Triple Crown Lock? Hold Your Horses


So, it's a foregone conclusion, huh? Big Brown is our 12th Triple Crown winner.

As we sit here I'm sure Mike Iavarone and Rick Dutrow are planning the outrageous party, Kent Desormeaux is preparing something clever to say in his post-race speech, and thousands of racing fans who would normally stay home are making plans to be in New York City on June 7 to witness history.

He can't lose, can he? Not after the way he won the Derby and the Preakness. Not with that phenomenal turn of foot. Not with the mediocre set of 3-year-olds who are prepared to challenge him at Belmont. We might as well crown him now, right?

Not so fast.

Brilliant? Absolutely. A deserving odds-on favorite? Without a doubt. The problem is, a quick look at the recent history of the Belmont tells us that the Triple Crown is not to be taken for granted - no matter how much of a sure thing the favorite looks like.

As everyone knows, in the last 29 years there have been 10 horses with a shot at the Triple Crown heading into the Belmont - none of them successful. Of those 10, all of them went into the Belmont with 3-2 odds or lower. In fact, eight of them were odds-on or lower.

For those of you old enough, go back to 1979. Spectacular Bid won the Kentucky Derby by 2 ¾, won Preakness by 5 ½ and went off as odds of 3-10 in the Belmont. How were you feeling then? Couldn't lose right?

Remember how sure you were in 1998? Real Quiet wins the Derby by a half-length over Victory Gallop, then beats him by 2 ¼ in the Preakness. He went off at 4-5 in the Belmont, and, know the rest.

Don't tell me you weren't convinced with Smarty in 2004. Like Big Brown he won the Derby easily, then buried the field by 11 ½ lengths in the Preakness. You sent him off at 3-10 in the Belmont. And, well...let's not go there.

I'm sure, if you're honest with yourself, many of you were fairly confident about most of the other seven as well.

Like most of you, I am pretty confident that Big Brown wins the Belmont. On paper he should. His Derby and Preakness performances were nothing short on sensational. There is every reason to believe he beats anything thrown his way in the final leg, including the horse that everyone will be talking about in the next three weeks - Casino Drive (Plenty of time to talk about him).

But I'm here to say, don't bet the house on it. Strange things happen in the Belmont - luck, racing Gods, safety pins, jockeys supposedly conspiring together to take out the best horse, you name it.

So get excited and, if you want, root for Big Brown to become the first Triple Crown winner in 30 years. But just remember, this is horse racing and the best horse doesn't always win.

*** Speaking of racing Gods, they seemed to be on my side yesterday. As you'll note from my Preakness Picks blog, I added Macho Again to my exotics only after Behindatthebar was scratched. Would have never caught it if that hadn't happened. How many of you cashed in the Preakness?


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