Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Birth of the Triple Crown

Ninety years ago today, Sir Barton won the Belmont Stakes and became the first horse to win the Triple Crown.

Ten other horses matched that achievement in the next 59 years.

Sometimes, Triple Crown winners have come in bunches. In the 1940s, for example, there were four — Whirlaway (1941), Count Fleet (1943), Assault (1946) and Citation (1948).

Then sometimes there have been extended periods in which no horse won the Triple Crown. A quarter of a century passed between Citation's Triple Crown and the next Triple Crown winner, but that drought was followed by another flurry of winners — Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1977) and Affirmed (1978).

Today, we are in the longest dry spell since Sir Barton's day — 31 years and counting. We knew that streak would continue when Rachel Alexandra won the Preakness nearly a month ago, but her jockey still had the opportunity to pull off an unprecedented Triple Crown. And that kept interest in the Belmont Stakes high, even though everyone knew the traditional Triple Crown was out of the question for 2009.

Jockey Calvin Borel won the first two races aboard different horses, but he fell short in last weekend's Belmont Stakes.

Well, maybe next year. There's still a decade left before the centennial of Sir Barton's accomplishment.

No comments: