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Summing had been fitted with protective bandages, brushed and rubbed to a coppery sheen, and now his groom, Andrés Rabanal, closed the gate on his stall and flipped off the light switch. The champagne party in Barn 59 at Belmont Park, in front of Stall 61, was winding down last Saturday evening, and there was only one more detail that needed tending to. Rosemary Rivezzo, Summing's 56-year-old hotwalker, straightened the blanket of white carnations—the one that Summing had worn into the winner's circle after the Belmont Stakes, almost two hours earlier—over the webbing in front of the bay colt's stall. From the back of the stall there came a rustling as Summing did a quick circuit of his pad and stepped to the gate. He sniffed at the carnations like a man smelling a boutonniere in his lapel, then nibbled tentatively at a flower.
"Don't let him eat his carnations!" cried a voice.
"Oh, he can eat 'em if he wants," said Rivezzo. "He earned 'em, didn't he? He earned 'em, he can eat 'em."
Earned them he had—and $170,580 to boot—in the two minutes and 29 seconds it took him to dispatch 10 other 3-year-olds, including Triple Crown candidate Pleasant Colony, in the 113th running of the mile-and-a-half Belmont, the last, the longest and the strangest of the 1981 Triple Crown races. Summing up and won it in the last half-mile after Jockey George Martens wisely opened what turned out to be an insurmountable lead on the far turn. In the last 100 yards, when Highland Blade made a furious run at him. Summing fought back doggedly to beat Blade by a shrinking neck. Pleasant Colony, who had won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness and was the 4-5 favorite to become the 12th Triple Crown winner, finished with wet sails and wound up third, a length and a half behind Highland Blade.
"It's a tough game, pal," said John P. Campo, the outspoken trainer of Pleasant Colony, back at the barn. "Win some and lose some. You can't make any excuses for him. The best horse won. What did we get beat by? A neck and a length and a half? That's no disgrace."
To most of the 61,106 horseplayers who witnessed the race and let Summing slip off at 7-1, the Belmont was a series of surprises, a strangely paced, weirdly raced contest that began as a hesitation waltz, came alive in Summing's one burst of speed and ended with the pop and fury of whips in the final breathtaking yards. Summing's trainer, 59-year-old Luis Barrera, nearly fainted after the horses hit the line, but his swoon was as much the result of the heat and fatigue, he says, as watching his horse win. In fact, Barrera had been exhorting people all week to believe in his horse—"He's a big, big contender," Barrera said Saturday morning. "He's got a good shot to win"—while Martens, a fresh-faced 22-year-old rider who grew up around Belmont Park, was making bold prophecies, telling friends unqualifiedly that he would beat Pleasant Colony and win his first Belmont Stakes.
Just three months ago such confidence in Summing's ability to go a mile and a half would have seemed fantastic. He was a nervous, flighty colt who left the gate as if it were a burning barn, charged for the lead and resisted fiercely all efforts to restrain him. Headstrong and speed-crazy, he seemed destined to make his living as a dash man. "He was overactive," says Tommy Barrera, Luis's 34-year-old son, who assists his father and helps exercise the horses. "Whenever he got excited in the gate, he'd come out screaming—a quarter in 22, a half in 45. He'd get overanxious and start ramming the gate. At Saratoga last year he reared up and put both front feet over the top of the gate. We started schooling him, but for a long time it didn't seem to have any effect."
It didn't all last year. Summing won only two of eight races in 1980, and $36,970, mostly showing early lick and then tiring. When he finally broke his maiden on Sept. 1. at Belmont Park, incidentally, the colt who finished sixth, 16 lengths behind Summing, was Pleasant Colony.
Summing had his problems aside from impetuosity. He bucked his shins three times last year and was laid up a while with a cough. It wasn't until this past spring that Luis and Tommy began to make an impression on the horse. The colt's transformation during the last three months has been remarkable. That it was engineered by two Barreras is hardly so. The Cuban-born Luis comes from one of the most accomplished families of horsemen in America. Since his oldest brother, Angel, emigrated here in 1933 and became a trainer, four other Barreras have followed him—Luis, William, Oscar and Lazaro—to make it as horsemen. The most prominent of the brothers, Laz, trained Triple Crown winner Affirmed as well as the Derby and Belmont winner Bold Forbes.
One of the first owners to send horses to Laz was Charles T. Wilson Jr., 63, an industrialist born in New York and educated at Choate and Yale who now lives in Mexico City. Brother Luis trains Summing for Wilson, who has a small stable, only three horses, but has been breeding for years. "When I was 8 years old I had a Shetland pony named Dixie," Wilson says. "And I had a friend who had a 'gelding' named Tony. We turned them out together one year, and the next year the pony produced a foal. My Catholic friends thought it might be an example of immaculate conception. I myself guess he wasn't a gelding."