Since Affirmed won the Triple Crown 36 years ago, we’ve witnessed exactly a dozen horses snag the first two legs only to see the pursuit of the sport’s most elusive prize evaporate over the Belmont’s punishing one and a half mile stretch.
Let’s put this in a greater historical perspective. Only 11 horses have won the Triple Crown since 1919. 11! The most obvious reason for this protracted drought may have to do with the fact that these horses must run three grueling races in five weeks when they normally compete in one race a month.
There’s hope that California Chrome will reverse the same fate that befell others before him like Smarty Jones and Big Brown. Physical ailments forced I’ll Have Another to withdraw from the Belmont in 2012. California Chrome is the first horse to win the Preakness from the Number 3 position in 21 years, deftly navigating through the field at every turn. The horse’s trainer, Art Sherman, lamented the fact that racing in 14 days is pushing the envelope. Sherman says it’s all about the recovery, which typically takes about eleven days. California Chrome seems to have the speed to pull off what, up to this point, has been the unthinkable. It would be nice to finally see the penultimate achievement realized in the sport of kings.