Is 3-Year-Old Championship at Stake in Belmont?

When Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom meets Preakness winner Shackleford in the Belmont, there is a good chance that the 3-year-old championship will be at stake. If one of them should win, history has shown that they almost certainly will go on to take divisional honors.

Since the Eclipse Awards began in 1971, there have been 10 occasions when two different horses won the Derby and Preakness, and then one of them came back to win the Belmont. Of those, eight have gone on to win the 3-year-old championship. The two instances when it did not happen were:

1972: Riva Ridge won the Derby and Belmont (in addition to the Blue Grass and Hollywood Derby) but lost out on divisional honors to Key to the Mint, who won the Derby Trial, Withers, Travers, Whitney, Woodward, and Brooklyn Handicap.

1994: Tabasco Cat won the Preakness and Belmont (in addition to the Kentucky Cup Classic, El Camino Real Derby, and San Rafael), but lost out on the championship to Holy Bull, who won the Hutcheson, Florida Derby, Blue Grass, Met Mile, Travers, Haskell, Woodward, and Dwyer.

Of course, the other scenario is if a horse other than Animal Kingdom or Shackleford wins the Belmont. Since 1971, there have been 15 occasions when three different horses won the three legs of the Triple Crown. Of those 15, there have been four times when the eventual 3-year-old champion did not win one of the Triple Crown races:

1975: Wajima--He didn't make his first start of the season until late June when running second in the Dwyer, but went on to win four grade I races-the Monmouth Invitational Handicap, Travers, Governor Stakes, and Marlboro Cup Handicap.

1983: Slew o' Gold--He was fourth in the Derby and second in the Belmont, but won the Wood Memorial and Peter Pan, and went on to take the Woodward and Jockey Club Gold Cup against older horses.

1996: Skip Away--Finished 12th in the Derby and second in both the Preakness and Belmont, but previously won the Blue Grass and then scored the Ohio Derby, Haskell, Woodbine Million, and Jockey Club Gold Cup.

2000: Tiznow--Didn't even break his maiden until May 31 of that year, but in a wide-open season went on to win the Affirmed Handicap, Super Derby, Goodwood, and Breeders' Cup Classic.

So, what are we to take away from both of these historical pieces of information? Well, first, if Animal Kingdom or Shackleford should win the Belmont, it is going to take a ridiculous second-half campaign by another 3-year-old to take away divisional honors, and given the parity amongst this group, it would probably have to end with a Breeders' Cup Classic victory.

Second, if a horse other than Animal Kingdom or Shackleford should win the Belmont, there is at least a decent chance that the eventual 3-year-old champion will not have won any of the three Triple Crown races. That means, the second half races become all that more important, including the Stephen Foster, Jim Dandy, Travers, Haskell, Jockey Club Gold Cup, Whitney, Woodward, BC Classic, and Clark.

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