Local men hope to spoil Triple Crown chances



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Posted on May 20, 2014 at 11:22 PM

Updated Thursday, May 22 at 7:37 PM

As California Chrome prepares to race in the Belmont Stakes, the colt is favored to win that race, and with it, earn the esteemed Triple Crown title.

The thoroughbred would be the first Triple Crown winner in more than 30 years.

But two men in the Kentucky Derby stands during California Chrome's win hope the horse loses.

On Tuesday afternoon, Dennis Poppe sat beside his childhood friend, Ed Barker, in the stands at Emerald Downs. Nearly 50 years ago, the two watched horses race nearby at Longacres.

They were just teenagers then, too young to even dream they'd someday own shares in race horses, much less the two horses that could upset the Triple Crown favorite.

On Poppe's 60th birthday, Barker offered his best friend a gift: an ownership share of a race horse. Poppe chose Commanding Curve for his bloodlines as an endurance runner.

 "I said, 'That's the horse I want to have,'" Poppe explained.

In a chance business meeting, Barker learned of another horse named Wicked Strong and decided to buy his own share.

"Just like Dennis, I loved the breeding," Barker said.

The two men never imagined the two horses would soon take them to the Kentucky Derby.

"We were 50-1, one of the longest shots. No one really thought our horse had a chance," Poppe remembered. "I was jumping up and down yelling, 'Come on Curvey! Come on Curvey!"

Commanding Curve placed second behind California Chrome.

Wicked Strong placed fourth.

"What are the chances it happens to both of us in the same year with two different horses?" Barker said.

"We know that it will never happen again for us," Poppe added. "It's been a blur in the last two weeks, for both of us."

After winning the Preakness, California Chrome is training in New York as the favored winner for the Belmont, but he'll have to beat Poppe's 60th birthday present and Barker's chance purchase.

Wynn betting odds had Wicked Strong at 2nd and Commanding Curve at 4th. Then, the horse they favored at third place scratched.

"We believe it's between the two of us to win the Belmont," Poppe said. "We'll be the enemy because all of America wants a Triple Crown and we're going to spoil that party."

It's not about money for the two friends. They don't even plan to bet on their own horses.

"He's got a superstition that when you bet on your own horse it's bad luck," Barker said.

They say horse racing is about a 50-year friendship that's also raced by - and that's a win no matter whose horse finishes first.

"One of life's great moments," Poppe said.