NBC’s NHL Stanley Cup Final analyst told Bob Costas on the network’s Belmont Stakes pre-race show Saturday afternoon, about an hour before the last leg of the Triple Crown was to be run, that California Chrome wouldn’t be making any history.
“For me, I like Wicked Strong,” Olczyk said. “He can sit behind California Chrome and beat him to the punch the last eight of a mile a win.”
Well, not so much.
Wicked Strong and California Chrome finished in a dead heat. For fourth place.
Then again, the decision to add the long-time horse-savvy Olczyk as part of the NBC crossover buildup to the race for his handicapping know-how wasn’t such a bad idea. Even if the one-time Kings player and a member of the last Rangers’ team to win a Stanley Cup had enough in front of him back at Staples Center preparing for Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final broadcast that would be coming on just minutes after the race post-game show ended.
Olczyk’s years of involvement in thoroughbred racing as a full- and part-owner of many horses reaches back to his days as a kid growing up at Arlington Race Track near Chicago, where he currently has a philly named Lavender Patch on his watch. He has said he’s cherished his short but sweet time in Los Angeles in 1996 in part because of his access to Santa Anita and Hollywood Park.
After all, it was a Friday night race card at the now defunct Inglewood track that allowed Olczyk to cash a $497,000 winning Pick 6 ticket in 2003. He told the New York Times recently that he was flying back to Chicago from Las Vegas his flight was delayed. He had been handicapping races all afternoon, got his bet down through an Xpressbet account while on the runway at O’Hare, asked his son to record the races on the family DVR and he watched them once he got home.
And it was Costas who introduced Olczyk to Saturday’s Belmont pre-race coverage as someone who “hit the trifecta at the Preakness” a few weeks earlier.
Olczyk made sure he watched from a TV monitor how the Belmont played out – another of his pre-race favorites, Tonalist, eventually prevail – but he said he couldn’t hear the audio of what California Chrome co-owner Steve Coburn was telling NBC reporter Kenny Rice in an interview that eventually blew up on social media. Continue reading