Thursday, June 7, 2012

Another year, another Triple Crown attempt

It's two days before June 9, which is not only my little brother's (30th!) birthday, as well as the 39th anniversary of Secretariat's spectacular Belmont Stakes, and Triple Crown, win (and yes, I torment my poor non-horse-loving little brother with this fact year after year), but also the date of this year's Belmont Stakes.

Most years this wouldn't be a big deal--after all, the third weekend after the Preakness has got to be June 9 every seven years or so. But this year is special because we have yet another Triple Crown hopeful in I'll Have Another.

Unlike recent past attempts, the hoopla surrounding I'll Have Another seems to be rather subdued, despite the ever-growing popularity of social media since 2008. Which suits me just fine! Rather than getting into why this  colt will win, or won't win, I'll instead honor the occasion by briefly noting the past seven failed attempts. Click each link to see videos.

2008, Big Brown: Unlike most, I could never get on the Big Brown truck wagon. My reasons were simple--I didn't like his trainer, Rick Dutrow. I found him distasteful and sleazy, for lack of better words. Dutrow plus Big Brown's catastrophic failure in the Belmont left a bad taste in my mouth. It was never about the horse--he was a good horse, and talented. I only wish his connections were better.

2004, Smarty Jones: After watching this colt win the Rebel and Arkansas Derby, he was my top pick for the Kentucky Derby. He didn't disappoint. Two weeks later, he dazzled in the Preakness, winning by 11 lengths. Smarty Fever swept the nation, and I was 98% sure he would win the Triple Crown. But whether he had a target on his back or jockey Stewart Elliot moved too early, it was not to be.

2003, Funny Cide: You couldn't help but root for this gelding and his connections. Nevertheless, I thought his Derby was a fluke until he won the Preakness impressively. Three weeks later, Empire Maker, future sire of Royal Delta and other good horses, denied Funny Cide the Crown in the Belmont.

2002, War Emblem: In the first Kentucky Derby after 9/11, it was only fitting that a horse named War Emblem should win. At the time, my brother was stationed at Fort Bragg, so this horse and his name had special meaning for me. But his chance at a Triple Crown were over as soon as the Belmont started--and he stumbled to his knees out the gate. We could only hope it wasn't an omen. In hindsight...was it?

War Emblem out the gate in the 2002 Belmont Stakes

1999, Charismatic: Who said claimers couldn't win the Kentucky Derby? This one did three months after running for a 60k tag. Teamed up with D. Wayne Lukas and Chris Antley, Charismatic and his connections were the epitome of the second-chances, feel-good story. When he won the Preakness, the country sat up and took notice--the horse was the real thing! But it wasn't to be. Disappointment turned to disbelief when Antley jumped off Charismatic shortly after Belmont's wire and held up the colt's left fore leg. Charismatic eventually recovered but Antley's story turned tragic after he died from a blow to the head in December 2000.

1998, Real Quiet: Only a year after Silver Charm's Triple Crown attempt was another Bob Baffert-trained colt--Real Quiet. A son of Quiet American and future sire of champion Midnight Lute, Real Quiet came the closest of all to winning a Triple Crown. Losing the Belmont by only a nose, there was no doubt that Baffert's sigh of disappointment was louder than the collective sighs of the millions tuned in to watch the race.

1997, Silver Charm: The first Triple Crown hopeful since Sunday Silence lost the Belmont to the brilliant Easy Goer in 1989, Silver Charm was one of the trinity of Great Grays of the 90s. But Holy Bull and Skip Away didn't have failed Triple Crown attempts resting upon their great shoulders. Furthermore, it seemed almost ironic that Silver Charm was denied the Crown by a horse named Touch Gold.


Anonymous said...

Knock knock.

Who's there?

The DRF and Bloodhorse if you wrote more about this kind of stuff.

L.Williams said...

Great article. I remember wanting Real Quiet to take the Crown so badly!