Steve Haskin's Belmont Report: Who Needs a Triple Crown Winner?

Steve Haskin's Belmont Report: Who Needs a Triple Crown Winner?
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With each failed Triple Crown attempt comes an outcry from racing fans and horsemen that the structure of the Triple Crown needs changing. If it is the horses' safety and longevity that is the impetus for their comments, then no one can take issue with them. If, however, it is based on the fact that we have gone 28 years without a Triple Crown winner and racing desperately needs a horse to finally win all three races, that's a different matter.

Who says racing needs a Triple Crown winner? Yes, it will result in immortality for one horse and his connections, but for the sport, it will only be a brief high. The long-range effect could have an opposite reaction. So, we finally have a Triple Crown winner. Now what? Will mainstream America care any longer when a horse attempts to sweep the Triple Crown or will they say, "Well, it's been done, so it's no big deal anymore." As long as it seems an improbable, almost unattainable, quest, people will flock to Belmont Park hoping to be there when it is finally accomplished. Everyone wants to be a part of history.

Following the Triple Crown sweeps of Secretariat, Seattle Slew, and Affirmed from 1973-'78, was there really that much buzz over Spectacular Bid's attempt in '79 or had people become blasé about it and were expecting it to happen again?

The Boston Red Sox, who for almost a century had taken on an almost mystical persona, finally ended one of the most publicized droughts and "curses" in American sports history. Their fans went wild in disbelief and celebrated for a week or so, and then they came to the stark realization that their beloved losers, the victims of the dreaded "Curse of the Bambino," were now just another team that won the World Series, along with the Florida Marlins, Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Angels, and Arizona Diamondbacks. Their quest was over; they no longer were special.

So, while it is important to have a horse trying for the Triple Crown, it is the sizzle that brings over 100,000 fans to Belmont Park, not the steak. Once the steak is consumed it is quickly forgotten.

Sure, we can knock this year's running of the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) because the winners of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and Preakness (gr. I) are not in the field, and there is only one grade I winner pointing for the race. But who's to say another major star will not emerge from the race, just as Barbaro and Bernardini emerged from their classic triumphs? After several years of having one standout (occasionally two) in the Belmont field, what's wrong with having a deep, competitive field and a great betting race?

Instead of people asking all day, "So, will Smarty Jones do it?" they can utter racing's newest slogan all day: "Who do you like?"

Speaking of "who do you like," all those who believe in history repeating itself can grab on to an exacta right now.

The last time the Belmont did not have the winners of the Derby and the Preakness was in 2000.

The exacta that year was: Commendable (the 17th-place finisher in the Derby) over Aptitude (the runner-up in the Derby who skipped the Preakness and was the favorite in the Belmont).

If you're looking for an historical angle, it shouldn't take you too long to figure out that this year's exacta will be Bob and John (the 17th-place finisher in the Derby) over Bluegrass Cat (the runner-up in the Derby who skipped the Preakness and likely will be the favorite in the Belmont).

Stretching it a bit, if you want to go for a trifecta, you can always add Steppenwolfer, a son of Aptitude, for third, completing the parallels between the two runnings.

If you happen to be looking for any kind of class angle on former European Oh So Awesome, in his last start in Europe, he finished fifth, beaten nine lengths, in an allowance race at Longchamp. Finishing second, 7 1/2 lengths in front of him, was Darsi, who won Sunday's Group I Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby).

If you're looking for a horse that is bred to love a mile and a half at Belmont, High Finance's paternal grandsire, Deputy Minister, sired Belmont winner Touch Gold  ; his paternal great-grandsire, Gone West, sired Belmont winner Commendable; his broodmare sire, Conquistador Cielo, won the Belmont by 14 lengths; and his maternal great-grandsire, Vanlandingham, won the 1 1/2-mile Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I).

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