It has been 37 years since there has been a Triple Crown winner. All it takes to accomplish the feet is to win three races in a row. Aside from qualifying for the Kentucky Derby, there is no special requirement to winning the Triple Crown except winning those three races. A horse could win it and then lose in a claiming race next time out; he is still a Triple Crown winner. Secretariat, the greatest ever to run lost his final prep race before making his Triple Crown bid, he then lost another race later that year. Yet he won those three races, (actually he owns the fastest times run for all three races) the Triple Crown.
The last horse to win it was Affirmed in 1978. He nosed out a very game Alydar one of the most exciting Belmont Stakes ever. Seattle Slew did it the year before, which made for three Triple Crown winners in the 70’s. The seventies were called the ‘Golden Age of horse racing’ for that reason. In 1979 Spectacular Bid was poised to make it three in a row when with a sixteenth of a mile to go he was over taken for the lead and tired to finish forth.
Then that was it.
It’s been 37 years since the last Triple Crown winner.
Since then there have been five different presidents. The Soviet Union collapsed. In the late 70’s the idea of home computers was just beginning to become a reality. Today most people carry the capabilities of a home computer in their pockets. Athletes who were born at the time like Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowinski, Manny Pacquio, and Chad Ocho Cinco are either retired or are on their last days.
At that time the Boston Red Sox hadn’t won a World Series since 1918. They were going into their 61st year mired in the ‘curse of the Babe’.
The Chicago Cubs drought hit the three quarters of a century mark.
The ‘curse’ took the streak to 86 years before breaking it in 2004. Since then they’ve accomplished the feet three times.
Unfortunately for Cubs fans the closest they ever got was a nightmare 8th inning during a game six NLCS set off somewhere between Moises Alou and a poor unassuming fan.
Speaking in terms of baseball and droughts. The national pastime has the honor of handing out the ‘other’ Triple Crown (HR’s RBI’s and batting average) that accomplishment ran its own dry spell of 45 years before Miguel Cabrera broke it in 2012.
As for horse racing, in the 37-years there have been twelve horses that have gone into the Belmont Stakes looking to become the next Triple Crown winner. That is around 33 percent of the time. This often enough that a horse would step up and win the race even by chance. Statistically horses biding for the Triple Crown fair pretty well. If you bet on them only to show you cashed in seven of those twelve races, although you most likely would be in the red. If you eliminate Big Brown who technically did not finish and I’ll Have Another who never even ran, the only others to not hit the board were; Alysheba, War Emblem, and California Chrome.
If anything, fans have been spoiled by even having so many chances to witness a possible Triple Crown winner. For something so difficult to achieve this should not appear so easy to get to.
Any trainer will gladly talk about the difficulty they face in keeping any horse healthy and sound let alone maintain the ability to compete and win at the highest levels. Perhaps the Preakness is too close to the Derby, which eliminates the serious contenders who ran in the Derby. Then there is the possibility that the sixteenth of a mile shorter distance of the Preakness is too close to the distance of the Derby. Thereby only favoring the running style of the Derby winner. But for whatever reason, the mile and ½ of the Belmont track is the great equalizer to any pretender going for history.
It is that very obstacle that legitimizes winning the Triple Crown. There are no random Triple Crown winners, and that’s a good thing. Just as there will never be a baseball player who accidentally wins baseballs Triple Crown. Just as no average baseball player wins that award because he got hot at the right time, there should never be a horse that just happened to win it because they ‘peaked at the right time’.
The Belmont stakes has become known as the ‘test of champions’ and for very good reason.
Aside from the obvious reason, it is the ‘Belmont’ in Belmont Stakes that puts it over the top. Belmont Park stands alone as the only mile and ½ oval in North America. When seen in person Belmont Park give off a vibe similar to seeing the Grand Canyon, and one that makes any other track look like a quarter horse bullring.
It is this reason that many experts label the Belmont a jockey’s race’, or perhaps more appropriately an ‘anti-jockey’ race. The size of the track can mislead a jockey into thinking the finish line is closer than it appears and can confuse a jockey into making a premature winning move.Since that day in 1977 when Affimed nosed out Alydar to win the Triple Crown, the sport has been in a steady decline. Many people say a Triple Crown winner is what horse racing needs to bring it back, there’s probably nothing further from the truth. The fact is people today have more connection with a gambling app on their iphone than they ever will with a horse, and all the Triple Crown winners in the world wont help that. However one thing that people love to be a part of and will gravitate to is history, and on June 6th American Pharoah will once again give people who will not watch another horse race all year a chance to witness history. Here’s hoping the thirteenth time is a charm.