Steve Haskin Belmont Feature: Riders on the Storm (Cont.)

"I had mixed feelings," Sterling said. "Some good, some bad. Sure, it would have been nice to stay on him, but what can you do? I didn't surprise me he ran so big. His race in the Illinois Derby really impressed me."

At Evangeline, the jocks all yelled over to Theriot after the race, "Hey, that's your horse." Theriot, like Juarez could only imagine what might have been. "It would be great to see him go on and win the Triple Crown," he said. "After what's happened with the horse, and knowing I could have gone up to Chicago to ride him, I've decided to take chances and not be afraid anymore. I'm going to move my tack to Churchill Downs. Who knows, maybe trainers there will see that I once rode War Emblem and they'll give me a shot."

Before the Preakness, Espinoza came to Hawthorne to ride and sought Juarez' advice. "He asked me if I thought the horse could rate behind other horses," Juarez said. "I told him I didn't think he could, because the one time they tried at Fair Grounds it didn't work. But I did tell him you can keep him off the lead, as long as you're up close, laying right off another horse and not choking him. And that's just what happened in the Preakness."

While Sterling watched the Preakness at Hawthorne, Juarez watched at home this time, but expects to be back in the jock's room at Hawthorne for the Belmont.

On June 8, War Emblem will attempt to become the 12th Triple Crown winner in racing history. A huge throng will converge on Belmont Park. Fans will be screaming. The big track will be alive with electricity. All eyes will be on a fiery black colt who is unable to pass a vet's exam and his Mexican rider, who once drove a bus for a living.

Few eyes will be on Alfredo Juarez, Jamie Theriot, and Larry Sterling. Destiny had passed them by, and they can now only dream of what might have been and take satisfaction in having touched potential greatness, albeit ever so briefly. For them, the Belmont Stakes, the Triple Crown, and War Emblem exist in a world far beyond their comprehension. Right now, they have other horses to ride and other races to win.

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