UGA’s Triple Crown connection

Published 7:00 pm Wednesday, June 14, 2017

By now, most everybody knows, even those not into horseracing, that the headliner thoroughbred events are over, there was no Triple Crown winner and one of the most exciting races in Belmont history took place Saturday when Tapwrit, in a come-from-behind-finish reminiscent of Arnold Palmer in the early 60s, claimed first prize. There is a University of Georgia connection with Tapwrit.  It is a feel good story.

Vernon Brinson, Bulldog baseball catcher in 1958-59, is a minority owner of the gray colt which stirred the crowd of 60,114 by overtaking Irish War Cry in a pulsating rush that upset the favorite.   When Vernon showed up at the winner’s circle on network television, joining him was his pretty granddaughter Caroline Brinson, who just finished her career with the Lady Dog’s tennis program.  (Also in the group were Patricia, his wife, her daughter Emily Webster and Caroline’s brother Blake).

It has been a heady spring for Vernon who began making treks to Athens dating back to February for the dedication of Georgia’s new Indoor Athletic Facility.

He spent a week here for the NCAA tennis tournament, “loving every minute of it although our Bulldog teams didn’t advance far enough.”

He has been a generous contributor to the Bulldog program since becoming  established in business in New Orleans where he has served as President and Chairman of the Sugar Bowl and is a loyal supporter of the classic D-Day Museum.

Word has already been distributed in the cyber world that there were abundant shouts of “Go Dawgs,” in the Brinson party as the sun was setting on Belmont.   “We are quite giddy,” he said on the phone after the race.  “Racing is so exciting to begin with and to be involved with a horse which wins a Triple Crown race just makes the experience over the top.”

Vernon, who has many friends in sports, including all the Georgia coaches, Bob Pettit, longtime NBA star with the Hawks, Archie Manning, Fran Tarkenton and who often interacted with and hosted Arnold Palmer at his home in Ponte Vedra during the Players Championship, can now count Todd Pletcher, the highly successful thoroughbred trainer, as one of his close friends.   Don’t be surprised if you see a “G” on Tapwrit’s racing silks before the end of the year.

Loran Smith is Executive Secretary, Georgia Bulldog Club.