The Preakness Stakes is only a few days away and the racing world will have its collective eyes on Pimlico to see if I’ll Have Another can take the second leg of the Triple Crown and put himself just one win away from horse racing immortality. There has not been a Triple Crown winner in thoroughbred racing since 1978, when a young jockey named Steve Cauthen, rode to glory aboard Affirmed.
There have been three bursts of Triple Crown winners in racing history. The first Triple Crown was won in 1919 by Sir Barton. The next came in 1930 and in that decade there were three winners. The 1940’s also saw multiple Triple Crown winners, with four, including such greats as Citation and War Admiral. The 1950’s and 1960’s were dry and another Triple Crown wasn’t won until the great Secretariat in 1973. Following him in the 1970’s were Seattle Slew in 1977 and the aforementioned Affirmed. That’s not to say there not have been near misses over the years. In the decade of the 2000’s, War Emblem, Funnycide, Big Brown, and Smarty Jones all won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness but whiffed in the Belmont. Smarty Jones was the closest to winning it by finishing 1st at the Belmont Stakes in 2004.
Before serious talk can really begin about a Triple Crown, a thoroughbred needs to win the first two races. I’ll Have Another has taken the first step and the second step has gotten a bit easier since the Kentucky Derby. Dale Romans has decided against allowing Dullahan, who finished third in the Derby, to run in the Preakness. Dullahan has already run two races in the last three weeks and a run in Baltimore was seen to be a risk that didn’t need to be taken. Expect him back for the Belmont. Two other top three-year-olds also have withdrawn from running in the Preakness. Breeders’ Cup two-year-old champion, Hansen, and one of the Derby favorites, Union Rags, will be taking time off in preparation for the Belmont Stakes on June 9th in New York. It’s not as though I’ll Have Another won’t have competition as Creative Cause and Bodemeister will both be in the starting gate, along with a couple of other thoroughbreds that analysts predict can upset any Triple Crown hopes; Bob Baffert’s Paynter and the Michael Matz trained Teeth of the Dog.
Will this be the year that sees horse racing’s first Triple Crown winner in 34 years, or will the racing world have to anticipate future spring racing seasons to see a dominant force roll through Churchill Downs, Pimlico Race Course, and Belmont Park? We’ll be a lot closer to the answer on Saturday evening.