Patrick Brown of West York, shown neck and neck during a race at PennNational in 1981.
Patrick Brown of West York, shown neck and neck during a race at PennNational in 1981. (Submitted)

A former jockey from West York has done what fellow jockey Victor Espinoza hopes to do on Saturday — win at Belmont Park.

But when Espinoza mounts California Chrome for the famed Belmont Stakes in New York state, he'll be vying for the Triple Crown, something that has eluded horses and jockeys alike for 36 years.

And Patrick Brown thinks the pair have a really good shot at being the first across the finish line.

"All he needs (is) a little racing luck. Chrome has enough gas in the tank to run the mile and a half," Brown said of the length of the track. "So far Chrome has not been asked to run yet. If you watch the Preakness, Victor only hit him twice coming down the stretch."

Brown, who was a jockey for 10 years before he was involved in a career-ending accident, netted more than 800 victories in his career, including a few at Belmont.

The odds: Brown isn't alone in predicting California Chrome will win. Odds makers put the colt as the 3-5 favorite.

Even history appears to be behind the favorite.

California Chrome will be listed No. 2 in the betting program, the same number as 1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat, who won the Belmont by a record 31 lengths while setting a track record for the 1½-mile race that still stands.

The horse Brown said could challenge California Chrome stands at 12-1 odds, the fourth-best out of the 11 entered in the race.


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"The horse I believe that will be his challenger in the stretch is Ride On Curlin. His style of running off the pace is just right for the Belmont," Brown said.

But if California Chrome does win the race, those who bet on him don't stand to walk away with a fortune.

A $20 bet will return just $12, said Joe Kirwan, facility manager at Penn National Off Track Wagering off Route 30 in Manchester Township.

Still betting: That won't stop Jimmy Spells of York City from placing a bet.

"A Triple Crown winner can be a once in a lifetime thing. I don't always bet on a horse, but when I do I always bet on a possible Triple Crown winner," he said. "Being a part of history is worth more than gold."

Kirwan is also expecting other avid racing fans and seasonal fans to turn up at the Off Track Wagering for the big day.

"We're anticipating a really good day," he said. "The noise level is a bit different than what it is in your living room."

Part of the expected high turnout is because of the lure of the big race and the prospects of a Triple Crown winner, he said.

For those not wanting to get hung up in the crowd, the 351 Loucks Road betting parlor will accept bets for the race starting today, Kirwan said.

The ride: Brown, 53, got his start is horse racing by what he calls "dumb luck."

A 98-pound wrestler in his high school days at West York, Brown said his coach, John Toggas, always told him he should become a jockey.

But Brown had his eyes set on joining the Navy until he tore ligaments in his chest. A friend who gave horse riding lessons introduced him to horse trainer Craig Colflesh, starting off his career in the sport.

"He said he would give me a shot. So I started by just mucking stalls. I never rode a horse in my life. I just sort of fell into it," Brown said.

From there he went on to race in Pennsylvania and surrounding states and in Florida.

Despite the cutthroat nature of horse racing, the hard work seven days a week that included dieting to make weight limits and the constant threat of another jockey getting his mount, Brown said, "the race riding is a blast."

"It's a rush. It's like having a rocket between your legs," he said. "I guess it helps if you're a little crazy."

— The Associated Press contributed to this report. Reach Greg Gross at ggross@yorkdispatch.com.