By Brady Stiff
For the 32nd consecutive year, there will not be a Triple Crown winner in thoroughbred horse racing. Affirmed was the last horse to do it in 1978.
Lookin at Lucky made sure that Affirmed would remain the last to do it as he won the Preakness on Saturday by a little bit less than a length. Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver finished a distant and disappointing 8th.
The race had an interesting start as Dublin, breaking from post position 12, veered way to the right, almost hitting the rail, as soon as the gates opened. He actually rebounded from the poor start to finish fifth. First Dude went right to the lead from the 11-hole, and Calvin Borel put Super Saver in second, right off of First Dude’s flank.
The opening quarter mile went in just under 23 seconds, which meant another blazing-fast pace, just like the Derby. First Dude led all the way down the backstretch through a half mile in 46 seconds and change. Same pace as the Derby. It looked to be Super Saver’s race to lose.
When they got to the far turn, Lucky and new contender Caracortado started to make their move together. As they came up on Super Saver, Borel started to ask Super Saver for his best, but the horse just didn’t have much in the tank. As the two California horses passed him, Borel began going backwards. The Triple Crown bid was over before the quarter pole at the Preakness.
Down the home stretch, First Dude was showing that he was so fresh and held on gamely as Lucky and Caracortado made bids for the win. Even Jackson Bend, who had been running third all race, held on for the Show dough. Lucky finally got by First Dude in the final sixteenth of a mile for the win, First Dude got second, and Jackson Bend claimed third.
Despite the great race, I was still a little depressed. Looking back on Lucky’s performance and thinking about what it meant that he ran that well after a rough Derby trip, I can’t help but think of what could have been.
Had Lookin at Lucky not gotten unlucky with his #1 post position in the Derby and his subsequent terrible trip, we could be gearing up for a potential Triple Crown in a few weeks. The feeling going into the Belmont with a Triple Crown on the line is incredible. As a fan of the sport, the tension is almost unbearable. Imagine being an owner or the trainer of a TC contender.
So, instead of a Triple Crown bid, the Belmont Stakes will be just another race. In fact, neither Super Saver nor Lookin at Lucky will be in New York to run. It makes sense, but as a fan of the sport, you want to see the best horses run. Not that they’ll be retired, but we now have to wait a little while longer for these horses to run again.
I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. Horse racing desperately needs a Triple Crown winner. The sport is dying, and a Triple Crown is about the only thing that can bring it back to national prominence. The general sports fan only pays attention during the five weeks of the Triple Crown, and maybe during Breeder’s Cup time. Other than that, horse racing is the niche sport of all niche sports.
The Belmont is still a race I’ll look forward to, and bet on, but it just won’t be the same without a Triple Crown on the line.