The insanity can now begin for Kentucky Derby winner Orb.
The question came from certain corners before Saturday’s winner had even slowed his winning gallop: Can he win the Triple Crown?
The answer: Probably not.
Not since Affirmed in 1978 has the thoroughbred racing world had a horse who won the Kentucky Derby, The Preakness and The Belmont Stakes. That means 34 straight times the winner of the Kentucky Derby has failed to win both or sometimes either of the following two races needed to earn that title.
Let’s just assume, because I don’t want to write this column again if Orb manages to win The Preakness, that a Kentucky Derby winner also manages to claim the second leg. That has happened a dozen times and still no Triple Crown winner. The last time barely counts. Last year I’ll Have Another was pulled from the Belmont the day before the race because he was deemed unsound.
The closest of all the failures came in 1998 when Real Quiet was put in second by a photo finish behind Victory Gallop. There have been two different periods where for three consecutive years a horse was primed to end the dry spell only to fail in the 1.5-mile test in New York.
From 1997 to 1999 it was Silver Charm, Real Quiet and Charismatic. From 2002 to 2004 it was Warm Emblem, Funny Cide and Smarty Jones.
Many people will try to tell you that they know Orb will be the one to do it — win the next two Triple Crown races. Nearly all of them won’t tell you that because they believe it, they will tell you that because if they are wrong, few will remember it. But if they are right, they will get to speak with knowing, sage-like tones, at least until they are wrong again.
I am slightly amused that you don’t hear of another type of Triple Crown winner — that would be a trainer who wins all three races in the same year but not with the same horse each time.
That has only happened once that I know of, and that was in 1995 when D. Wayne Lukas trained all three winners. In the Kentucky Derby and The Belmont Stakes with Thunder Gulch and The Preakness with Timber Country.
I also am only aware of one horse who was runner-up in all three Triple Crown races in the same year. That horse was Alydar, who chased home Affirmed all three times in the most stirring set of Triple Crown races I ever witnessed.
Some ask me if all of this Triple Crown talk isn’t good for horse racing even if the dry streak continues. I think for the general public it becomes a lot more of The Sport Who Cried Wolf.
It really makes me wonder if Orb, or any other Kentucky Derby winner down the road, does win all three of these great races, if the average sports fan will really care. I sincerely hope it isn’t too late.
Sports Editor Rick Teverbaugh’s columns appear twice weekly.