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Will There Be A Triple Crown Winner This Year?

By Steve Davidowitz | Within seconds after I’LL HAVE ANOTHER caught front running BODEMEISTER in a thrilling renewal of the 137th Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on Saturday, thoughts immediately turned to the 34-year quest for a Triple Crown winner.
 
Can I'll Have Another do what only 11 horses in history have done -- win all three races at the three different tracks in a span of five weeks? Or will the son of Travers' winner Flower Alley be just one more horse added to the list of "only 11 other horses"...the list of those who came out of the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes with victories, only to lose the Belmont Stakes?
 
This year's Belmont Stakes is brought to you by The Number 11
 
For those who want to get ahead of the reams of material that will be published about the "11 who made it" and the "11 who did not," here are the two lists that cover the ones who a) raced themselves into the history books, and who b) were very close, yet were tripped up by the extra demands of the task...
 
11 TRIPLE CROWN WINNERS:
 
SIR BARTON, 1919.
GALLANT FOX, 1930.
OMAHA, 1935.
WAR ADMIRAL,1937
WHIRLAWAY,1941
COUNT FLEET, 1943
ASSAULT, 1946
CITATION, 1948
SECRETARIAT, 1973
SEATTLE SLEW, 1977
AFFIRMED, 1978
 
Key facts about a few of the above horses who helped the Triple Crown evolve as we know it:
 
SIR BARTON won the 1-1/4 mile Kentucky Derby and four days later won the Preakness which was run at 1-1/8 miles, not the present 1-3/16 mile distance. Before he went on to win the Belmont Stakes, which was run at 1-3/8 miles -- not its present 1-1/2 mile distance -- Sir Barton won the Withers at one mile 10 days after his Preakness score, ostensibly to stay sharp in an era when horses certainly were sturdier than they are today. GALLANT FOX actually won the Preakness at its present 1-3/16 mile distance on May 9, eight days before he won the 1-1/4 mile Derby -- in a year when the dates were switched. After winning the 1-1/2 mile Belmont Stakes on June 7, Charles Hatton, the national columnist for Daily Racing Form, labeled the accomplishment as the "second sweep of the American Triple Crown." This was the first time anyone ever linked these three races together and we now know how the label stuck.
 
As most might remember, the only horse to finish second in all three Triple Crown races was ALYDAR, who ran three strong races to his arch rival AFFIRMED, the last horse to complete the elusive sweep. Actually, it is a little known fact that there have been 50 different horses who have won two of the three Triple Crown races dating back to CLOVERBOOK in 1877; he won the Preakness and Belmont Stakes. There have been 21 horses who won both the Derby and Preakness dating back to BURGOO KING in 1932.
 
But since Affirmed completed his sweep in 1978, here are the 11 who won the Derby and the Preakness but were unable to win the Belmont Stakes:

SPECTACULAR BID, 1979.
PLEASANT COLONY, 1981.
ALYSHEBA, 1987.
SUNDAY SILENCE,1989.
SILVER CHARM, 1997.
REAL QUIET,1998.
CHARISMATIC, 1999.
WAR EMBLEM, 2002.
FUNNY CIDE, 2003.
SMARTY JONES, 2004.
BIG BROWN, 2008.
 
Key facts about some of the above who just missed racing immortality:
 
ALYSHEBA, SUNDAY SILENCE and REAL QUIET were each defeated in the Belmont Stakes by the horse that finished second to them in the Derby and Preakness. Bet Twice beat Alyseba, who finished fourth in the 1987 Belmont; Sunday Silence lost to Easy Goer in the 1989 Belmont and Victory Gallop made up four lengths in the stretch to win the ’98 Belmont over Real Quiet by less than an inch! CHARISMATIC finished third to Lemon Drop Kid in the ’99 Belmont and broke down at the finish line. He was saved for breeding purposes by the gallant efforts of jockey Chris Antley. BIG BROWN was pulled up on the final turn in the 2008 Belmont won by the obscure Da’Tara when Big Brown’s jockey Kent Desormeaux did not like the way his mount was traveling. Desormeaux said he just wanted to save Big Brown from what had occurred to  Charismatic. Later, while no no injury was discovered, any fair examination of that Belmont made it clear that Big Brown was not running well enough to finish in the money, much less win the race.
 
As for this year's Triple Crown bid, Bodemeister will go back to California for a much needed rest and will not try to turn the tables on I'll Have Another -- at least not until they meet later in the year. Frankly, while I'll Have Another certainly has developed into a top quality performer, Bodemeister turned in two of the best second place finishes in Triple Crown history.
 
The competition that will face I'll Have Another in the Belmont Stakes on June 9 probably will include:
 
DULLAHAN, who was a rallying third in the Derby and skipped the Preakness. UNION RAGS, a classy colt trained by Michael Matz who endured a very rough trip in the Derby and also skipped the Preakness ROUSING SERMON, third in the Louisiana Derby and a respectable eighth despite traffic problems in the Derby. ALPHA, second in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct in April and a non threatening 12th in the Kentucky Derby, who also skipped the Preakness. OPTIMIZER, 11th in the Derby and 6th in the Preakness. MARK VALESKI, who skipped both the Derby and Preakness and won the 1-1/8 mile Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont May 12.
PAYNTER, a lightly raced, extremely talented son of Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Awesome Again, trained by Bob Baffert who was second in the Derby Trial stakes at Churchill, Apr. 28. Also, at Pimlico on the Preakness undercard Saturday, Paynter won a 1-1/16 mile allowance race in his foirth lifetime start by 5-3/4 lengths to earn a very high 106 Beyer Speed Figure. That was just three points slower than the number earned by I’ll Have Another and Bodemeister in their gut wrenching, fantastic Preakness.
 
Others under consideration for the Belmont include: recent allowance winner ATIGUN; UNSTOPPABLE U, winner of his two starts to date including a Belmont allowance race at one on Apr. 27; STEALCASE, who was third in the Derby Trial Stakes; STREET LIFE, sixth in the Wood and third in the Peter Pan and the maiden winners FIVE SIXTEEN and  GUYANA STAR DWEEJ.
 
At the bottom line, I'll Have Another looks poised to add his name to a list of 11 talented Thoroughbreds before him. However, the question as to which list of 11 he will join is not entirely clear at this time.
 
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