Saturday, June 7, 2008

Horses and Flowers

Today was the running of the Belmont Stakes, the last horse race in the thoroughbred triple crown. At the conclusion of the race, the winner was given a blanket of flowers in the winner's circle. It would have gone unnoticed had my daughter not commented on the blanket made of "cottonballs"...I began thinking about the traditions behind the throw.

The first leg of the crown is known as "The Run for the Roses." This is something that is imprinted in my brain -- a phrase with which every horse racing fan is familiar. A blanket of red roses is laid on the winner of this stakes. I learned today that the "white cottonballs" of the Belmont Stakes are carnations and this race is known as "The Run for the Carnations." (Though it seems that at one time these white flowers wmay have been traditionally green.) According to one web site, "The blanket requires approximately 350 carnations, glued to green velveteen spread and weighs between 30 and 40 pounds. The flowers are shipped from California or Bogota, Columbia." The second leg of the triple crown is the Preakness whose flower is "officially" the black-eyed susan. Interestingly, the flowers used in this winning blanket are daisies with painted black centers.

In my research, I also learned that this year's Kentucky Derby / Preakness Stakes winner, Big Brown does not like flower blankets and his handlers won't let them drape him with the flower blankets. If he had won today he would have gone down in history. But, my daughter would never have commented on the "cottonballs" and I would not have posted this. (Apparently, the champion Barbaro didn't like flowers either.)

I plan to order this article to learn more about the whole blanket winning tradition. Though the Internet is great for research. I'll need to continue at the library if I am to delve deeper into this subject. Indeed, the sense of pageantry that flowers add to any event is obvious. Traditions must be rich among the diverse types of celebrations that include them. It would be interesting to research how flowers are included in weddings, are given at the end of performances, are pinned to girl's at the prom. How did these floral traditions get started and why have they become such a vital part of our celebratory consciousness?

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