The Herald Bulletin

Evening Update

Sports Columns

June 5, 2014

Rick Teverbaugh: History doesn't favor Triple Crown

The question seems to follow me around wherever I go the past couple of weeks.

Thankfully, on Saturday, there will be an answer to the inquiry: Will California Chrome win the Belmont Stakes and with it become the first Triple Crown winner in 36 years.

In Saturday's THB, on Page 1, two of the most knowledgeable horse racing people I know personally, Hoosier Park's Rick Moore and Cliff Fraser, will weigh in on several related questions including: Why has it been so long since there has been a winner and what will it mean to the sport if the drought is broken.

But back to the original question, for the past two weeks my answer has been a qualified, "No."

That answer has nothing to do with my feeling that California Chrome isn't of Triple Crown caliber. Rather, it is historically based.

Eleven horses have won the Triple Crown: Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Belmont Stakes for those unfamiliar with the criteria. Eighteen horses have won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, only to fail at the grueling 1.5-mile test that is the Belmont.

Right there the percentages tilt toward failure.

The last Triple Crown winner was Affirmed in 1978. What is interesting about the 18 who have won the first two races and then lost the third is that 11 of those have failed since Affirmed's success.

That means that when Affirmed won in 1978, there were 11 horses who had won the first two races and then won the third and only eight who had won the first two races and failed at the Belmont. Since Affirmed, all 10 horses who have won the first two have lost the third.

See what I mean about historical?

Of those 10 who have failed since 1978, some have been really heartbreaking. Two have lost by less than a length; Silver Charm in 1997 and Real Quiet the following year by a nose.

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