Monday, October 23, 2006

horse racing ,triple crown,guiness,belmont stakes,favrites,stakes,attempt

For the third year in a row, a thoroughbred will enter the starting gate of the Belmont Stakes 1 1/2 miles away from history. Working against Smarty Jones will be history and the ghosts of 17 great champions that lined up in that same gate. As Smarty Jones prepares to take his place among horse racing elite and have his name placed among the champions of champions to never be forgotten, it is time once again to recall those who have gone on before him only to fail.

In the 1930’s, Burgoo King and Bold Venture won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, but tendon injuries prevented them from running in the Belmont Stakes. In 1944 Pensive won the Derby and Preakness, but took second place in the Belmont. In 1948 Citation won the Triple Crown and became the 8th horse in 29 years to win the Crown. Over the next 54 years 18 horses would stand on the threshold of horse racing immortality, but only 3 others were up to the challenge.

In 1958, Tim Tam, a dark bay colt by Tom Fool out of Two Lea, trained by H.A. Jones and bred in Kentucky by Calumet Farm made his run for glory. This horse had bloodline connections to such greats as Coaltown, Bewitch, and Citation. Tim Tam won the Derby by 1/2 length, the Preakness by 1 1/2 lengths, but lost in the Belmont by 6 lengths.

In 1961, Carry Back, a brown colt by Saggy out of Joppy, trained by J.A. Price and bred in Florida by J.A. Price was the next to take his shot. A horse that had once beaten the great Citation sired this colt. He had won the Florida Derby, finished second in the Wood Memorial, and went off as the favorite in all three Triple Crown races. Carry Back won the Derby and Preakness by 3/4 lengths, but finished 7th in the Belmont.

In 1964 the great Northern Dancer, a bay colt by Nearctic out of Natalma, trained by Horatio Luro and bred in Canada by E.P. Taylor had his shot at Triple Crown glory. While not the favorite in either the Derby or Preakness, this colt did win the Florida Derby, Flamingo Stakes, Blue Grass Stakes and Remsen Stakes. Northern Dancer won the Derby by a neck and the Preakness by 2 3/4 lengths. Distance was a problem in the Belmont and he finished in 3rd place despite going off as the favorite. Northern Dancer would finish his career with 18 starts, 14 wins, 2 seconds, and 2 thirds. Today he is recognized as one of the greatest sires in all of racing.

In 1966 Kauai King, a dark bay colt by Native Dancer out of Sweep In, trained by Henry Forrest, and bred in Maryland by Pine Brook Farm, went off as the strong favorite in all 3 races. Kauai King won the Derby by a 1/2 length, the Preakness by 1 3/4 lengths, but finished 4th in the Belmont.

The most controversial decision in all of Triple Crown racing took place in 1968. Forward Pass, a bay colt by On-and-On out of Princess Turia, trained by Henry Forest and bred in Kentucky by his owner Calumet Farm, won the Derby via disqualification. Forward Pass went off as the favorite in all 3 races but lost to Dancer’s Image by 1 1/2 lengths in the Derby. Dancer’s Image was later disqualified when phenylbutazone was found in his post-race urine sample. While this was legal at some racetracks, Churchill Downs was not among them at the time. The Kentucky State Racing Commission ordered redistribution of the purse with first money to Forward Pass, second money to Francie's Hat, third money to T.V. Commercial and fourth money to Kentucky Sherry, because of its finding of prohibited medication in Dancer's Image. After extensive litigation, the Commission's order was upheld in April, 1972, by Kentucky's highest court in Kentucky State Racing Commission et al v Peter Fuller, 481 S. W. 298.

Because this ruling appeared to affect only the money distribution, no one was sure who should be listed as having come in first. In a subsequent proceeding, the Commission also ordered that Forward Pass be considered the winner of the 1968 Kentucky Derby, except for pari-mutuel pay-offs, and that the 1968 gold cup Kentucky Derby trophy be awarded to its owner, Calumet Farm. Forward Pass won the Preakness by 6 lengths, but lost the Belmont by 1 1/2 lengths. Dancer’s Image did run in the Preakness and finished 3rd, but was disqualified for bumping and placed 8th.

Majestic Prince won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness for retired champion jockey turned trainer Johnny Longden. (from a postcard)
In 1969, Majestic Prince, a chestnut colt by Raise a Native out of Gay Hostess, bred in Kentucky by Leslie Combs II, already had Triple Crown connections when he made his run. His trainer, John Longden, was Triple Crown winner Count Fleet’s jockey in 1943. Majestic Prince was unbeaten that year, including a win in the Santa Anita Derby, when he went off as a favorite in all 3 races. Arts and Letters proved a worthy opponent finishing second by a neck in the Derby and a head in the Preakness. Arts and Letters got his revenge for those defeats by winning the Belmont by 5 1/2 lengths over Majestic Prince. Majestic Prince would finish his racing career with 10 starts, 9 wins and 1 third.

In 1971, an unlikely contender from Venezuela made his attempt at the Triple Crown. Canonero II, a bay colt *Pretendre out of Dixieland II, trained by Juan Arias and bred in Kentucky by E.B. Benjamin, won the Derby by 3 3/4 lengths and the Preakness by 1 1/2 lengths as the co-favorite. Despite going off as the favorite in the Belmont, an injury prevented Canonero II from finishing any better than 3rd.

In 1973, 25 years had passed and 7 horses had won the first two legs of the Triple Crown only to come up short when a big red machine known as Secretariat rewrote the history books. Seattle Slew followed Secretariat in 1977 by becoming the first horse to win the Triple Crown undefeated. In 1978, Affirmed and Alydar hooked up to make history by becoming the first horses to finish 1-2 in all three races. In the Affirmed-Alydar series a third horse, Believe It, finished third in both the Derby and Preakness, however his trainer decided he had seen enough of Affirmed and Alydar and did not run the Belmont.

In 1979, on the heels of Affirmed, Spectacular Bid, a gray colt by Bold Bidder out of Spectacular, trained by G.G. (Bud) Delp and bred in Kentucky by Mrs. William Jason and Mrs. William Gilmore, exploded into the Triple Crown series. Bid went off as a favorite in all 3 races and won the Derby by 2 3/4 lengths, the Preakness by 5 1/2 lengths, but then lost the Belmont finishing 3rd. Legend has it that the poor finish in the Belmont was attributed to an injury sustained the night before the race. Trainer Bud Delp claimed a safety pin became lodged in one of his hooves and caused the horse to run a dull race. The story is probably true because Bid finished his career with 30 starts, 26 wins, 2 seconds, and 1 third.

In 1981, Pleasant Colony, a dark brown colt by His Majesty out of Sun Colony, trained by John Campo and bred in Virginia by T.M. Evans, made his attempt. Coming off a win in the Wood Memorial, Pleasant Colony had only won one other race and that coming as a 2-year-old on a disqualification. Pleasant Colony won the Derby by 3/4 lengths and the Preakness by 1 length before running 3rd in the Belmont.

The 1978 Triple Crown runner-up Alydar sought redemption through his offspring Alysheba in the 1987 Triple crown series. Alysheba, a bay colt by Alydar out of Bel Sheba, trained by Jack Van Berg and bred in Kentucky by Preston Madden, had only two wins. His sole win as a 3 year old came off a disqualification, yet he won the Derby by 3/4 lengths and the Preakness by 1/2 lengths. Distance was a problem in the Belmont as he finished a distant 4th.

The year 1989 resembled 1969. Sunday Silence, a dark brown colt by Halo out of Wishing Well, trained by Charles Whittingham and bred in Kentucky by Oak Cliff, won the big west coast prep races. Sunday Silence won the Derby by 2 1/2 lengths and then the Preakness by a nose both over Easy Goer. Easy Goer was a son of Alydar and won the big east coast prep races. In this east coast versus west coast battle, Easy Goer would prevent Sunday Silence from winning the Triple Crown by beating him in the Belmont by 8 lengths. Sunday Silence would finish his career with 14 starts, 9 wins and 5 places.

While the 1990’s were quiet for the most, they would end with a flourish. In 1997, Silver Charm, a gray or roan colt by Silver Buck out of Bonnie’s Poker, trained by Bob Baffert, bred in Florida by Mary Lou Wooton, and owned by Bob and Beverly Lewis, made a run for the Crown. Winning the Derby and Preakness by a head, Silver Charm was leading down the homestretch in the Belmont only to be caught by Touch Gold and finished 2nd by 3/4 of a length.
Real Quiet in the paddock at Belmont before his narrow defeat by Victory Gallop.

Trainer Bob Baffert would return the next year with Real Quiet, a bay colt by Quiet American out of Really Blue, bred in Kentucky by Little Hill Farm. This horse had connections with Believe It who finished 3rd in the Derby and Preakness behind Affirmed and Alydar. While winless as a 3-year-old, the 1998 series was reminiscent of 1969 and 1989. Real Quiet won the Derby by 1/2 length and the Preakness by 2 1/4 lengths over Victory Gallop. Like Arts and Letters in 1969 and Easy Goer in 1989, Victory Gallop would catch Real Quiet at the wire in the Belmont. This defeat came on a photo finish and would be the closest defeat any horse would suffer in the quest for the Triple Crown.

In 1999, Bob and Beverly Lewis would return with Charismatic, a chestnut colt by Summer Squall out of Bali Babe. This colt was bred in Kentucky by Parrish Hill Farm and was trained by D Wayne Lukas. As a long shot, Charismatic won the Derby by a neck and the Preakness by 1 1/2 lengths before suffering an injury in the stretch run and finishing 3rd in the Belmont.

In 2002 came War Emblem, a dark brown colt by Our Emblem out of Sweetest Lady, trained by Bob Baffert and bred by Charles Nuckols Jr. & Sons in Kentucky. War Emblem won the Derby by 4 lengths going wire to wire and followed up by winning the Preakness by 3/4 lengths. In the Belmont, War Emblem stumbled coming out of the gate and failed to get the lead, could not run off the pace, and finished 8th. This was the worst showing of any horse in the Belmont that had a chance to win the Crown.
Funny Cide.

In 2003, for the first time in the history of the Triple Crown, the challenger was a New York bred gelding with bloodline connections to Seattle Slew. Funny Cide was a chestnut gelding by Distorted Humor out of Belle’s Good Cide, trained by Barclay Tagg, bred by Win Star Farm, and owned by a group of friends with a small stable. Funny Cide finished behind Peace Rules in the Louisiana Derby and second to Empire Maker in Wood Memorial, but returned to battle trainer Bobby Frankel’s top two favorites in the Derby and won by 1 3/4 lengths. In the Preakness, he gave a dominating performance winning by 9 lengths defeating Peace Rules again. In the Belmont, Bobby Frankel had a well-rested Empire Maker waiting to play the spoiler. The Tuesday before the Belmont saw Funny Cide turn in a lightning-quick final tune-up -- five furlongs in 57 4/5 seconds. This blistering work out and a sloppy track sealed Funny Cide’s fate. Empire Maker won and Funny Cide finished a well-beaten third.

Smarty Jones, formerly named “Get Along, ” a chestnut colt, by Elusive Quality, out of I'll Get Along, owned and bred by Someday Farm, trained by John Servis and ridden by Stewart Elliot will take an unbeaten record into the Belmont. Only Seattle Slew completed the Triple Crown undefeated. It also appears that Smarty Jones will have to be even better that Slew. Slew won the Belmont over a field of 8 horses. That was the largest Belmont field a Triple Crown winner has ever had to defeat.

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