Maybe Bill Mott was reassured by the unofficial Belmont Stakes motto: Fooled 'em again.
His horse, Drosselmeyer, was facing 13-1 odds. Lisa Troutt, wife of Drosselmeyer co-owner Kenny Troutt, noticed that "in all the sports pages I read all week, he wasn't mentioned in one."
But upsets are part of the furniture in the Belmont, jack-in-the-box appearances down the stretch by a thoroughbred roundly ignored in prerace analyses. And Mott found himself surprisingly calm throughout Drosselmeyer's stealthy victory by three-quarters of a length.
"It was strange," said Mott, the 56-year-old Hall of Fame trainer who somehow never had won a Triple Crown race. "I felt absolutely no pressure whatsoever."
Perhaps the decision by Drosselmeyer's management team, Mott and WinStar Farm racing manager Elliott Walden, to replace jockey Kent Desormeaux with Mike Smith, steadied everybody's nerves.
"The people I work for," Mott said, "are so professional. You run and you win, you win. If you get beat, you get beat. Nobody's threatening you. You're here for the horse to do your best. Everybody knows you're trying."
Still remarkably tranquil an hour after the race, his tie with the scores of little horses still knocked at the neck on the hot, muggy day, Mott called it "special" to at last have won a Classic. But he insisted that he "prepared myself not to win these races. I really felt that, when it's time, it's time."
Besides, he kidded, "Everybody says I'd never saddled a Triple Crown winner, but I had saddled a Triple Crown winner before."
That was in 1998, when Walden trained Belmont winner Victory Gallop. Mott recalled that Walden had broken a leg in a pickup basketball game "and I," Mott said, "did saddle Victory Gallop. But that's all I did, put the saddle on him."
Maybe, Mott allowed, if Drosselmeyer - who showed great promise early but didn't earn enough money to qualify for the Kentucky Derby - had won the Derby and the Preakness, "I wouldn't have been able to say this, but it's fun how your feelings cycle around with different horses and different situations. And I was just so calm.
"I got a little nervous when we ran in the Dwyer and the horse looked like he needed more races. But it turned out to be a good plan."
Drosselmeyer had developed foot soreness eight days before the race, and the sandy Belmont track was making it worse, but "we used an aluminum bar shoe during training and soaked him a lot in Epsom's salts." He was back to normal by Saturday.
Mott said he was emotionally cool as Drosselmeyer broke from the seventh post and steadily moved up to sixth, then fifth, then fourth. He was third as the final-turn fracas broke out, First Dude trying to go wire-to-wire and heavy traffic clogging up the track.
"I thought he was in good position," Mott said with a shrug. "There's such a thing as racing luck, and today we had that."