Yet again we have no new Triple Crown winner. The drought moves into 37 years now.
Personally, I can’t say that I’m real disappointed as I’ve not been a California Chrome believer since the start of this run and if you’ve read or look back on some of my previous posts you know I was all about Tonalist for the Belmont. So I couldn’t have been more happy with Saturday’s outcome. Plus, it was an exciting race that played out in some ways no one expected.
But let’s go through a quick rundown of how, since 1978, we’ve come to be without a Triple Crown-winning horse:
1979–Spectacular Bid, who in this list, may be the most superior horse to have failed. The night before the Belmont steps on a safety pin from one of his wraps. Also receives one of the worst rides ever in a Classic race.
1981–Came into the Belmont of a mild illness with a rash. Then breaks somewhat poorly from the gate. Race over.
1987–Alysheba just doesn’t fire or get the best ride.
1989–Sunday Silence–As much as it pains me to say it, ran out of gas and Easy Goer shone on his home track.
1997–Silver Charm–Doesn’t see Touch Gold coming down the middle of the track and falls short at the wire.
1998–Real Quiet–Probably sent in the stretch too soon, gets rubber-legged in the final furlong and gets nipped/the wrong bob at the wire.
1999–Charismatic–Breaks his leg in the last furlong.
2002–War Emblem–Stumbles to his nose as the gates open, race over.
2003–Funny Cide–Outrun by Empire Maker.
2004–Smarty Jones–Comes out strong from the start as was his wont; withstands multiple runs at him by other horses in the field, finally run down by Birdstone in the final furlong.
2008–Big Brown–Has troubled trip within the first furlong and is eased by Jockey Kent Desormeaux who says he simply had no horse to persevere with.
2012–I’ll Have Another–Injured and withdrawn the day before the Belmont. And now…
2014–California Chrome–Not such a great break from the gate where he or Matterhorn in the next gate stepped on the right front hoof and caught a quarter. And in the stretch, simply ran out of gas. Game effort on the part of the horse, just not enough.
I’ll reiterate. The Triple Crown is THE MOST DIFFICULT achievement in all of sport. Not only must you have a SUPERIOR horse over the course of six weeks, but EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING MUST go PERFECTLY–your horse’s health, the ride he receives, the weather, the trip, the gate break.
Which leads me to my response to one of California Chrome’s owner’s petulant remarks post Belmont. EVERYONE knows how closely spaced the races are when this journey begins; the current race configuration has been in place for decades. Everyone knows what the qualifications for entry in the Preakness and Belmont are and participation in the Kentucky Derby is not a prerequisite. In 1973, Secretariat and Sham were the only two horses that ran all three races. In 1977, five new horses entered the Belmont against Seattle Slew. In 1978, only Affirmed and Alydar ran all three races. This is the way the game is played; no one changed the rules midstream and on Saturday, June 7, 2014 Tonalist was the BEST horse.
I’ll say it again. If you want another Triple Crown winner BREED A BETTER HORSE! As far as changing things, reduce the Derby field size from 20 to 14 horses (as is the maximum allowed in Breeders’ Cup races). Year in and year out, regardless of how they qualify to get there, there are usually about 10 horses that really don’t need to be in the gate and can impede the progress and chances of deserving horses in the field. Give both these options a try and you might be pleasantly surprised by the result.
Finally, Congratulations to trainer Christophe Clement for bringing Tonalist back around to racing health and preparing him for a great effort in the Belmont and owner Robert Evans for finishing his family’s Pleasant Colony story; the grandson winning the race that denied his grandsire the Triple Crown. Full Circle!