The owners of California Chrome might have had to face the world after the colt fell short of a Triple Crown victory Saturday, but Tim McCoig faced an even tougher crowd after the loss: his wife.
"It's not a good day in my household. I just lost a week's paycheck," the Owings Mills resident said just moments after the Belmont Stakes favorite, who could have become the first Triple Crown winner in 36 years, finished tied for fourth.
McCoig was among the group of people who gathered at Pimlico Race Course on Saturday in hopes of watching California Chrome continue his gallop into history.
Many like McCoig had watched the horse stride closer to the goal at the Preakness a few weeks ago, and cited reasons — whether it was his lineage to Secretariat, his underdog story or "just the way he looked" — to put him at the top of their tickets.
"We were due for this," said McCoig, who lost $5,000 after Tonalist won. "This was supposed to be an easy win. A lot of people won money here today that shouldn't have."
Among the winners were people who said they employed a healthy balance of strategy and emotion.
Leslie and Robert DePont and their friend Anne Stringer placed some "small, sentimental bets" on California Chrome in hopes he would pull off the win for history's sake. But knowing that his win wouldn't pay much, they invested more in a different slate of horses.
Shortly after the race, the three stood planning what to do with their roughly $500 in winnings, having successfully chosen the first- and second-place horses.
"We did want to see him do it, but now we get to go out to dinner," said Leslie DePont of Annapolis.
Jeff Lazaroff of Connecticut didn't bet on California Chrome because he "hates betting on the favorite." But he also had selfish reasons.
"I'm planning to go to all of the races next year, so I want it to be a Triple Crown next year," he said.
Before the race, many believed California Chrome was going to pull off the win.
"There's no other way," said Jim Sanders of Northwest Baltimore, who also bet on California Chrome in the Kentucky Derby and in the Preakness. "He's stronger, faster and he just fits the bill."
As it became clear he wasn't going to win, veteran and novice horse bettors began to express the tinge of doubt they had all along.
"I thought he was going to be a little tired," said Thomas Cooper of West Baltimore. "When they run all three, by the time the Belmont comes, it's always something. I feel sorry for the guy, because I really wanted to see him do it."
The debate at Pimlico soon began to mirror the one taking place in New York: whether horses who don't run the Derby and Preakness should be allowed to enter the Belmont.
"I think he just needed more time to rest up," Cooper said. "That other horse was just more rested. They should all be equally rested."
Many hoped the magic that surrounded the horse would sustain him, even if his endurance couldn't.
"We haven't had a Triple Crown winner in 36 years," said Greg Marshall of Overlea. "And at 60, I don't know I'm going to be around in another 36."