Countdown to Triple Crown: Triple try alibis
There have been 30 horses who came into the Belmont Stakes with a chance to win the Triple Crown. Eleven succeeded in sweeping the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont, and 19 came up short in the final leg. While we're waiting to see how Triple Crown hopeful I'll Have Another fares in his bid Saturday, here's a look at some of those who just missed, and the alibis:
TIM TAM (1958)
The Calumet Farm bay colt finished second to Cavan by 5 1/2 lengths after running the final quarter-mile with a broken bone in his right front ankle.
CARRY BACK (1961)
A scrawny, unattractive little colt was poised to make another thrilling stretch run to victory, but when jockey Johnny Sellers asked for more, Carry Back ''spit the bit'' - a racing term meaning he simply didn't feel like running anymore. He finished seventh behind 65-1 long shot Sherluck.
MAJESTIC PRINCE (1969)
The great jockey Bill Hartack was criticized by many for moving too late in the stretch in losing to Arts and Letters. It was Majestic Prince's first loss in 10 starts.
SPECTACULAR BID (1979)
Considered a cinch to give racing its fourth Triple Crown winner in the 1970s, the Bid stepped on a safety pin in his stall the morning of the race. He finished third behind Coastal after young jockey Ron Franklin gunned Bid to the lead and the colt faded in the stretch.
SILVER CHARM (1997)
After reeling in rival Free House with an eighth of a mile to go, Silver Charm was on his way to immortality. But with 75 yards to go, jockey Gary Stevens saw another horse out of the corner of his eye. It was Touch Gold, and Silver Charm didn't see him either until 10 jumps from the wire. By then, it was too late.
REAL QUIET (1998)
A year after trainer Bob Baffert had his heart broken by Silver Charm, another of his horses - Real Quiet - took a run at greatness. But jockey Kent Desormeaux was criticized for making his move too early, and by the time Real Quiet was a furlong from the finish at Belmont, he began staggering home. Victory Gallop, runner-up in the Derby and Preakness, was bearing down and the two hit the wire together. After several agonizing minutes, the photo went against Real Quiet.
Trainer D. Wayne Lukas' Triple Crown quest ended with a quarter mile to go, when Charismatic fractured two bones in his left front leg but still finished third behind 29-1 long shot Lemon Drop Kid.
WAR EMBLEM (2002)
Baffert has had some tough luck chasing the Triple Crown and his front-running speedster was done in early - he stumbled out of the starting gate and finished eighth behind 70-1 long shot Sarava.
SMARTY JONES (2004)
After fighting off strong challenges from Rock Hard Ten and Eddington along the backstretch, Smarty Jones and jockey Stewart Elliott opened a 3 1/2-length lead into the stretch. But the early duels proved to be Smarty's undoing. He tired in the stretch and was caught in the final 70 yards by 36-1 long shot Birdstone.
BIG BROWN (2008)
No longer on a regimen of steroids after the Preakness, although they were not banned, Big Brown moved into the far turn seemingly ready to challenge for the lead. Without warning, he was pulled up approaching the quarter-pole by jockey Kent Desormeaux. The colt was eased across the finish line well behind the rest of the field, and trainer Rick Dutrow was unable to explain what happened. Da' Tara, at 38-1, went wire-to-wire for the win.
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