Sunday, May 22, 2011


So we’re not going to have a Triple Crown winner this year -- again.
Shackleford took care of that by holding on to beat Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom in Saturday’s running of the Preakness.
Not since Affirmed won the Derby, Preakness, and 
Belmont Stakes in 1978 has one colt managed to win the
Crown, the longest such dry spell since Sir Barton became the first Triple Crown winner in 1919.
It got me wondering about something.
With the care and attention giving the breeding process for thoroughbreds with sires carefully chosen to be mated with equally carefully selected mares, why can’t they come up with a super horse capable of winning all three races?
Either the breeders and owners aren’t doing their jobs very well -- hence no super horse like Secretariat has emerged -- or they are doing it too well. The progeny being spawned are so evenly matched no one horse is capable of dominating the others.
Or maybe we’re just in an era of specialization where thoroughbreds are bred for distance or for speed and not both. The former doesn’t have the early speed, the latter doesn’t have the endurance for the grueling mile-and-a-half of the Belmont.
I think there is another factor in the long drought of Triple Crown winners.
That is, the same horses don’t run in all three races. It isn’t the case this year, since Animal Kingdom saw his bid fail in the Preakness, but more often than not the race that foils a horse’s Triple Crown bid is the Belmont.
Since Affirmed’s Triple Crown 33 years ago, 11 colts have gone into the Belmont after logging wins in the Derby and Preakness and come up short. The last five times it happened the Belmont winner hadn’t run in the Preakness three weeks earlier.
Of the seven other horses that have won at least two legs of the Triple Crown, only two have lost in the Preakness after winning the Derby. Five others have bounced back from losses in the Derby to win the Preakness and Belmont.
It will be interesting to see if either Animal Kingdom or Shackleford winds up in the corresponding group.

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