Shawn Vargo: No Triple Crown, again
When Citation and jockey Eddie Arcaro ran away with the Triple Crown of horse racing – the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes – it was the fourth time that decade a horse had won all three races.
That decade was the 1940s and the winners included Whirlaway (1941), Count Fleet (1943), Assault (1946) and the aforementioned Citation in 1948.
The country then had to wait 25 years until the spectacular Secretariat and jockey Ron Turcotte demolished nearly all of the track records for the Triple Crown races.
I can still recall watching Secretariat’s triumphant run at the Belmont Stakes at my uncle Louie’s house in 1973. He trounced the field by 31 lengths and broke the track record by nearly three seconds. I was just 7 years old, so I didn’t have a firm grasp of what had happened, but when a horse gets on the cover of Time and Newsweek – it had to be big.
When Seattle Slew accomplished the feat in 1977 and Affirmed won the Triple Crown in 1978, it seemed we were returning to another golden age of horse racing superstars.
No race horse has been able to win the three jewels of the Triple Crown since Affirmed – some 33 years of almosts and so closes.
The fact is, since Affirmed, a total of 11 horses have won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, only to come up short in the Belmont. Of the 11, Sunday Silence (1989), Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998) and Smarty Jones (2004) all finished second in the Belmont.
Why the rant?
I’ve always been a fan of horse racing. I’ve been known to place a bet every now and again at OTB. I’ve taken my family to the track to watch the horses run in person. Heck, I’m content to just watch the replays of the race card at Aqueduct on television.
I hate that race tracks now have to rely on slot machines to pay their bills. I feel that no Triple Crown winner over the past three decades has helped deliver the sport to its current condition – on life support for the most part.
What was once the sport of kings is now the sport of slot machine and video poker players. Although there are many folks that consider slots and video poker entertainment, in my book it doesn’t compare to the excitement that 10 horses can produce in 1:09 as they battle for three-quarters of a mile.
If we don’t get a Triple Crown winner soon, I fear there interest in the sport will wane so much that we’ll soon see the running of the Geico Kentucky Derby, the Ford Preakness and the Trump Belmont for a chance to win the Microsoft Triple Crown in the near future.
Oh the horror.
Shawn Vargo, sports editor for The Corning (NY) Leader, can be reached at email@example.com.