Roger and Joyce Locks will be among the mass of humanity expected to cram in
record numbers into Belmont Park on Saturday, but they aren’t coming to witness history.
Rather than seeing racing’s 12th Triple Crown winner and the first in three decades, the longtime Saratoga Springs residents are here for their own victory party.
The Locks are part of the 16-person partnership through the West Point Thoroughbreds syndicate that owns Belmont Stakes contender Macho Again. Winner of the Derby Trial April 26, Macho Again came flying late to finish second in the Preakness, 51⁄4 lengths behind Big Brown, three weeks ago.
“Unfortunately for Big Brown, we feel we’re going to [win],” Joyce Locks said by phone on Thursday. “I’ve seen Big Brown. He is a spectacular, phenomenal horse. He is amazing. He is beautiful. He’s just a great, great horse.
“But this is horse racing, so you never know. We have the opportunity to win. We feel our horse is right up there with him. This just may be his race.”
The Locks left for Long Island Thursday night, and will be at Belmont today, where they’ll get a brief opportunity to see Macho Again at the barn of trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.
Macho Again is trained by Dallas Stewart, who worked with McLaughlin as assistants to Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas. Stewart spent 11 years with Lukas, and was part of three consecutive Belmont winners, from 1994-96.
“You kind of get excited about it. It’s hard to deny the excitement of coming up here and running in this race,” Stewart said. “It’s something you think about every year, just to be part of one of these races.
“We’re very happy with our horse. He’s trained well, he had a good work the other day, he seems energetic and his weight looks good — all the things we look for to stay on the right path. He’s an improving colt, and his last race was very nice. He’s showing he’s got a lot of fight and tenacity, and it looks like he really wants to win a race. We’ll see.”
Sent off at nearly 40-1 in the Preakness, Macho Again is 20-1 on the morning line for the Belmont, which drew a field of 10. He represents the first foray into horse ownership for the Locks, who live less than a mile from Saratoga Race Course.
“We go to the sales, and we go to the track. It seems like we’re always saying we’re going to buy into a horse, and then August is over and we never do,” Joyce Locks said. “It just so happened that this is our first horse, and look where we’re going. We’re just so excited.
“It’s like a dream. People are into horses for how many years, and they don’t get the chance we’re having right now. It’s just an amazing, amazing thing.”
Bred in Florida, Macho Again was purchased for $150,000 as a 2-year-old in training out of the Ocala Breeders’ Sale last February. He didn’t make his debut until
Aug. 15, running second by 21⁄4 lengths in a 51⁄2-furlong maiden race at Saratoga.
“He was here during the summer, which was exciting because he was right down the street,” Locks said. “We could go visit him anytime we want, which was kind of nice.
“This is all so exciting. You can’t explain it to anyone, because it’s not real. It’s unbelievable. West Point is doing a phenomenal job with him. They’re doing their best to win the race, and Dallas is phenomenal. It’s a great group of people, and when we all get together, it’s like a big family.”
West Point founder and president Terry Finley said he expects all 16 partners to be on hand Saturday.
“I’ve been associated with Terry for about 10 years now, and it’s just great to see people be able to enjoy this part of the game,” Stewart said. “It’s the best we’ve got to offer. Some of the people are new, and it’s just great. Coming here has got to be a real thrill for them, I would think.”
Macho Again, who broke his maiden last October at Churchill Downs, has three wins and three seconds in nine career starts. He will be ridden in the Belmont by Garrett Gomez, the country’s top-earning jockey of 2008.
“As it gets closer and closer, it just gets more unreal,” Locks said. “He’s an amazing horse. People don’t talk about him. He doesn’t get enough coverage, as far as what he is capable of doing. He’s a
really good horse. He’s got a lot of spirit, and I really think he has the opportunity to surprise everybody on Saturday.”