult to imagine him taller in the saddle than on Saturday night.

For about an hour at a hotel, he had a private conversation with Hall of Fame jockeys Mike Smith and Gary Stevens. Smith was aboard Palace Malice and Stevens rode runner-up Oxbow a few hours earlier.

Later, Pigg stopped by the barn at Belmont Park for Pletcher’s staff celebration. He was able to visit the horse that made it all happen.

“It looked like the whole barn was celebrating,” Pigg said. “At every stall, the heads of horses were sticking out the door.”

They couldn’t sleep, either.

Randy Kindred is at The Kindred Blog:

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