The 2014 Triple Crown is set up for completion on June 7th, as California Chrome enters with two straight wins in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes and a chance for a clean sweep with a win at the Belmont Stakes.
California Chrome is even odds (1/1) and the clear heavy favorite, giving horse racing fans a real shot at seeing a Triple Crown winner (winner of all three events) for the first time since Affirmed was able to do the impossible back in 1978.
Twelve other horses have tried and come oh, so close, winning the first two races and falling short at the Belmont Stakes. California Chrome looks primed to put an end to that horrid streak, but even the most optimistic horse racing enthusiasts know there hardly is such a thing as a favorite when it comes to finishing off the Triple Crown.
Deciding which were the “worst” or toughest losses is fairly subjective, but let’s take a quick look back at some of the more heart-breaking Triple Crown misses as we creep closer to this year’s big event:
We won’t get into ranking the Triple Crown failures, but this one can be agreed upon as one that is somewhere near the top. Spectacular Bid was probably a case of logic prevailing and luck running out, despite the horse’s elite talent. Had Spectacular Bid prevailed and won the 1979 Triple Crown, it would have been the third consecutive Triple Crown sweep. Perhaps that’s why it’s the most devastating, as it was the first horse to be so close and to come up short.
Ten years after the last Triple Crown winner, a talented Alysheba ran poorly and couldn’t break a decade long drought. The time span naturally heightened the loss and likely made it worse than it really was.
Jones had a terrific chance at claiming the 2004 Triple Crown, as the horse appeared to be in control toward the end of the race. Smarty Jones’ stride shortened and shortened, eventually falling behind and narrowly missing out on the Triple Crown with a second place finish.
Not everyone will admit Big Brown’s miss at the 2008 Triple Crown was of the “top four” variety, but in so many ways it really was. A foot injury leading into the Belmont Stakes added intrigue, but Brown was regarded as healthy enough to compete and win. Big Brown entered the final stage of the 2008 Triple Crown as the 3-10 favorite but Big Brown struggled near the end of the race, was eased, and became the first ever Triple Crown hopeful to fail to finish the race.
It’s absolutely open for debate as to whether Big Brown was a top four disappoint, or who else may or may not belong on such a list. However, Big Brown was the last horse with a shot at the Triple Crown, and that type of failure will be on the minds of horse racing fans everywhere come June 7th. Is California Chrome another Big Brown, or will he become the first winner since 1978?
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