Don't let the odds fool you.
Sports fans, horse racing punters and tens of millions of casual onlookers are hoping to see history today as California Chrome—which is a 3-to-5 favorite—tries to snag the elusive Triple Crown by winning the Belmont Stakes. The New York racetrack—which boasts the largest horse racing grandstand in the world with room for more than 100,000—is grueling: a mile-and-a-half.
Idaho's Gary Stevens ought to know. He's won the Belmont three times: 1995, 1998 and 2001.
"Move too soon, and you're done. Move too late, and you're done," he said. "This one is going to be a rider's race."
But the last Triple Crown winner (coming in on top at the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont) was Affirmed in 1978—"Saturday Night Fever" was No. 1 on the record charts, President Jimmy Carter was in the White House and Annie Hall won the Best Picture Oscar.
But California Chrome has won six consecutive races, including the Derby and Preakness, with jockey Victor Espinoza in the saddle; and racing insiders say that if California Chrome wins today, his breeding value could skyrocket to $20 million. The co-owners of Boise's Les Bois Park, Larry and Marianne Williams, already own a sire of California Chrome, Lucky Pulpit.
The horses will be at the post today just before 5 p.m.
With thousands of the nation's children and young adults getting set to strap on helmets again this summer in preparation for what has become the new national pastime, the White House today will host a summit on sports-related concussions.
The National Research Council said in 2013 that there was a startling lack of data on concussions—especially in youth sports—as well as a "culture of resistance" among those athletes who avoid self-reporting concussions.
In October 2012, Boise Weekly examined the burgeoning problem, particularly among football players, by talking with Idaho football coaches in the high-school and college ranks.
"My son got two concussions in eighth grade. He finished the season and hasn't played in the last two years since," said Marc Paul, Boise State University's assistant director for sports medicine. "As a dad that loves the sport—and I see so many good things about it—I would love to see him play because of how much he loved it before he got hurt."
A new law, passed by the 2012 Idaho Legislature, states that if an athlete younger than 18 years old "has sustained a concussion or head injury and exhibits outward signs or symptoms of such ... then the youth athlete shall be removed from play." The athlete will only be allowed to return to play once he or she is "evaluated and authorized to return by a qualified health care professional who is trained in the evaluation and management of concussions."
And now, the NCAA, in partnership with the Pentagon, has agreed to a new $30 million study to look at concussion risks, treatment and management. Additionally, $25 million from the NFL will help promote youth sports safety, and a new National Institutes of Health project intends to measure the effects of repetitive concussions.
A letter signed by 50 U.S. senators—none of them from Idaho—was sent to NFL Commissioner Roger Goddell today, urging Goodell to take action on what the lawmakers called the "racism and bigotry" linked to the name Washington Redskins.
"it's time for the NFL to endorse a name change for the Washington, D.C., football team," wrote the senators, all of them Democrats. "The despicable comments made by (L.A. Clippers Owner Donald) Sterling have opened up a national conversation about race relations. We believe this conversation is an opportunity for the NFL to take action to remove the racial slur from the name of one of its marquee franchises."
In February, two Native Americans from Idaho appeared in a two-minute commercial, protesting the NFL"s continued usage of what they said were offensive sports mascots. The ad included Leo Teton and Alexandria Alvarez, both members of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes.
"Cheering for a football team should never include the casual use of a racial slur," said a statement from the National Congress of American Indians. "It is important for all teams and all of their fans that the name of the D.C. team is changed.”
Boise State football fanatics have still another reason to follow the National Football League as well.
The second round of the NFL draft was only minutes old Friday night when the Dallas Cowboys told league elite and a national television audience that they were picking former Boise State defensive end Demarcus Lawrence, the No. 34 pick in the 2014 draft.
Lawrence became the seventh-highest NFL drafted player in Boise State history (offensive tackle Ryan Clady was the highest drafted player in Boise State history in 2008).
In a post-draft press conference, Lawrence told reporters that he grew up in a big Dallas Cowboy fan-household.
"You wanted to be a Cowboy all your life, and now you get to put on that blue and that silver, so it's just amazing," he said Friday night.
Clady will have something in common with two other Boise State alums who also suit up for the Cowboys—defensive end Tyrone Crawford and cornerback Orlando Scandrick.
Former Boise State players are on 12 NFL team rosters: the Chicago Bears, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Arizona Cardinals, Dallas Cowboys, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, Detroit Lions, Carolina Panthers, St. Louis Rams and Minnesota Vikings.
It should be an emotionally charged scene Monday when the Boston Marathon, which has been run every year since 1897, steps off.
The second-largest field in the race's history—36,000 runners—will participate on the first anniversary of a bombing attack near the finish line that killed three and injured 264.
The oldest annual marathon in the world sets out from Hopkinton, just west of Boston's downtown, and curls 26.2 miles to Boylston Street, the scene of the 2013 attack.
Police and security cameras will be out in force and new restrictions, including a ban on backpacks, will mark Monday's event.
A total of 144 Idahoans will be running in this year's Boston Marathon, including 59 runners who call Boise their home. Other 2014 Boston Marathoners will come from Star, Meridian, Idaho Falls, Caldwell, Pocatello, Rigby, Coeur d'Alene, Challis, Hope, Chubbuck, Rupert, Kuna, Eagle, Soda Springs, Moscow, Rexburg, Hayden, Franklin, Twin Falls, Athol, Hauser, Iona and Sun Valley.
Idaho's oldest marathoners will be Robert Jensen and Lowell Hawkes, both 71 years old and both from Pocatello.
Kaitlyn Farrington will return to her Bellevue home Monday, Feb. 24 to a hero's welcome. She''ll be heading home after appearing on the Feb. 19 Late Show with David Letterman, the Feb. 20 Live with Kelly and Michael show and as the special guest of this Sunday's Daytona 500 stock-car race in Florida.
And oh yes, she won the gold medal in the women's halfpipe snowboarding competition at the Sochi Winter Olympics.
This morning's Idaho Mountain Express reports that 24-year-old Farrington will arrive Monday afternoon, Feb. 24, and should immediately take note of a welcome banner flying over Bellevue's Main Street. She's scheduled to receive a key to the city, and there is already talk that a bike path running through town could be named after her.
On Saturday, March 1, the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation is planning to host a party in Farrington's honor.
Farrington's father, Gary, told the Mountain Express that despite all the hoopla, his daughter "will keep her feet on the ground."
That is, until she next gets on a snowboard.
It's a restless weekend for Idaho's Nate Holland as he awaits Monday, Feb. 17, when he'll take to the slopes over Sochi, Russia in his third Olympics. The Sandpoint snowboarder has represented the United States in every Winter Olympics since his specialty—snowboard cross—debuted in 2006. But his journey to Sochi has been rather improbable, after breaking his clavicle earlier this season.
"I'm hoping the third time's a charm," Holland told the Bonner County Daily Bee. "It means a lot to make three Olympics. The first one was amazing, the second one was just as amazing and the third one is surreal."
At 35 years old, Holland has won seven X Games gold medals in his sport, but has yet to step on an Olympic podium.
"An Olympic medal has eluded me," he told the Daily Bee. "But I'm going to stick to my guns and ride away, leave it all on the course."
But Idahoans who want to follow Holland's Sochi journey may want to adjust their alarm clocks.
Men's snowboard cross competition begins at Midnight, Mountain Time on Monday, Feb. 17, with the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals set for approximately 3 a.m. Monday morning.
If you're hoping for another "miracle on ice" in the Olympic men's hockey tournament, you'll need to re-set your alarm clock. With Sochi, Russia, 11 hours ahead of Mountain Time, many of the hockey games are being broadcast live on the NBC Sports Network way before dawn. For instance, in its first game of the tournament, the USA men's hockey team handily defeated Slovakia 7-1, but the game was broadcast at 5:30 a.m.
So here's the schedule for upcoming men's hockey games featuring Team USA and their broadcast times:
Saturday, Feb. 15, 5:30 a.m.—USA vs. Russia on NBC Sports Network
Sunday, Feb. 16, 5:30 a.m.—USA vs. Slovenia
All 12 teams in the tournament will advance to the playoff round, seeded Nos. 1 through 12 based on their preliminary round performance. The top four overall teams will earn a bye to the quarterfinal round.
Tuesday, Feb. 18, beginning at 1 a.m.—Qualification round games on NBC Sports Network
Wednesday, Feb. 19, beginning at 1 a.m.—Quarterfinal round games on NBC Sports Network, the USA Network and MSNBC
Friday, Feb. 21, beginning at 5 a.m.—Two semifinal games will be played on NBC Sports Network
Saturday, Feb. 22, 8 a.m.—Bronze medal game
Sunday, Feb. 23, 5 a.m.—Gold medal game
Meanwhile the USA women's hockey team (featuring Sun Valley's Hilary Knight) ran into their nemesis, Team Canada, on Feb. 12, losing to the Canadians 3-2. If all goes as expected, the two teams will face off again on Thursday, Feb. 20, at 9 a.m. for the Olympic title.