Paul Lo Duca can identify with everyone associated with American Pharoah. He knows how it feels to want a win so desperately that you can see it, feel it and taste it before time. Now a respected television analyst for the TVG thoroughbred racing network, the former Mets catcher still feels the sting of the 2006 National League Championship Series.
"Everyone always asks me what happened in '06. I say I should have a ring on my finger," he said outside the TVG tent just after the day's first race late Saturday morning. His mind still conjures the clear image of Endy Chavez leaping, reaching over the leftfield fence and turning an apparent home run into an out.
"I thought there was no way we could lose the game," he said. "I'm at the point in my life where I'm like, 'It wasn't meant to be.' When he makes that catch and we don't win, it wasn't meant to be."
On the other hand, Lo Duca seemed destined to be in his current line of work. During his 10-year major league career, the four-time All-Star owned horses and kept an intense interest in the industry.
"My first job was shucking stalls when I was a kid and I enjoyed it. I played sports, obviously, when I was a kid but this was our passion, coming to the track on the weekends. I've always loved it," he said, adding that in retirement, he wanted to get into broadcasting. "Five years ago, this came along."
He enthusiastically rooted for American Pharoah to complete the Triple Crown, saying the piece of history would be good for the sport. But he was just as emphatic in predicting a win for the favorite. "I don't know if it's an indictment of all the rest. I don't know if it's Bob's demeanor, just the way he's been acting," he said before the race, referring to Pharoah's trainer, Bob Baffert. "It just seems like he's so even-keeled. He's not worried."
Anyway, on the topic of predictions, Lo Duca is confident that the Mets will make the playoffs. It is his prognostication and his hope. "I grew up a Mets fan," he said. "I tweet 'em, I love 'em.''